cousin ricky and the sordid past

performed by makayla whitney and hanna girma,

cousin ricky and the sordid past explores ties between Blackness and the bucolic, the pastoral, and more general, modes of production. The historic relationship between Black Americans and a fecund, fertile environment (i.e. Antebellum Era South and the tilling of the land under subjugation) brushes up against the topography of the California High Desert. The video project is grounded in research tracking migration patterns of Black Californians– particularly the contemporary influx of Black families away from the metropolis, and towards outlier communities such as the Mojave, Lancaster, Victorville, Barstow, and surrounding areas.

The production of the video is tied to an investment in Black identity development—one that occurs on the margins. The desert is considered as a static and invariable landscape, different from both the urban and the rural in that it is often conceptualized as barren, fruitless, and rarely generative. cousin ricky and the sordid past hopes to visualize a type of Black identity that exists “in the margins”, or on the outskirts.