Black Butterfly: A Story of Struggle, Renewal and Triumph

Peace! Thank you for joining Destiny and me on this visual journey. Along with the short-film and photos, I will share some of the creative process for the series, what we wanted to each phase to look like and what they represent. When I first met Destiny I don't think either of us imagined the project to be of this magnitude but I am so grateful for how every piece of it came together. We were able to pull so much out of each other creatively and pour ourselves wholeheartedly into telling this story. The series was intended as promotional footage for Resist(D)ance, an event in Boston presented by Radical Black Girl x Afropunk, so the foundation is built on resistance and how it manifests in our lives. 

"Black Butterfly is a story of struggle, renewal and triumph, told through original poetry and movement. It is a three part photo and video series that moves through darkness, stillness and taking flight - a process of self actualization that inspires and resonates with many. Destiny Polk, dancer, poet, creative director and founder of Radical Black Girl hopes her intimate story of healing will call others out of their personal darkness into the sacredness of stillness and further towards the freedom of taking flight. Produced and directed by Ellie Nguyen of 3arly July. 

Resist (v.): to remain unaltered, undamaged or unaffected by

I first met Destiny at a Queens Talk event where she was facilitating a workshop on manifestation. She was speaking on a period of darkness that she had emerged from and reflecting on her time then, she felt out of body. Not herself. She was a dancer who didn't dance. A social person who wasn't socializing. That hit home, hard. I had gone through a period where I wasn't creating anything at all. I was a photographer who hasn't touched their camera in weeks. A yogi with no practice. A lover with no love to give (or so it seemed). I knew I had to reach out to Des, if not to create something than at least to simply connect and commune. Upon meeting again and brainstorming for this series, we were able to put names to the 3 vital stages that contributed to her process of transformation. Darkness, although many of us try to avoid it or are afraid of what may be illuminated while we are there, is essential to understanding who we are as a whole. I would not wish that heaviness upon anyone but we all have our own demons that can drive us into that place. Unbearable as things may seem at times, we can tell you one thing for certain... it gets better

What did Darkness feel like to you?

RBG: Isolating. Like a long bad dream. I didn’t feel seen. My relationship to my body and dance was off. Disassociated from my body. I wasn’t aware of my worth to the community. When I am in my full light / energy, I am valuable. I didn’t feel that. (In this phase) I had to separate my worth from my productivity and know that being myself is okay. I decided to pour into myself more. 

Images + symbols relating to darkness?

RBG: Sleeping in dirty sheets / relationship with dirt. Unfiltered relationship. In a box. Intimate, up close and personal. Shrinking self. Closed off. Closed body. Low energy.

I had this specific image in mind before we started shooting because I remember in my own darkness, I was blinded to all of the love and support that surrounded me. I was trapped inside of my mind and I isolated myself from others. I didn't believe I was worthy of receiving love so I didn't ask for it. Even if I wanted to... I silenced myself. Despite all of that, there was always a helping hand ready to hold me. That brings us into the next phase...  

Resist (v.): to refrain from in spite of temptation

A funny thing happens when you find yourself… you find God all over again. You are reminded that at your very core, you were hand-crafted to perfection by God and in every moment you are a reflection of that. So what does it mean to be your true / authentic / best / highest self? To walk in your Divine light? It’s hard for the answers to come to us when we are constantly moving from one thing to the next. Constantly distracted, pressured or influenced by external (or even toxic, internal) things. In stillness, we simply are. and that’s enough. 

How do you make space for stillness in your life? What is stillness to you?

RBG: Stillness is having patience and surrendering. I am getting clear through meditation and prayer. Writing. Spending time with loved ones. Reading. Nature. Stillness is a mindset you can go into when the world is too hectic. Stillness is resistance. I resist the temptation to do too much or engage in things that are not for me. I am regaining strength. 

Images + symbols relating to stillness?

RBG: Incense, sage, smoke, candles. Sacred time. Sunlight. Sunrise. Waking up. Fluidity. Softness. Ease. Breath. Celebrating my body. Inviting Feminine energy. Cleansing. There is movement in stillness.

Fun fact: we shot the phases out of order (not on purpose) and stillness was the last and my favorite shoot. Des and I both have such a strong appreciation for nature and all of Her beauty. The weather was phenomenal this day. The sun came out to play, the late October foliage gave us explosions of color and all of the different elements inspired us to create in the capacity that we did. S/o to Emmani for helping us reveal the full GodDes with this costume... can we please take a moment to appreciate this photo / moment in its entirety? 

Resist (v.): to take action in opposition to

What does taking flight feel like to you?

RBG: Having a relationship to wind. Dancing all night. Being unafraid. Smiling under the sun. Arriving and departing. Unleashing energy.

Images + symbols relating to taking flight?

RBG: Me in my glory. Gold. God. Dance. Explosive. Powerful movement. Strong. Expansive. 

Now that you're rooted... rise!

The name "Black Butterfly" didn't take form until one of our very last meetings together. Des was going through her poetry for the film and she mentioned "Dear Black Butterfly". I was like wait... darkness... stillness... taking flight? Hello living, breathing Black Butterfly. Not only has Destiny lifted herself from a dark place, she aims to use her experiences to uplift her community and advocate for marginalized groups of people. She is a force of nature in her own right. It has been an honor to walk with her on this journey of self-discovery and to help bring her visions to life.

There is no resistance like feeling free in your own skin.

Destiny, thank you for showing us that liberation is possible by being who you are and being a catalyst for others to walk the path. We see you fly! 

All praise is due to the Most High

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BLACK BUTTERFLY

Produced by 3arly July
in collaboration with Radical Black Girl

Destiny Polk
- Dancer
- Creative Director
radicalblackgirl.com / IG: @radicalblackgirl

Ellie Nguyen
- Creative Director
- Photographer
- Film Director and Producer
- Videographer Phase 2
3arlyjuly.com / IG: @3arlyjuly 

Erica Mendez
- Videographer Phases 1 and 3
IG: @properiquette

Armhed Louis-Jean
- Videographer Phase 1
alouisjean.graphics / IG: @a_louis_jean

Emmani Rawlins
- Costume Designer Phase 2
IG: @nothinbuta_e_thang

Soundtrack (I do not own the rights):
Original Poetry by Destiny Polk
Runaway - Kanye West
Psilocybin - Jhené Aiko
No Escape from Bliss - Theo Croker
Tadow - Masego + FKJ

All media can not be distributed or repurposed without permission from 3arly July