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On Having a Song in BlacKkKlansman

August 6, 2019

A year ago, some friends, my partner, and I hopped on a train to New York City to see an early screening of Spike Lee's movie BlacKkKlansman.
(As a quick note: I wasn't seeing it early because I was fancy; I was seeing it early because I was willing to buy the early ticket.)

At the time, most of us had watched trailers and read some early reviews. We all knew about the standing ovation and Grand Prix at Cannes.

Simply put, we were excited about the movie. But we were also excited about something more personal.

The first hint that our song "We Are Gonna Be Okay" had made the final cut was a website in French that my dad had spotted. He sent us the link just as my partner and I were about to hit the road; we pieced together the song list and piped it over the car speakers.

The songs--mostly 70s-era recordings with a few more modern pieces, including two others by unsigned artists--sounded great together.

This happened well after Cannes, and after I had begun to assume that our song wouldn't quite make this project. My partner had had some wonderful chats with Spike Lee and others who were involved in the project; we'd even signed initial mutually-non-committal paperwork. Every step further along in the process was a gift by itself. But I didn't want to take anything for granted.

From that point on, signs pointed to "yes." New paperwork arrived. We signed it. And yet--we still didn't know anything about how the song might fit into the movie. (A part of me still barely dared to believe this was real.)

So there we were on a train ride to New York City, friends in tow, excited. We settled into our seats. The first song of the movie came on. It matched the first song on our list. Things were getting real.

"That was the last song before ours," my partner whispered to me as "Freedom Ride" wrapped up in its scene. Moments later--
The first lyrics came through, as though played on a juke box the next room over. My lyrics. My partner's voice.
My body reacted like I was on a rollercoaster, or like I'd just been caught passing notes in class. I had the glancing thought that someone had found my diary and was reading it to me--and to everyone else in the theater. My body went cold. I squeezed my partner's hand.

We enjoyed the rest of the movie, snapped a picture of the credits, then chatted about the film with our friends. Since I help my partner with some of his online presence, I had begun planning out the posts and emails I'd be supporting in the very near future.

Up until that point, we had told very few people. We were about ready to tell the world.

It's been a year, and the feeling that I've had the chance to share something very personal with the world hasn't worn off. I've slowly become more comfortable sharing this with others--it was easy to write posts on behalf of my partner, but much harder to think of sharing my news in my world.

In a lot of ways, writing this post involves me taking ownership over our accomplishment. My accomplishment.

One day, I came home from work, and I had a lot of feelings I wanted to express. I started with a line that made complete sense to me: "I will buy you blue skies...' My partner talked me through what made a story work in song. My partner and I created something together, and released it out into the world. And a slice of the world was excited to listen. I'm not sure life gets much better than that.