released her third album in collaboration with Jeff Tweedy, If All I Was Was Black, in November, and today she debuts the powerful, political video for its title track.
The video, directed and edited by Zac Manuel, finds a solitary Staples singing and drinking coffee in a diner, interspersed with clips of Confederate monuments—or rather, the empty pedestals where those monuments used to stand. Soon enough, a young woman of color (Keah Moffett) witnesses the unveiling of a new monument—one that honors and represents her. “It’s time for more love,” Staples sings, as the young woman beams at her iron likeness.
Manuel explained in a statement:
In 2017 I watched as all the Confederate monuments came down in New Orleans, but the conversation never arose as to what would replace them. 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.
The If All I Was Was Black title track’s call for unity and togetherness is central to the album’s message. “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” said Staples in a statement released alongside her album’s initial announcement. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.”
“Mavis Staples is a hit-maker, a civil rights activist, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and a true believer in her God, in this country and in the power of good over evil,” Ben Salmon wrote in his review of If All I Was Was Black for Paste. “If we need a voice to listen to right now—to educate us, to comfort us, to spur us into action—it’s hard to think of a better one than hers.”
Watch Staples’ “If All I Was Was Black” video below, and a 2011 interview with the artist from the Paste Cloud further down. You can stream If All I Was Was Black here or buy a copy here.