Looking to channel your energy? Ayoinmotion offers visual solutions to police brutality
From justifiable anger to palpable action
Ayoinmotion, a 20-something Nigerian-American cishet man recently wrote and created “Outrage on the Front Page (OFP).” OFP is a short film about the diasporic Black experience in response to violence.
Ayo, is a lifelong Muslim man, a vibrant African man, a proud Yoruba man, and a card-carrying Black man. The beautiful thing about interviewing Ayo was that he recognized how the Black immigrant experience in the United States is built on the backs of 400 years of Black enslavement and degradation. From a young age, he was often questioning the exceptional Black narratives that white folks would use to separate and elevate Ayo from Black Americans like myself. He’s in the early stages of working with a friend who is actively building coalitions to combat the “broken windows” approach to policing that the New York Police Department employs. It is well documented that NYPD’s strategies disproportionately affect people of color, disabled people, folks from the LGBTQIA+ community, and folks who are profiled as Muslim or Sikh.
In OFP, Ayo expresses the all-too-familiar cycle of rage and frustration that often bubbles up and then fizzles out after yet another modern day lynching of Black folks. As we face coinciding genocides and environmental degradation all over the planet, Ayo challenges us to consider different routes for more sustained action. Ayo intends to use this visual as a springboard to mobilize our communities and encourage people who otherwise may not have, to take action. His website serves as a resource for people to find out what steps they can take, regardless of where they are in the nation, to create palpable change. Read the edited interview, learn more about Ayo’s work, and watch OFP below the cut.
Content warning: The OFP film and visuals include painted blood imagery and highlights policy brutality against Black folks and Black bodies.
ANTHONY W.: How does your journey from Nigeria to Flint, Michigan factor into and influence your identity as a Black man? Cause these are all very different places and I know that’ll change things for you.
AYOINMOTION: Growing up in Nigeria, like, and kind of, pretty much living there until two months before my 14th birthday, I feel like the central core of my identity is grounded in being raised as a Nigerian kid growing up in Lagos, which is — think about New York, but maybe three times grittier — big city, very fast, everyone comes to make it, everything is cut-throat, everything is fast. That’s the vibe of Lagos. I feel like how aggressive I can be, how quick I can be, the fact that I never really see walls, I just see cracks: a lot of these things comes from Lagos. In Lagos you’re kind of raised to know nothing will be given to you, you have to take everything, and everyone is there to make it. I tell fellow creatives that I expect obstacles; I like [non-disruptive] tension. Lagos is what really forged that identity and approach in me.
Flint, my “adopted hometown,” showed me people who were resilient in the way people in Lagos are resilient. People who understand that nothing will be given to them, in some cases: people who feel like they’ve been forgotten. And ultimately, Flint was my indoctrination into understanding America, from a race and class perspective, which I think are the two most important lens[es] to understand America from. Flint helped me in understanding America for what it is, what it pretends to be, and what it actually is; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
ANT: In your short film you talk about the current cycle of protest, instead of sustained action. And on the website you list ways so folks can get involved. So what do you suggest to break the cycle of protest and increase sustained action?
AYO: I think protests are important. But what I think has happened is we’ve gotten so jaded and used to “oh this is another video that went viral of our people getting shot, it’s sad, it’s fucked up, I’m mad for two days and then I continue my life.” So for me, it’s about…no one is saying that you’re gonna be the next revolutionary or that you need to be. But awareness comes from being involved in something.
And so, for me, it’s like getting involved in local organizations. And not just donating, but like actually going to the meetings. So that that way, when you wanna link up all these different communities of protests where we want to mobilize, flood a congressperson’s inbox, when we want to vote them out … we have a network to do that. We move on as if we don’t have power, and we don’t concentrate that power into action and we don’t coalition build. You have to be consistent with organizing, you can’t just come in and go back out. It has to continue.
