During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 uprisings against state-sanctioned Black death, I worked remotely with fellow Carnegie Mellon graduate student NaTasha Thompson as the visual designer and animator of a concept video for Lavender Terrace, a speculative reworking of Marita Bonner’s play The Purple Flower. Published in 1928, Bonner’s play fablistically presents a Black community debating tactics to achieve racial, economic, and spatial liberation after generations of thwarted progress. To blend sound, video, and text from our remote collaborators, I created a cut-paper, stop-motion animated style using digital tools (After Effects and GIMP).
As a graduate student grappling with producing creative work during a pandemic, I was struck by the historical parallels between our time and Bonner’s: Bonner was an undergraduate at Radcliffe College during both the 1918 influenza epidemic and the Red Summer of 1919, a spike of white supremacist terrorism that targeted independent Black communities in the U.S. On this side of a tumultuous century of struggle, collaborating on Lavender Terrace kept me grounded. I am grateful to all who blessed this project: director NaTasha Thompson, NaTasha’s niece Skyler, actors Sierra Smith, Dylan T. Jackson, and Rayven Bailey, and musicians Mattie Justice, Daryl Miles, Jessica Fuquay.