Amie Jammeh · Dec 20 – Jan 21

Nina Simone will forever be a true inspiration to me, both in life and in my art. the way she fought for rights of black people with everything in her life telling her not to, is unbelievably inspiring. this song has been with me through this whole residency and inspired me a lot. thank you Nina.

To be young, gifted and black,
Oh what a lovely precious dream
To be young, gifted and black,
Open your heart to what I mean
In the whole world you know
There are billion boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black,
And that’s a fact!
Young, gifted and black
We must begin to tell our young
There’s a world waiting for you
This is a quest that’s just begun
When you feel really low
Yeah, there’s a great truth you should know
When you’re young, gifted and black
Your soul’s intact
Young, gifted and black
How I long to know the truth
There are times when I look back
And I am haunted by my youth
Oh but my joy of today
Is that we can all be proud to say
To be young, gifted and black
Is where it’s at

i have been talking and interviewing some black artists during these weeks about their view on race and art, and how they feel about blackness, whiteness etc in life and in their art. one beautiful dancer send me a text that she wrote that is expressing the feeling in a way that we all know very well, and have been through or thought about more than once. thank you so deeply for your important and inspirational words.

I know I am talented, I know I can do this

But I can’t help but think – am I here because I’M BLACK ?

They don’t know me that well, haven’t seen me dance much really

But they want me in their cast, they want me in their show

And so I wonder – why exactly am I here?

I know they’ve worked with a black dancer before

That dancer is gone

Am I just a replacement?

Not a replacement for the skills but more of a fill-in for the diversity box that ‘needs’ to be checked?

It’s tricky 

If we want things to change, we have to start somewhere

So can I complain if I’m hired not only because I am good at what I do, because I have what they’re looking for, but ALSO BECAUSE I’M BLACK?

On the day of the video shoot, as they are teaching me the material that THEY have created together, that THEY have worked on together

The material that will be filmed and will serve to promote the project

I feel unnecessary, I feel like a prop, especially as I stand between two other white dancers

Not because I feel intimidated or less capable than them

But because I see that this video shoot, this project they are working on, could work perfectly well without me

But perhaps it just LOOKS better with me

Hey, it’s a job, it’s cash, it’s interesting work – so why should I care what the motive is?

For there to be 2,3,4, black dancers in a show, there must, at some point have been only one black dancer in a show

And so it is bittersweet

And so we endure this discomfort at the individual level, to pave the way for the change at the structural level

We speak on  and I mention how I felt that day, that I felt as though there was no need for my presence

She understands, she acknowledges, she empathizes, she apologizes

And yet, neither of us address my Blackness 

The role it plays in an entirely white room

She thinks it has to do with me being ‘new’ to the group (sure, that’s part of it)

Perhaps she really does not see the issue, though I consider her quite ‘woke’

And so I think perhaps it is in my mind , that it isn’t actually an issue

Also this is not something you briefly address in a quick phone call

And so it remains unsaid, undiscussed, unsolved

At that moment, I don’t feel that I have the energy to discuss it 

At that moment, I don’t feel that I have the courage to discuss it 

At that moment, I don’t want to discuss it, though I know I should, I must, not just for me but for all of us

But it remains unsaid, undiscussed, unsolved

Like a piece of cashew stuck between the back of your teeth

What a relief when you finally get the toothpick to get it out

But you can also go a very long time without getting it out

Somehow burdened but also used to it and therefore not really bothered

i believe that as a black person, to be joyful is a choice. it’s an attitude, a sign of strength and a sign of resistance. it challenges the stereotypes of what it means to be black because everything in this world tells us that we are not, and shouldn’t be joyful. you should only be joyful (or maybe more grateful) when x allows you to sit at the same table, but not simply in being who you are.

so the last weeks i have worked with that particular angle of joy. that it’s something that you choose, and even though it might seem like a simple thing, it can be a struggle to achieve. and i find it very interesting, and important, to see how it manifests in the body. how does the attitude of joy feel, look, express itself in me? and how can i find it even in the most uncomfortable positions and places?

how can i find joy in a place that doesn’t want me to be joyful and what does it mean when i do so?

therefore i have been putting myself in movements and positions that i do not feel comfortable in, and been trying to find ways to make them joyful. do i have to change the position? move in it? change my weight? or is it enough to just change my mindset? and when i change my mindset, does it change the position too?

i found that in my body it has a lot to do with tension and release. with holding on and letting go. with resisting and allowing.

i don’t like to stand on releve in 2nd position for 20 min, but if i have to, how do i make it a joyful experience?

I share this video with you because it inspires me to go into the studio and work with dance as more than a physical activity and create something that is more than just aesthetically pleasing. Majorie H Morgan is an award-winning writer, playwriter and journalist who writes very strongly about many important topics involving equality. check her out! 🙂

inspiration for today

“surely there’s strength in being dressed for a storm

even when there’s no storm in sight”

– Yaa Gyasi

inspiration for today

“if you can only be tall

when someone else is on their knees

then you have a serious problem

and my feeling is

white people has a very, very serious problem

and they should start thinking

of what they can do about it

take me out of it.”

– Toni Morrison

inspiration for this residency

“when you are a black girl

everyday that you exist in your body

without apologizing

is activism”

– Raven Taylor

Barkley L Hendricks, What’s Going On, 1974

hello! my name is amie jammeh. i am a 27 years old dancer who originally comes from gambia and sweden.

i work with the body, with video and with voice and my focus as an artist is to bring awareness and visibility to black culture, black stories and black artists. i will dedicate my time here in this beautiful space trying to do that. i am specifically researching about black joy as a rebellious act, and i am trying to find ways to express this with my body.

i am interviewing and talking to other black artists to hear their thoughts and ideas on the topic and the topic of being who they are and the effect it has on their life and art.