Watch Mavis Staples Replace Confederate Statues in New Video - Rolling Stone
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Watch Mavis Staples Replace Confederate Statues in Poignant New Video

Soul singer stars in clip for ‘If All I Was Was Black’ title track

Mavis Staples offers an alternative to statues commemorating the Confederacy in the poignant new video for “If All I Was Was Black,” the title track off her latest album with Jeff Tweedy.

The Zac Manuel-directed clip marks the first video that Staples has personally appeared in in years, and finds the soul legend singing the breezy but potent cut in a diner booth. These shots are paired with striking images of empty statue plinths alongside a sequence in which a young black woman walks towards a crowd awaiting the unveiling of a new monument. When the white sheet is finally pulled off the statue, the young woman finds herself staring back at a monument of someone who resembles her. 

“Earlier this year, I watched as all the Confederate monuments came down in New Orleans, but the conversation never arose as to what would replace them,” Manuel said of his inspiration for the video. “This video imagines a reality where we venerate people who are truly deserving of being immortalized in public spaces, a reality in which Black people can be proud to see themselves on pedestals in the air, cast in iron and stone. 

“The intent of this video is to highlight black excellence, and to provoke and encourage a larger public appreciation of the labor – physical and emotional – the people of color often are expected to bear,” he added. “Using the symbolism of the ‘monument,’ a contemporary point of debate, I hope to steer conversation toward the acknowledgment of actual greatness; by replacing a negative and reinforcing a positive, this video will alter the image of who we often see immortalized in our country’s history.”

Staples released If All I Was Was Black last November. The record followed her 2016 solo LP, Livin’ on a High Note, and also marked her third collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. The pair previously collaborated on 2010’s You Are Not Alone and 2013’s One True Vine.

Staples will return to the road for a string of concerts in support of If All I Was Was Black February 16th in Bow, Washington. She’ll play several more shows throughout the spring and summer, including a set at Bonnaroo.

In This Article: Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples


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