Driving While Black

An unflinching look on how the racial history of African Americans since the 1500s shaped how Black America moves around from point A to point B in 2020.

Services

Creative Direction, Animation, Design, Edit

Sound Design, Music, Direction

Client

SteepleChase

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Credits

PBS’ Driving While Black documentary details the events written in the book with the same title. A deep dive into the exploration of racial politics among African Americans, the film examines a world where mobility was largely anchored on one’s skin color.  

 

Through our collaboration with Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary production group  Steeplechase, we depicted an era that highlighted what the advent of the automobile meant to America. While most Caucasian Americans could freely explore the open roads, invisible rules applied to our African American brothers and sisters.

Owning a vehicle at a time like that wasn’t only a display of privilege—it was an exhibition of privilege, displaying who was allowed where. Spearheaded by historian Gretchen Sorin, filmmaker Ric Burns, and with visual direction from rezonate, the film tackles how the longstanding history of discrimination has formed into the modern policies we’re aware of today.

 

More than anything, Driving While Black isn’t only a project that discusses what racism is. It is a visceral encounter that exposes the African-American experience and what it truly meant to drive while black, scared, and prejudiced.

rezonate seeked to capture the current state of mobility for Black Americans by illustrating the visual history of slavery, age-old strife, the emancipation of slaves, and the eventual legislative reforms that deeply engraved the culture of fear, defiance, and courage that Black Americans navigate now.

 

The visual language created for this film is composed of two main elements: Human Mobility and Black History. The automobile was the symbol of freedom in modern America. It represented progress into a better life; consequently, it also represented the tumultuous journey to emancipation of Black America throughout the years.

 

The language also draws inspiration from the many pivotal points of Black American History; from the certificates of slave ownership, the caricatures of the Jim Crow era, picket signs in the Martin Luther King era of race protests, to the optimism of industrialist America and it’s obsession of the automobile, up to the ongoing protests against police brutality.

 

rezonate has also paid homage to Black American art by drawing influence from prominent, award-winning visual artists Derrick Adams, Theaster Gates, and Jonathan Calm.


Watch the full documentary on PBS, also available on DVD, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime.