Jamila Woods takes us to an enchanted school in her new music video for “Baldwin,” a single off her critically acclaimed new album Legacy! Legacy!, released in May by Jagjaguwar in partnership with Closed Sessions.
Against the backdrop of Woods’ soulful sound, an abandoned school of Chicago’s South Side is transformed into a magical academy, “like Hogwarts—but Black,” says Woods in a statement.
She calls the school “an oasis of Black learning and radical education,” where there’s joyful dance, bountiful meals and engaging learning in all corners.
“It’s an incredibly profound video that transforms the underfunded and often ignored Chicago Public School system into Hogwarts providing books and the support that all children deserve,” a press release explains.
Inspired by the novelist James Baldwin’s stirring “Letter to My Nephew.” which was published in The Progressive magazine in 1962, Woods brought on black students from the Chicago Public School System as the video’s stars.
“To outsiders, the school appears to be abandoned, one of the 50 public schools closed under Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s watch in 2013,” Woods explains. “However, for Black people in the neighborhood this space is a gem, an oasis of Black learning and radical education for young people.”
The video starts with a Baldwin quote: “Your crown has been bought and paid for. All you have to do is put it on your head.” Then, it pulls in the text “Jamila Woods” scrawled in Harry Potter font and floating through clouds in the sky, framed with the whimsical jangle of wind chimes.
Next, we’re brought back down to street level with three black students pushing shopping carts heaped with books, luggage and even a dog. We guess this Hogwarts allows dogs, too, instead of just cats, rats and owls.
And just as Harry Potter ran onto Platform 9 3/4, the kids lunge into the wall of an abandoned building, slipping effortlessly into a classroom, where they’re greeted by dancing teachers, quill pens, and books of magic and lore.
The video then transports us to the Great Hall, where a banquet is laid out for professors dressed in African-inspired garb. The spread includes tiers of cupcakes, bowls of corn on the cob and a heaping platter of fried chicken, all under floating candles and a regal barn owl.
The video’s director, Vincent Martell, said he hoped to retain the integrity of Woods’ track but infuse it with the majestic spirit of Baldwin.
“By working with Jamila to place black CPS students in the forefront of the narrative, we create a world filled with overwhelming possibilities and black joy,” Martell said in a statement. “The black community is magical and opulent and full of vibrancy, in this video we’re just showing the world what we already see.”
As the music fades out, the video closes with interviews with the students. One student wants to do more than just memorize. Another wants to be pushed to move at his own pace and do more advanced work. And yet another just wants a library (her school doesn’t have one) with books that aren’t outdated and white-washed.
“I have to teach myself if I really want to know what happened with my history,” she says. “We have to teach ourselves a lot of things.”
Check out the magical music video for yourself below. You can stream Legacy! Legacy! here.