‘You about to lose yo’ job’ video is a weapon of black joy
Viral remix captures a woman flipping the power dynamic while handcuffed
In the middle of timelines full of mourning, and protests over police brutality and militarized law enforcement, a social media post showed up as an out-of-the-blue reminder of all the ways black creativity can save the day, or at least the souls of black folks.
The video begins at night in a parking lot in South Carolina where a young black woman wearing a cropped tank top and shorts has been handcuffed. We aren’t shown what led up to this moment, but a uniformed man is holding her by the arm and she is irate. “Why are you detaining me?” she demands. “You about to lose yo’ job!”
Then she catches a beat.
She taps out a rhythm while she leans forward to gyrate her hips and behind. Though cuffed, she moves her arms in time with her feet, taking the man’s suspect-in-custody-grip for a ride-along. “You about to lose yo’ job! You about to lose yo’ job,” she chants. “Get this dance!” she says, issuing a blanket invitation — to the uniform? The person holding the camera? Us?
“You about to lose yo’ job, cause you are detaining me. For nothing!”
She continues swaying and chanting. At some point, her understanding of her circumstances clearly changed. The power dynamic has shifted, even if it’s just in her own mind.
Then, the bass line drops!
The viral Instagram video remix by DJ iMarkkeyz, (who did the “Coronavirus” PSA remix for Cardi B) and DJ Suede set the refrain and its central invitation – You about to loooose yo’ job. Get this dance! – to a trap beat.
It layers Childish Gambino from “This is America,” with dance scenes from Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot N—-” and Beyoncé performing at Coachella. John Witherspoon spells out J-O-B. Elmo dances as mug shots of the four former Minneapolis police officers accused in the killing of George Floyd scroll by with the word “charged.”
It’s a bop to celebrate the rare instances of abusive police officers being held to account, and it’s already being called the taunt for our times and the protest song we need. But the video that occasioned it is also worth understanding as part of the cultural architecture of resistance, and the weaponization of black joy.
In the full version of the original video, we first see the young woman, since identified as Johnniqua Charles, thinking and cursing out loud about her situation. Her hands are cuffed behind her back and the uniformed man (since identified as security guard Julius Locklear), has her by the arm. But she’s still got some wiggle room in her hips and she uses them to narrate. Or possibly to help her think. Then she uses them to punctuate her newfound clarity: “You about to loooose your job, because you are detaining me, for nothing.”
In our previous understanding about inflection points with the police, and what might set them off (to the extent it is knowable), her chant is already borderline dangerous insubordination. But it’s a form of assertion, and protest she’s betting he won’t suppress. She is telling the world I’ve done nothing wrong, there is no reason for this man to be holding me, and in her calculation, it’s such a fully realized position (or at least the one she’s trying to sell), she decides she’s got the space to troll him.
“Get this dance!” she invites as she gyrates and Locklear turns his face, but he can’t go anywhere. He’s holding onto her, and in security work to let go is to lose control, so he is trapped. At one point, Locklear is clearly trying not to laugh. Charles is being detained, to her way of thinking unjustly, but she figures out how to flip the script and “own” him.
Even if her restructuring of the terms of the interaction is only in her own head — she is still handcuffed, after all — sometimes that’s all the operating space black folks need to stay sane. And, in this case, negotiate for better terms. Presumably, both Charles and Locklear know they’re on video, otherwise she might be subject to a more aggressive physical detention, and surely that is also part of the calculation about how much agency she can exercise.
It’s all part of a tradition of resistance that goes way back. Control of the black body is the highest aspiration of white supremacy, so black history is filled with finger rolls, hip twists and covert performative signifiers. One of the earliest, the cakewalk, a high-stepping dance that mocked white pretensions, on the low, to the plantation owner’s face, began before the Civil War. Some of the recent protests included street dancing, not only as self-care and defiance of white supremacy, but as a gift of community that can help change hearts and minds. To some, we aren’t even supposed to be here. This is why black joy is resistance.
In her video, Charles also seems to be counting on all that hip action she’s delivering to do some of the work of resistance.
On social media, where it’s alternately hashtagged #YouAboutToLoseYoJob or #GetThisDance, new remixes have been posted, and some are calling it an anthem for 2020. Others worried Charles was in police custody, and are mindful of wanting her to benefit from her viral stardom in ways that are often denied black creators. Think “Peaches Monroee,” Kayla Lewis, whose “eyebrows on fleek” Vine was culturally and corporately appropriated.
Charles’ sister, Andrea, created a #getthisdance Instagram page where she wrote Friday that Charles was not in custody and that monies from a GoFundMe page and a new line of merchandise were being used to help support Charles and her 3-year-old son.
The remix, and the attention it has generated, has the potential to be life-changing for Charles. But when she was being detained, her creativity was potentially lifesaving. There are those who wonder what would have happened if Locklear didn’t appreciate the language of black movement and resistance. If he couldn’t catch a beat. The video, the remix, the moment is a reminder that black creativity has the power to lift us, and bring people over to our side. That in the ongoing struggle to be free, black creativity can save us. And black joy might be our most powerful weapon.