KUPS and BSU collaborate on film series

“Literally every genre of popular, genuinely ‘American’ music was created by black musicians. Jazz, rock, punk, hip-hop, techno all have roots in African American life and culture,” KUPS’s Kirby Lochner said.

KUPS and the Black Student Union (BSU) are halfway through their collaborative film series, which Imari Romeo of BSU hopes will serve to “educate our community on Black culture and its influences in music.”

All of the films featured in the series are about Black musicians, and the next two films will share the common thread of either marginalized musicians or misunderstood music.

In addition to using this series as a form of education, both KUPS and BSU see this film series as an opportunity to become more connected and have a greater impact on the campus community.

As you may have noticed, KUPS has been making serious changes this year as it flourishes and grows on campus.

“As a radio station we’ve been trying to collaborate with other groups on campus to increase visibility and interest,” Lochner said. Lochner and Graham Baker, KUPS’s Assistant Alternative Music Director approached Romeo with an idea in mind, and they carefully selected films that would best serve their purpose in hosting this series.

Romeo, too, saw the value in co-hosting a series with another club on campus.

“Part of the reason, I , on behalf of BSU, decided to partner with KUPS is to be more involved on campus, become an outlet for students and  to discover other ways to bring our campus closer together,” she said.

Lochner said that the screening of the first film, Wheedle’s Groove: The Story of Seattle’s Forgotten Soul and Funk Scene of the 1960s and 1970s, was a great success. Viewers, both students and non-students followed the viewing with a deep discussion afterwards, exploring discrimination, Black Power, the erasure of movements and communities, and gentrification.

The next film in the series, a documentary called Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians, will be sponsored in part with the School of Music and shown on April 4.

According to Lochner, “this film will incorporate themes such as the mass incarceration of African Americans, the prison-industrial complex and highlights the experiences of individuals surviving in an oppressive system.”

The producer of the film, Georgetown ethnomusicologist Ben Harbert, will present the film personally and a facilitated discussion will follow.

The synopsis of the film says that Harbert “weaves together interviews and performances of extraordinary inmate musicians—some serving life sentences, some new commits and one soon to be released … the film offers an unexpected look at prison life, pushing viewers to reach their own conclusions about music, criminality, regret, redemption, and the humanity in us all.”

On Thursday, May 2, Romeo and Lochner are considering showing Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme, a documentary about freestyle rap. KUPS and BSU are planning on continuing this series next year.

“Music is an outlet for everyone, we listen to it when we walk, run, study, dance, party, and it is something that can be enjoyable in any context,” said Romeo. “We will not be able to cover the entire music timeline … but we want to spark conversations and to bring something new to the discussion table.”