Black is beautiful
By Adobe Life Team
Posted on 12-16-2020
We recently released a chapter celebrating the vibrant spectrum of perspectives from Black creators around the world. Now, we’re turning the lens inward to showcase some of the incredibly talented Black creators within our employee community. Check out our recent features of Isaiah Everett and Carita Marrow.
Brandon Baker, production service engineer, recently celebrated 10 years at Adobe and is a leader in our Black Employee Network (BEN). We chatted with Brandon about his passion for music and art, which he has recently channeled into a project that he produced called Black is Beautiful.
Brandon often visits the BLM murals in Downtown Oakland for inspiration.
Music has always been deeply rooted in Brandon’s family, with many family members growing up in the Motown neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, and some making a career for themselves in the music industry.
Brandon’s father constantly played piano and various genres of music in the home and influenced Brandon to play percussion. Playing the drums and listening to music turned into an affinity for jazz. To this day, Brandon can be found attending local venues to watch live jazz performances.
It was actually at one of these performances where he met Grammy Award-winning musicians Marcus Gilmore and Nicholas Payton. Brandon’s love of jazz also influenced him to watch Spike Lee films like Mo’ Better Blues and Do The Right Thing, which then grew into a love for musical scores. And with his mother being an avid photographer, Brandon also grew an interest in photography and art.
Brandon began doing video archiving for Marcus and Nicholas’s performances, using Adobe Premiere Pro for editing. While touring with them, he would envision scenes to complement the music, similar to the Spike Lee films he grew up watching.
Archive footage of Marcus Gilmore and Savion Glover.
In working with them, he hoped to one day produce a unique performance that featured both of their creative styles. He then met Kwame S. Brathwaite, son and director of the Kwame Brathwaite Archive, during the Art Basel festival in Miami, Florida, and later began doing promotional videos for Kwame around the Black is Beautiful art exhibit. With his work with Kwame, Brandon saw an opportunity to finally produce the unique performance that he always envisioned for Marcus and Nicholas. By taking key pieces from Kwame’s Black is Beautiful collection and presenting them alongside original compositions from Marcus and Nicholas, they could create a concert experience for the art exhibit.
Black is Beautiful exhibit at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.
During the creation process, Brandon spent numerous hours with the image to come up with sounds and concepts to share with Nicholas and Marcus.
“While spending time with The Men and Women on boxes, I was reminded of the formation of Black men and women I marched alongside in peaceful protest this year. I was reminded of the rhythm of our steps as we walked as one unit. I took this idea to Marcus and he replicated this feeling through his percussion genius,” Brandon said.
Brandon viewing negatives in the Adobe Minnesota Street Studio while developing photos for the archives.
As Brandon collaborated with Marcus, Nicholas, and Kwame to create this musical art experience, life changed around the globe with COVID-19 and George Floyd’s murder. Brandon quickly worked with Marcus, Nicholas, and Kwame to shift toward a virtual experience that told a story of the injustices happening every day toward the Black community. After months of hard work and creativity, the Black is Beautiful multimedia project was born with kickoff project We Will Breathe.
While Kwame Brathwaite’s original Black is Beautiful movement was meant to elevate natural Black beauty during a time when society did not value the Black cultural and visual aesthetic, this Black is Beautiful multimedia project is meant to revive the Black is Beautiful movement. The Black is Beautiful project has been featured in the Adobe Life Blog, BBC Culture, and Soul In The Horn. This is the first of many projects that Brandon is producing with Marcus, Nicholas, and Kwame.
Brandon created We Will Breathe using Adobe Premiere Pro.
“I enjoy seeing my dreams come to fruition in this project. It’s a great opportunity to tell the story of Kwame Brathwaite and those he photographed and such a rewarding experience to elevate the value of his work by adding this multimedia component. The music will be created in volumes to accompany each exhibit that unearths archived photos. My background in engineering, project management, and program management have helped tremendously in this project as I help drive and motivate the team throughout the creation process. I’m incredibly grateful that Adobe supports employees' passion to use our skills for good through the Pro-Bono project campaign. In this project I am also helping bring focus to Adobe and Black creatives. It’s great to work with so many of my colleagues from different cultures and backgrounds to understand the story of Black is Beautiful and the work of Kwame Brathwaite.”
Brandon Baker, production service engineer, Adobe
To view more from Brandon, follow @b__baker on Instagram.
Topics: Adobe Life, Adobe Culture, Diversity & Inclusion, Brand, Celebrating the Black Community, #AdobeForAll