Last year, IU’s Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) was hard at work crafting a five-episode documentary series about the lives and work of Black people in the music industry, in a partnership with the Office of the Provost.
The first episode of the series, “AAAMC Speaks,” will premiere on IU’s YouTube channel on Feb. 12th following an interview between Dr. Tyron Cooper, the host and executive producer of the series, and Eddie Gilreath, a mainstay in the industry with a more than 50-year career.
The series is co-directed by Ethan Gill and Haley Semian, members of the Office of the Provost’s multimedia team.
“AAAMC Speaks, a documentary series that interviews trailblazers in the Black performance community,” said Office of the Provost multimedia intern Isabel Nieves. “Each episode is dedicated to a specific person, and we kind of really bring alive the archives at AAAMC.”
Through its monthly episodes, the series will showcase decades worth of Black resistance and Black joy through music, and explores some of the personal and untold stories from these musicians and industry leaders.
Semian said throughout the process of putting this series together, she was most excited to learn about these peoples’ lives.
“There’s so much there, and these are just such important stories to share,” Semian said. “I’m excited to see people’s reaction to it because I really hope that they find that joy, and the joy of discovery as I did through this.”
For Nieves, the most exciting part about this series is connecting viewers with the subjects of the archives at AAAMC, who will discuss and explain the archival material in their collections, and she hopes viewers experience the archives in a new way after watching this documentary.
Graduate assistant at AAAMC Bobby Davis expressed excitement that the series will have Black stories told by people within the Black community.
“A lot of times when you’re not from the culture you have no clue, you just start making assumptions about what might be going on,” Davis said. “Some folks might think some things that are happening are crazy. Some folks might think that some of the things that are happening are just, you know, this outrageous demonstrative behavior, when in fact, these are cultural expressions from African American people that we’ve used – these expressions – for centuries. It’s us – it’s us literally staying alive.”
The series is perfectly timed, lifting underheard Black voices up in a time when our country is in a delicate transition phase between the Trump and Biden administrations. We are still dealing with the pain of last year’s protests in response to the slew of police killings and brutality, and the insurrection at the Capitol last month.
“I think it’s taught people that they need to do a lot more when it comes to understanding the Black community, and listening and understanding their stories,” Semian said. “So just at that level, I think there should be more attention on Black voices, but also not just the struggle of Black people but also their joy. And I think these stories are so joyful, and I think that’s just as important too as learning the struggles of what Black people have had to go through.”
The team behind “AAAMC Speaks” want students to enjoy the series and connect with its subjects, but also encourage them to further explore the archives themselves, even after the final episode airs.
“A lot of people don’t really know about the archives,” Nieves said. “They don’t really think to visit an archive collection. But it’s a really cool way to find out more about any type of history that may not be documented in books that may not be talked about in our classes.”