I wanted to created something that could be really inspiring, could be really cinematic — while poetic and musical at the same time to inspire people. Just like when you watch a kung fu movie [and] you feel like you can do kung fu all the sudden, you go around kicking everywhere? Alright, you watch this, you’re inspired, let’s get you to the website immediately. Once you get into the website, the full video is there, there are lists of organizations, and you can join and be part of something. So that the next time you need to be activated, you can be, instead of watching a protest being covered on TV like it’s a game.
I just felt like art and music have to have a voice in this issue. And as a musician and an artist and a creator, this seemed like the best way to do it.
ANT: One of the things you talked about is getting involved in an organization. Are there certain organizations that you’re involved in right now that gave you that idea, or where you got that model from?
AYO: No, I mean, I don’t want to say that I created a model. But I pretty much went through not only storyboarding myself, but I also just thought about “if I had to offer some suggestions and solutions, how would I go about it?”
Also, another thing I did, I went to a couple of townhalls. And one of them that was very influential was called “I Am a Solution.” They invited elected officials, people from the community, and people from the legal field as well. How would they all approach a solution to police brutality from their perspective? I presented there, “here’s what I am and here’s what I’m about,” what would you like to see? So I took some of their feedback and also incorporated it into Outrage on the Front Page.
ANT: #SayHerName was a movement created by Black women within the Movement for Black Lives to highlight how often Black women are erased, even in death. Sandra Bland is one name we know and that you say, yet in the short film you say both “say her name” and “say his name.” So then how do Black women, Black queer folks, and Black trans folks fit into your view of liberation for Black folks?
AYO: I love this question. I saw this question and got excited when you asked it, because I wanted to address it.
So, first thing’s first, there are two times that I say #SayHerName. The first time that I say “Say Her Name,” I don’t say “Say His Name.” I say #SayHerName in isolation, and I’m speaking about women of color — and Black women especially— being victims of police brutality, instead of the narrative that was focusing solely on Black men.
When I first came up with the storyboard and screenwriting and plot for OFP, I was going to be the person affected by police brutality. I intentionally changed it and made it a woman because I wanted to bring some attention to #SayHerName.
The second time when I say “say her name” and “say his name,” I’m wrapping up. I’m in conclusion. I’ve spent the majority of the film focusing on police brutality with the Black woman as the victim, and wrapping up overall, this issue affects us all. So we gotta say her name, say his name, and put everybody in so this doesn’t happen anymore. Black women are what drove the piece.
ANT: A critique of straight Black men is that queer folks — which I am one myself — and trans folks are not included in Black men’s idea of liberation. So obviously your idea of liberation includes Black women, but does it include Black queer folks and Black trans folks as well?
AYO: Definitely. Equality is equality, right? Access, or equality, is being denied, and that’s the problem. So when we’re talking about liberation: if you want liberty, why is that liberty supposed to be denied to someone else? It’s contradictory. You can’t claim to want Black liberation and not involve queer folks, trans folks, the entire LGBT community in general and everybody else. Equality is equality, equity is equity.
ANT: Cool, you passed the test.
AYO: [Laughing] I didn’t know it was a test! I love talking about stuff like this. This is important, this is central, this is us.
ANT: Any closing words?
AYO: Andreas Wu, the guy who shot this, I think that…this wouldn’t have been possible without him. If you notice, it’s shot in a very cinematic, intentional way. There’s running as a central theme. I just love the fact that as a director, he welcomed my vision and saw his role as translating my vision. It’s important to mention and credit him. And not that his race matters in this case, but he’s the son of Chinese immigrants and he’s a person of color, but he’s not a Black person. And he felt the issue was important, so he wanted to be a part of this project.
My manager, Karume James, because he was very very central in believing what this was about and involving me in the “I Am a Solution” panel. He’s always been on my side, and a lot of the things I’ve put together in the last 12 months wouldn’t be possible without him.
There’s nobody involved in this project that didn’t dedicate their time. Everybody gave up their time and effort to believe in this project from a personal standpoint. And Nate Hernandez, of course, by putting this out and trying to get people to know that it exists. Those three are the trifecta.