Need To Know: Behind Childish Gambino’s Masterpiece

Sometimes only four minutes is enough to say everything. And the musician, actor, writer, director and comedian Childish Gambino – AKA Donald Glover, has managed to do just that. His new video ‘This Is America’ from his Grammy-nominated third LP,  “Awaken, My Love!” has whipped up almost 50 million views in a matter of days and has been celebrated by people like Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe and Trent Reznor.


The socio-political video comes at a time when African American art has found a powerful new voice, you only have to look at the futurist brilliance of Black Panther, Jordan Peele’s race horror Get Out and Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work. Donald Glover has no doubt touched on a sensitive nerve where gun violence, race relations, the politics of fear and anxiety have found a comfortable meeting point in the US.
Glover has used the charged imagery of the African American slave trade and Jim Crow politics to almost numbing effect. There is no doubt that the analyzation of this work renders much deeper academic thought than pop culture might be able to give it.

But apart from Donald Glover’s brilliant work, and the hundreds of brilliant cameos on the video made up of young school children and gospel choirs, there are two people, in particular, we wanted to put the spotlight on, they include its choreographer and its director. We thought you should know who they are.


Donald Glover’s masterful dance moves come courtesy of Sherrie Silver. A 24-year-old Rwandan born, activist philanthropist and choreographer, managing to meld various viral dances from Blocboy JB’s shoot dance to South Africa’s Gwara Gwara into the work.
Her intention here was to give Donald Glover an overview of some of the best dance moves emanating from Africa and let him create his own style. Working all over Africa here she’s incorporated the many styles she has come across to incredible effect.

Of the chaos in the background you see she reminds us,  “We tried to show what’s actually happening in the world. Not just in America, We wanted to bring joy to it, in the middle of the madness. That’s what kids do and that’s what dance does—especially African dance.”

Of her favourite part of the video she says, “I really loved the bit where it says ‘Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands,’ and we were all going around him. It’s a move from the Ivory Coast. It’s a particular way of walking.”

She has said that her mission is “to educate the world about African culture through entertainment, tourism, fashion, and food”. Whilst she’s not helping out Childish Gambino on set shes housing orphans in Rwanda; providing sewing lessons for ex-sex workers in Kigali, and giving art workshops to homeless and less privileged children in Lagos.” For more of her work go here.

 If you don’t know who the director is then you will know his work, Hurai Mirai is a frequent collaborator of Donald Glover, this Tokyo born director moved to Los Angeles when he was nine and has spent a chunk of his career directing the Glover stamped TV show Atlanta.


But he originally got the gig of directing Atlanta by being Donald Glover’s favourite music video director, he counts Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus, and David Guetta as part of his client list. Check out his videos here.

His work on This is America is flawless, using his camera almost as a weapon he effortlessly floats around the giant hangar, never pausing for breath, creating a fluid type of chaos.  Whatsmore, his ability to capture all the motion sequences behind Donald is a masterful achievement.


We can safely file This Is America next to some of America’s greatest political art.