Jasmine Mans once ran up a hill with a broken heart. The poet and author of Black Girl Call Home was instructed to release her heartbreak when she arrived by her best friend (who was running at her side). When they reached the top it was filled with fireflies. Their beauty was visual confirmation—it was time to let go.
The love she released lives in the six-minute video for her poem “Cycles.”
“There are moments that you have in life that are illustrated by God and you are just a participant,” she said during the premiere at Brooklyn’s Dumbo House.
“I wrote this poem one year ago, with a broken heart, and a sleepless body. Art reflects life, even when the heart doesn’t want to be seen. What you see here is a poem about two women who loved one another.”
In the video, Mans and a lover dance with and caress one another tenderly in a Brooklyn brownstone. A carefully color palette expresses the warmness of their moments with a sentimentality reserved for rom-com flashbacks. Their love appears to be eternal until a fate fractures their happiness. They glow and then they shatter.
The protagonist of the poem does not judge her lover, played by DJ Fannie Mae, for the betrayal because as Mans said “shame has never been an activation of God.”
A refrain composed and performed by Bills Egypt asks “Who am I to blame you/ Who am I to claim you/ Who am I to shame you,” before declaring “I wish you well/I wish you well /I wish you well, my love.”
She found it important to share her experience, “So that other gay Black girls know that they belong and that they can take up space.”
Working with those she was familiar with helped her become more comfortable on set. “DJ Fannie Mae has also been a good friend of mine, so to have her in this piece was a pleasant exchange of energy,” she said.”
The project is her first partnership with Umi’s House. “Umi’s House is a production company in New Jersey, created by Herns Gabrial and Aziza Johnson, friends of mine,” said Mans. The pair reached out to her to create something special together.
“When they asked for a collaboration, this was the only piece I could think of. This poem was coloring my identity at the moment,” she continued.
“I was nervous, it being my first time, in a piece, with a woman. Herns, nervous because it’s his first production. We were a team of eight friends gathered in Brooklyn to tell a story about love.”