What Does Social Change Look Like? Filmmaker Jordan Shanks Wants to Show You
Jordan Shanks was a 19-year-old film student at Howard University when Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man with his whole life ahead of him, was killed by a white police officer. In 2014, the world erupted in protest. Shanks went down to Ferguson, MO, to join in the relief efforts, he told POPSUGAR, and ended up marching with Brown's parents to the street where their son was fatally shot. The street, he said, was still wet with blood. "I will never forget the look on his mother's and father's faces. It's the kind of expression that takes you years to understand."
Judging by his latest film, narrated in part by the fantastic author-poet Sonya Renee Taylor, it's an understanding he wants others to share in. Shanks, 25, is now a fellow at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where his work as a filmmaker and photographer catalogues the ongoing struggle for racial justice and equity across the country. His two latest works are a documentary short called Never Again and a new photo collection titled "Love Letters to America: Part II", both of which capture protests and other moments of civil disobedience in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, MD, and his hometown of Richmond, VA.
Ahead of the premiere of the virtual exhibition today (and celebrating the opening of the in-person exhibition in Richmond on Oct. 16 as moderated by New York Times bestselling author Kristen Green), we sat down with Shanks to discuss growing up in the shadow of the Confederacy (vis-à-vis Richmond's racist monuments), what social change looks like, and how his own experience in Ferguson catalysed some of his latest work.