There’s a duty to highlight ancestry — the people who came before, who shaped who we are in the present, even if we don’t know them directly. To retrace one’s origins is a gift of enlightenment and one that sheds light on lives lived and tribulations felt, and how far people have come. For singer/songwriter Wellington Bullings, this mission manifested in her newest song “Flame.” Seeking to “celebrate the resilience and light that resides in Black people,” her latest offering traverses ancestral trauma by way of healing to touch on our present-day adversities with racial injustice through the notion that we’ve persevered before and we will persevere again. Today, the video for “Flame” unfolds, as an ode to this resilience as well as a nod to Black business.
Back in January, Wellington Bullings was one of the winners of the “Together is Better” giveaway, a contest put on by 303 Magazine in conjunction with Realm photo studio, to help businesses and entities connect with a larger audience. The video for “Flame” was shot entirely at Realm, and we got the opportunity to sit down with Bullings and go behind the scenes of “Flame” and her immersive video concept that highlights the Black experience from past to present and changes the narrative in the process.
303 Magazine: Can you take us through the meaning of “Flame”?
Wellington Bulllings: The song is about celebrating beauty, power and the millions of Black people and really honoring how far we’ve come. It’s about really honoring ancestral healing and focusing on changing the narrative in the world of how we’re seen. I feel like so often we’re portrayed as the victim. We have so much more to offer the world and we have offered so much. I really wanted to tell a different story with this song and maybe focus a little bit more on my own experience, being a Black woman in the world and how I feel portrayed. This song really focuses a little bit more on changing the narrative around that and celebrating the light and power that resides in Black people.
303: How does the video tie all those themes together?
WB: I felt like I really needed to have a powerful visual. The reason for that is because I feel like certain stories are better told through visuals and you often get a lot of messaging through the aesthetic. I wanted the video to really highlight less of a storyline and more of an aesthetic that gives you a certain feeling. To me, the song has a nice balance honoring how far we’ve come but also honoring those who passed because of racial injustice. So, in the music video, I really wanted to portray the visuals that looked a little bit more otherworldly or kind of spiritual. I collaborated with a lot of local Black artists to really highlight this. I worked with a lot of fashion designers, a Black Videographer, by the name of Katrina Miller, and dancers from the Cleo Parker Robinson dance company — really just a lot of different incredible artists that I thought would just make the project so much better.
303: What compelled you to want to release this specific vision for the giveaway?
WB: I really wanted to use this opportunity to create something that had a long-term effect. I didn’t want it to just be my thing. I wanted it to also feature a lot of different artists and I wanted to kind of give back to the community and I thought this was a really good opportunity to do that. To me, that sounded more fulfilling and more exciting.
303: You mentioned changing the narrative of Black People. Has this concept always been on your mind or was it inspired by recent events?
WB: I think that it’s always been on my mind just because I am a Black woman and it’s always in the air, but I think what inspired it to happen now was the resurfacing of the racial injustice that we experienced in 2020, and that just felt very intense on so many levels, and it felt intense for many different people, but especially Black people. You couldn’t help but feel it in the air — there was no escaping it. I felt like writing this song was a way for me to soothe myself through the process and also reflect and fill in a little bit more of my own experience surrounding that.
While the video is expansive and ambitious, Bulligns hopes that audiences can clue into the symbolism throughout and the intention therein.
WB: Every idea from the colors and lighting of each scene to the props and wardrobe were infused with symbolism. There are two custom-made pieces in this video. One is a “flame crown” custom made by Jasmine Lewis. The crown was meant to symbolize flames rising out of the darkness of our minds (freeing our minds). I also wanted these looks to be regal, powerful, and majestic. The other custom-made piece is a black studded two-piece dress with fringe. This piece was designed by local designer Tyne Hall. The dress is meant to symbolize a peaceful warrior. The fringe skirt embodies the movement of fire and the studded top symbolizes having armor. There are also candles in every scene both lit and unlit. The lit candle in the beginning, is meant to symbolize the change that begins with one person. The woman that lights the candle hears the voices of her ancestors and is inspired to create change. She then rises out of darkness holding the candle that is in a cage (which symbolizes captivity and feeling trapped). The dancers symbolize her inner turmoil.
Check out the premiere of the music video for “Flame” below: