Big Freedia, the New Orleans native is a multi talented gender-fluid, gay hip hop artist who has collaborated with some of the biggest names in pop and hip hop such as: Beyonce, Drake, Lizzo, Kesha, Diplo, and Icona Pop. She is known for popularizing the city’s Bounce movement across the country. Now, in 2020, she presents to the world a new sobering documentary, “Freedia Got a Gun” which addresses the long standing issue of gun violence in the U.S., specifically in her hometown of New Orleans.
The film held its worldwide Premiere virtually at AFI Docs in 2020. In the film, Freedia begins a heart wrenching discussion on gun violence on black lives. The story hits close to home as Big Freedia’s brother, Adam Ross, was fatally shot and killed in 2018.
In an interview with Salon, Big Freedia discusses the need for this film in a critical time like this. Noting the impact it’s had on her own community she says, “For the kids here in New Orleans, this [gun violence] is normal. We expect this to happen. It's been happening since I was a kid. I see it more now; it's gotten worse. They are shooting guys and girls and kids and babies…The government doesn't see it every day…it doesn't get attention like the mass shootings do.”
Americans love their guns and New Orleans is no anomaly. WDSU looked at data from the New Orleans police department and discovered a disturbing fact: 92% of victims of gun violence were black men and women in 2019.
In her documentary, Freedia paints a picture of a community torn apart by many tragedies including the destruction brought by Hurricane Katrina and the impact of mass incarceration on the black community. She focuses on a young man named Devin Walker who saw his father die when he was only seven. There’s also a scene in the film with a group of middle school students in the classroom describing their personal experiences with gun violence in their families and in their neighborhoods.
Talking to Salon, she describes how she herself was shot and ended up buying a gun to protect herself. She said, “I had a 9mm and it held 16 bullets and it was frightening to have that gun. But when I got it, I felt I was able to protect myself. I was terrified to go outside. One day, I said the only way I'd feel safe is to defend myself.”
In the interview, she describes eventually getting rid of the gun because she said that the person who shot her was incarcerated and that her fear went away. She goes onto explain a very real phenomenon, the need to get a gun to protect yourself and your loved ones from gun violence--a kind of Catch-22 that seems to create a perpetual cycle of violence.
“It is a contradiction: you are forced into a situation you don't want to be in.”
Big Freedia’s creativity and courageous spirit has led her to stand out in a crowd, representing New Orleans culture and music and introducing it to the world. In an interview with Noisey, Big Freedia is described as, “...also gay man with dark skin whose gender performance is extremely deviant from the binary. This is why we often hear the magic of Big Freedia, but rarely see the magician.” Despite not making a physical appearance in the music videos her voice graces, Freedia fights for justice for black and black queer lives both on and off the screen. Her new film couldn’t have arrived at a more timely moment as the bloodshed of innocent black lives grips the nation; as the country weeps for the George Floyds and Breonna Taylors of America.
Big Freedia draws a much bigger connection, revealing that the problem is deeper than gun violence and won’t be stopped simply with gun control because it stems from a history of systemic racism. Discussing the challenges of the future with Salon she says, “It's going to take government, community, and people to have change.”