Sydney dance organisation Shaun Parker & Company continues to push the boundaries of traditional dance and arts with a collaboration in conjunction with Australia’s first openly gay male rapper JamarzOnMarz (James Emmanuel). Black, queer, and undeniably talented, JamarzOnMarz defies the typical hetero visual representations that dominate hip-hop, and has previously caught the attention of diverse artists including Solange Knowles, Marcia Hines, and Courtney Act.
Dropping his latest single Tomorrow on Friday 30th October, the song and its accompanying video tell an entertaining but important and true story of the rapper’s own experiences with discrimination and coming out. Written about his partner, Tomorrow follows the feelings that accompany first (same sex) love, and is performed in both English and Swahili, the latter an act of defiance by the artist whose motherland of Kenya still considers homosexuality a crime. Filmed in a classroom and leading to a scene where James is dragged to the principal’s office to have his head forcibly shaved, it was his own experiences that shaped the narrative.
After being forced to shave his braided hair whilst at high-school, when his white classmates could style their hair how they chose, JamarzOnMarz is also behind a viral petition to stop independent schools discriminating against students with Afro textured-hair and protective styles, such as braids. To date the petition has gathered more than 25,000 signatures, and the rapper hopes that the video portrayal of events will stimulate the legal change he is fighting for.
Directed and choreographed by award-winning Shaun Parker, the Tomorrow video seamlessly fuses high-end dance narratives with pop culture to ensure that its important messages are delivered in an entertaining and truly pop way. JamarzOnMarz has recently worked with Shaun as a mentor via the Queer Bites program which supports emerging LGBTQIA+ identifying artists. Several other former Queer Bites artists also feature in the video, with half of the total cast identifying as LGBTQIA+.
JamarzOnMarz says of his music, and in particular Tomorrow, “I am trying to pave the way for the next generation of queer Australian artists. Growing up in an almost all-white regional town, I had no peers that looked like me – but worse, no role models that looked or identified like me either. Through the storytelling and casting of the Tomorrow video, I am not only living out my old fantasy of being out and proud and surrounded by diverse and accepting peers at school, but I am also trying to draw attention to the discrimination against Black students that is still taking place today.”
Shaun Parker is equally enthusiastic about the project, in which he also gets a cameo as the Principal, despite holding beliefs that couldn’t be further from his character. “What is wonderful about this music video is that it celebrates cultural diversity and gender identification, which is a true representation of modern-day Australia and of our country’s future. I am so proud that JamarzOnMarz has led this fight for inclusion and visibility – it’s such a progressive and fun way to fight for change for the better within our Australian private schools! Despite his young age, JamarzOnMarz has shown bravery and maturity beyond his years.”
Watch Tomorrow directed & choreographed by award-winning Shaun Parker, on YouTube and visit the petition via change.org/protectblackstudents
Featured image : Highly acclaimed gay male rapper JamarzOnMarz