Choreographer Sherrie Silver shares how she portrayed African culture in Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’

Childish Gambino’s most recent thought provoking music video, ‘This is America’, recently went viral and has already been dissected by watchers ad infinitum. The video directed by Hiro Murai is being viewed as an artistic comment on indifference, consumption, and incessant violence and has garnered 75 million views on YouTube.

Rwandan-British choreographer Sherrie Silver, who also dances in the video, was tasked with creating choreography that would elicit joy and unawareness, in contrast to a background of chaos and destruction. The 24-year-old choreographer, philanthropist, teacher and actress responsible for interpreting Donald Glover’s lyrics to dance shared her excitement for the video’s success on Twitter.

Silver’s choreography is key to the video’s message pointing to the fact that African/African American pop culture provides a brief respite in the wake of the lived tragedies of black people in America. 

Musical artist, Childish Gambino (alias Donald Glover). Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

In a chat with Interview Magazine, Silver shares  she was trying to reflect the culture back home in Africa: “No matter what troubles we have, kids are always dancing and smiling. We always dance and have music playing. The kids’ dancing shows their innocence, despite being unaware of what’s going on around them.

“For a while now, Gwara Gwara has been the dance that everyone wants to do and learn. It looks simple, but it’s actually difficult to do. I lived in South Africa for two months while filming a movie, so I became quite familiar with it. I also included the Shaku Shaku dance from Nigeria, the Alkayida from Ghana, the Azonto from Ghana, and other moves that don’t have names, as well.”

Also featured on Saturday Night Live, the visuals incorporated money spraying, referencing the African tradition of spraying cash to show appreciation and celebrate a person.

Still from “This Is America”. Pictured Gambino showcasing South Africa’s Gwara Gwara.

 Silvers has roots in philanthropy promoting wellness in Africa, and she expressed how it reflects in everything she does as an artist.

“Being a part of the number one trending video means a lot. I don’t just do this for fun. I really do it because I want to give back,” Silvers said. “I travel and teach African dance from all over the continent. I take the money I generate from teaching back to Rwanda, Uganda, and Nigeria to redevelop schools and help get homeless kids off the street. For me, it’s not just about dancing. It’s the actual outcome that matters most.”