Phlegm shares a new video affirming the presence of black native New Orleanians in their own city.
Last year, the popular Brooklyn-based drag and music festival Bushwig came to New Orleans with a day-long roster of performances, DJ sets, and dance parties. Hosted at Castillo Blanco Art Studios in the Bywater—a neighborhood that has arguably been ground zero for discussions of gentrification in post-Katrina New Orleans—Bushwig South inspired local artist Phlegm to create a T-shirt for himself to wear to the festival. It broadcast a bold, straightforward statement: “Everything You Love About New Orleans Is Because of Black People.”
Though the first shirt was handmade, with black iron-on letters on a white shirt, Phlegm’s creation eventually spawned a self-run web store through the print-on-demand service Teespring. Phlegm—whose work also includes intricate and otherworldly makeup designs, which he posts to his Instagram account—is a New Orleans native, and his shirt design underscores the city’s ongoing conversations surrounding displacement, cultural ownership, and belonging. In the face of droves of largely white, upwardly mobile outsiders migrating to New Orleans over the past decade, Phlegm’s declaration is a simple, yet powerful, affirmation that much of the city’s iconic culture—from bounce music to the French Quarter’s picturesque ironwork—would not exist without the historical contributions of Africans and African-Americans.
Since debuting his Everything You Love shirt, Phlegm has begun a video practice, mashing together found footage of black New Orleanians, using vintage clips from second lines and music videos like Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up.” Posted below, the first finished video, which is soundtracked by DJ Jubilee’s “Get It Ready, Ready!”, debuted during an event at Poor Boys bar in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward. The hip venue, which hosts house-music parties and live concerts, is located in a strip of bars on St. Bernard Avenue whose demographics are noticeably shifting alongside those of the neighborhood. Phlegm plans to project this video and others in similar locations around the city as an “ocular reclamation,” a means of affirming the presence of black native New Orleanians in their own city, hopefully reaching longtime residents and newcomers alike.