short film | poem

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Where Are The African Gods? –– an ode to Abbey Lincoln by Rodney Passé



“Why we doing so bad?”


It’s the question coming at us as if from a hallway faraway: calling out to no-one and everyone. The voice belongs to the late jazz musician, Abbey Lincoln. She is both haunting and resolute in this filmed version of her poem, Where Are The African Gods?





Produced and directed by Brooklyn-based Rodney Passé, the film opens with the tolling of indistinct bells—church ones, we assume. They could easily be cowbells swaying against the sound of air moving like like the ocean: a sonic nod to the poem’s search for something lost in waters between African and America.




Rodney describes the film as “capturing moments from the perspective of African American men and their sons, while celebrating the essence of black culture and honoring its significance in today’s society.”

Watch it here, and read the full text of the poem below.
Fair warning: this may induce tears.



Where Are The African Gods?

by Abbey Lincoln



Why we doing so bad?
Because we do not worship god in our own image and likeness.
You’re not supposed to worship other people’s images.

Where are the African Gods?
Did they leave us on our journey over here?

Where are the African Gods?
Will we know them, when they suddenly appear?

The ones dismissed with voodoo,
rock ‘n roll,
and all that jazz,
and jungle mumbo-jumbo,
and razzmatazz.

Where are the African Gods who live within the skin?

Within the skin,
without the skin,
and in the skin again.

Where are the African Gods?
Do they hide among the shadows while we stumble on our way?
Or did they go with heaven
to prepare another day?

Where are the African Gods who’ll save us from this misery and shame?

Where are the African Gods?
Where are the African Gods?
Where are the African Gods?
Where are the African Gods?

Will we find them while we pray in Jesus’ name?

Where are the African Gods who live,
and set us free?

We are the African Gods,
you and me.




Photographs from Where Are The African Gods.
Follow more of Rodney’s work on Instagram and Vimeo

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Mark