Bellringer is an experimental music video that begins with the story of Latasha Harlins, a Black 16-year-old whose murder by a Korean grocery store owner in 1991 served as a catalyst for the LA Riots in 1992. Her name, like that of many Black women, is often erased from discussions of the uprisings. Bellringer rewinds us to the moment Latasha Harlins entered Empire Liquor Mart on that fateful day in March of 1991. The animated part of the film brings hand-painted scenes of Latasha’s murder, funeral, and the ensuing Los Angeles riots to life. The story and lyrics imagine Latasha’s inner monologue, including a mental plea for the store owner to see that she and Latasha are more alike than different. Prior to her murder, Latasha witnessed regular domestic violence at home; her mother was shot and killed by her father’s new girlfriend in 1985, leaving Latasha in the care of her grandmother. The second verse, while baldly braggadocious on its face, actually nods to the ways that trauma like Latasha’s manifests: hot temperedness, antagonism, substance abuse, and belligerent boasting. We see the narrator of the story, Linqua Franqa, struggling with their own trauma in an empty sanctuary—presumably because everyone is out rioting instead of praying— wondering if they will be killed by racist violence or by the coping mechanisms that they have developed in order to deal with the trauma of racist violence. The answer comes in the last few seconds of the film.
Directed by Nolan Huber-Rhoades (USA)