“Willie Causey Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama”



In this photograph titled, “Willie Causey Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama,” Parks explores the roots of violence in the African-American community. He effectively implements camera angles, body language, composition, symbolism, and juxtaposition to highlight the contrasting beliefs and values amongst the different generations of the African-American community. Parks utilizes these visual techniques to achieve his purpose of visually conveying the adverse effects of poverty in the African-American community, while, also informing his racially diverse American audience on the important issue of the lack of gun-control in America.

Firstly, Park’s utilizes a medium-close-up shot to highlight and emphasize the body language of Willie Causey Jr. The use of a vertical- medium-close-up shot proves effective, as it clearly focuses on Willie Jr, while simultaneously highlighting the contrasting body language between willie and his siblings, who positioned to be the ‘background’ of this photograph. In this photograph, Willie is portrayed to be sitting reservedly while looking fixated at his gun. His strong fixation with his gun displays his thoughts of using violence as a means to combat the struggles he endures, like poverty. Thus, Willie’s body language universally signifies the deep and dark desires and goals of several African-Americans during a time of poverty and suffering in the late 1950s. Furthermore, the use of a vertical shot also accentuates the smallness of a large family’s house, which again, effectively highlights the poverty endured by a normal African-American family.

The composition of this photograph also effectively highlights the contrasting values between the two different generations. Park’s effectively juxtaposes a gun and book to highlight the contrasting beliefs and values between different generations of the African-American community. Willie’s gun symbolizes violence and aggression, while on the contrary, his younger sibling’s book symbolizes education and in a sense, “the American dream”. Thus, the juxtaposition of these contrasting symbols in a sense visually conveys the roots of violence in the black community— poverty, and oppression. Park’s use of visual juxtaposition is reoccurring throughout several of his photography depicting African-Americans, as it effectively conveys his overarching purpose of showcasing the different means in which African-Americans deal with poverty and oppression.

Park also implements a dull color palette to enhance the melancholy mood of this photograph. The use of desaturated colors like the colors beige, grey and brown, enhances the somber mood of this photograph which appeals to pathos. The dull color palette of this photograph also exemplifies the problem of extreme accessibleness to guns in America. Seeing a teenager positioned sitting so closely to toddlers reading a book while holding a gun effectively conveys Park’s purpose of visually conveying to his American audience that America has a lack of gun-control problem.

Overall, just like several of Park’s photography, Park’s effectively conveys a wide variety of problems endured by the African-American community during the late 1950s through imagery. In “Willie Causey Jr. with Gun During Violence in Alabama,” Park’s implements camera angles, body language, composition, symbolism, and juxtaposition to highlight the contrasting beliefs and values amongst the different generations of the African-American community, conveying the adverse effects of poverty in the African-American community in the late 1950s, and addressing America’s problem with the lack of gun-control regulations.

Analysis of My Favorite Song, “PRIDE.”

My favorite song of the album DAMN. is definitely “PRIDE”. After I’ve finished listening and annotating the rest of the album, the song “pride”, stood out to me due to its introspective nature and the several dichotomies explored in this song. In “pride”, Kendrick Lamar delves deep into the problems he faces internally and acknowledges them in an unaggressive tone, which distinctively contrasts with some of the other songs of his album,  such as “DNA” and “HUMBLE”.  Overall, the distinct introspective nature of this song as well as its soothing melodies and low vocal pitch made “PRIDE.”  a more memorable and thus, my favorite song in the album DAMN.

Thesis Statement: In Pride, Kendrick explores 3 dichotomous choices, happiness/flashiness,  god idea of perfection/human perfection, animalistic/spirit nature of human psyche his alter-ego “Kung-Fu Kenny” wrestles with, as well as his acknowledgment of his own imperfections through the usage of biblical allusions, repetition, motif, and structure.

Key Techniques:

  • The use of the motif of coldness is reoccurring in this song as it represents Lamar’s acknowledgment of his several imperfections. For example, the phrase “Cold as December” represents how Kenny’s fame and power have led him to become desensitized towards people around him. Kenny’s motif of coldness represents his acknowledgment of how he is far from perfect, admitting that he is often cold and insensitive towards the people around him. Another example is the phrase “my feelings might go numb, you’re dealing with cold thumb”. The phrases “ feelings might go numb” and “cold thumb” represents how Kenny has lost his grip on controlling his emotions due to his escalating fame, and his emotional and physical distance from his loved ones. Kendrick’s usage of the motif of coldness in these lyrics acts as an introspection into his identity, feelings, and emotions as he explores the motif of coldness and its connection between his physical environment around him as well as his emotional environment.
  • Lamar’s repetition of “I care” through this song serves as a kind of pleading, in which Kenny pleads his audience to empathize with the harsh environment he grew up in and shortcomings he has faced in life.
  • The use of biblical allusions in “Pride”.  highlight the dichotomy of happiness/flashiness. The phrase “Happiness or flashiness? How do you serve the question?” alludes to Jesus’s teachings of the Kingdom of God, in which Jesus warns his  followers to give quietly, “Be careful to not display your righteousness merely to be seen by people, thus whenever u do a charitable giving do not blow a trumpet before you like as hypocrites do so people will praise you.”  This biblical allusion to Jesus’s teachings of the Kingdom of God relates to how Kenny is trying to impress others with his service, however, this action may provoke the increase of his fame, but only mask the deep unhappiness within.
  • Lamar’s chronological structure of verse one and verse two highlights the shift from explaining the several dichotomies he has faced, to the acknowledgment of his imperfections. For example, he ends the first verse with the dichotomy of happiness/flashiness and starts the second verse with several acknowledgments of his imperfections, such as “Now in a perfect world, I probably won’t be insensitive” and “I won’t blame you for the mistakes I’ve made or the bed I’ve laid”

Relationship between “PRIDE.” And the rest of the songs in DAMN: “Pride.” continues with the reoccurring wickedness/weakness dichotomy of the album, as well as adding on a few more dichotomies like happiness/flashiness,  god idea of perfection/human perfection, animalistic/spirit nature of the human psyche. Furthermore, the song “Pride”, serves as a micro-resolution for the previous song “Yah”, in which Kenny refused to answer God’s call. “Pride” parallels the first half of DAMN. with the first half of the book Jonah, where they both end on a positive note. In the bible, the prophet reconciles with the very god he’s been running away from and “Pride” ends with Kendrick acknowledging his imperfections and the importance of God’s call.

Global Issues Explored: The song “Pride” is definitely intertwined with the global issues of culture, identity, and community due to the introspective nature of this song. In”Pride”, Kendrick Lamar delves deep into his identity by acknowledging that he is imperfect due to his harsh environment growing up and shortcomings in life.

*I currently don’t have the lyric booklet with me because I’m outside of Beijing, but my annotations will be up in around a week when I arrive back in Beijing.