“If you ask most people what art’s meant to them in the past few months, they might not have an immediate answer,” said Duluth mayor Emily Larson. “But if you asked them about what music they’ve been listening to, what old favorite books they’ve been rereading, what podcasts have been informing them, I think you’d find that’s what’s been helping a lot of us get through this.”
Over the past few months, all of us have been forced to re-evaluate what necessities look like in this new version of our daily lives. On a civic level, cities have been forced to do the same and Duluth has done so by merging civics and art in a new video.
The city of Duluth posted a version of the century-old gospel American hymn “This Little Light of Mine,” sung by local artists in English, Spanish, and Ojibwe, directed by Sandra and Daniel Oyinloye of DanSan Creatives as a means to encourage local Census participation. The new version is called “Let it Shine.”
“The idea of this video is super simple: everybody counts, full stop,” Larson said. “It’s people in our community showing up and sharing their beautiful selves in a way that as both a resident and as a mayor, reflects the core values of Duluth.”
Larson said she was very hands-off in the creation of the video itself. “One of my favorite parts about being mayor is having wonderful, talented people around you articulating values and giving them the space to make it happen.”
“We spoke with the Voices for Racial Justice group in Minneapolis to learn more about who’s often left out by the Census and why that’s important,” said the video’s director, Daniel Oyinloye. “We wanted our project to be a part of outreach to the community and a step in holding our city accountable for making sure everyone is counted.”
Creating a music video as a means for public outreach was a new avenue for Duluth as a city as well as Oyinloye, but it aligned with the work that both parties had done before. “Most of what we do is collective,” Oylinloye said. “The work we do always focuses on collaboration and community, so in that way, it was similar to past projects.”
The artists featured in the video perform pieces of the song in locations across Duluth of their choosing. The result showcases both the beauty of the cultural backgrounds of the video’s participants as well as the city’s scenery.
“Most of the artists in the video were people we knew from our community, with the exception of Lauren Cooper,” Oyinloye said. “I met Lauren at a protest and we ended up shooting her part of the video the next day.”
“I always want to stand with art as a vehicle for change,” Larson said. “It’s important for me to see democracy holistically, and this video is meant to show our community that we see them, and we value them.”
“We wanted this video to help people feel strong, empowered, and reflected in who they are,” Oyinloye said. “This is about their language, their culture. It’s about all of us.”
It’s not too late to fill out the 2020 Census. Visit 2020Census.gov for more information.
Every other Friday we take a behind-the-scenes look at a new music video from a Minnesota artist. Send submissions to fridayfive [at] mpr.org!