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This Is America: A Donald Glover Spotlight

Image Courtesy of Outside Lands

By Isa Pardino

The month of February is Black History Month: a time of celebrating, remembering, and providing hope for Black Americans in the United States. Of the many prominent and innovative Black artists, Donald Glover, also known as his stage presence “Childish Gambino” imparts an artistry on the world that is both impactful and profound. Glover is a jack of all trades, with a decorative and fruitful career as a singer/songwriter, actor, rapper, comedian writer, producer, director, DJ, and public figure. During his time attending New York University, he began writing for the popular, comedy show 30 Rock. After his success writing for the show, he persisted in his love for screenwriting, later joining a comedy group called Community. After this, he went on to star in the television series Atlanta, and he later landed his first stand-up comedy special on Comedy Central. Aside from his career in writing for television shows and comedy, Glover dabbled in the music industry, releasing his first studio album Camp (2011), Because the Internet (2013), and Awaken, My Love! (2016). 

As if Glover was not successful in his various passions already, Glover dove into the cinematic universe. Since 2015, Glover has made appearances in Magic Mike XXL (2015), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), The Martian (2015), Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), and The Lion King (2019). 

Throughout his career, Glover has been fueled by his advocacy for social justice issues, most closely linked to the injustices that Black Americans endure every day. One of Glover’s most famous songs is “This is America.” 

In a commentary provided by Time Magazine, the company comments, “He raps about the violent contradictions that come with being black in America.” 

Both the lyrics of this song and the music video hold double meaning; the music video begins with a man sitting by himself strumming the guitar. Abruptly, Glover then shoots the man as the song moves from choral tones to a trap sound. This vivid imagery allows Gambino to straddle contradictions and also allows the viewer to identify with his humanness. 

Time Magazine goes on to talk about the final moments of the video and the song, as well as the double entendre between the lyrics and the scene depicted in the music video. 

“You just a Black man in this world / You just a barcode, ayy.” Gambino’s sprint goes back to a long tradition of black Americans having to run to save their lives, according to Ramsey, who says one song dating back to slavery in the 19th century was called “Run N— Run.” A black person running for his or her life has just been a part of American culture dating back to slavery.”

Donald Glover has revolutionized what it means to be a triple-threat. He has changed the world of music in a way that sheds light on the parts of America about which many have been hesitant to create a dialogue. This song’s message, while written in 2016, is still relevant today, especially in light of this past summer’s protests. All in all, Glover has had an impact on the film and music industry for many years, and many look to him as a role model. He is a powerful man who has openly used his platform in the public eye to advocate for those who do not have the same opportunities and capacities with which he has been blessed. The celebration of Black History Month reminds us that it is important to take time to reflect and appreciate artists like Glover and all that they have done for the Black community.

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