I am the Queen, a compelling short film about some of the women of Chicago footwork, begins with a radiant poem: "From dance groups to battle cliques, we represent elegance, power / Raise your tiaras to the towers and let them turn to crowns, as you groove to the beats," says dancer Kenesha "Murdamommy" Sheridan, who co-created the video with journalist, academic, and artist Wills Glasspiegel.
"I am the Queen is meant to shine the light on the many women that have long been a part of Chicago footwork's history and future," says Glasspiegel. "Footwork is male-dominated and oriented around brotherhood, but we wanted to show how women have made a place for themselves in this dance history, and how they are key to its longevity as a dance and music genre."
The video, which is soundtracked by Jlin's 2015 song of the same name, combines interviews, archival footage, and party scenes shot at significant locations to create an emotional, inspiring snapshot of a culture that has spanned decades and continues to shape the lives of its participants. "What I think is important about the project is that it's giving back to the culture and empowering women to dance," says Sheridan. "I wanted the people to know how the women are feeling, coming up within the footwork and juke culture. I wanted to give a first person point of view, in the mind of what a woman footworker might be feeling, or how they might be feeling as their first time seeing, experiencing and loving this dance."
Crystal James, the dancer known as Queen Crystal, is I am the Queen's gravitational center, and the real-life inspiration for the Jlin track. "Jlin told me she made this track for me, which means everything to me. She'd seen me from Wala Cam (a YouTube channel for youth performance in Chicago) and admired my dancing," she says. "This video is important for me because it's bigger than me. There's not really a lot of women who footwork, so hopefully with this video we can spread the style. And when they wanna come learn, they get it from the real deal here in Chicago."