Photo by Ja'Mon Jackson

Bashful and brilliant, Antonio Hernandez is a Peruvian-American documentary-style storyteller and native of the District. Growing up in Moechella Valley (DC/PG) and attending college in Baltimore County, Antonio is at home at various points of Interstate 95. Antonio’s love for music, authentic expression, and community initially expressed itself in blog form. Before he was making video content, he was posting written interviews and photosets to, the title an homage to his Peruvian heritage.

His first story on Electric Llama was a photoset of Moechella Valley’s beloved Sir E.U. (He’s from PG) in 2015. Antonio’s first foray into video was his final project for a Visual Anthropology course at Towson. He decided to make a documentary short about a classmate about her story of living with a rare disease causing her to have visible deformities. The project, “Walk In My Shoes (2012),” is so well done that it’s hard to tell if Antonio was ever actually an amateur.

“I’ve never really taken a course in video production. I worked an internship at Voice of America after college. That’s really where I cut my teeth—in a very trial by fire manner.”

In 2016, Antonio took his newfound know-how over to his blog to create his first original video series, “Garnish.”

“Garnish was supposed to be a zine about music and food, but I didn’t know how to make a zine, so I made a video.” He talks about Garnish as if it was a casual project, explaining, “I was just trying to get better at doing interviews, setting stuff up, and editing,” but Garnish stood out enough to be picked up by D.C.’s Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment, landing him a job at the office.

“The Office of Cable Television ended up airing it on one of their stations, and that’s actually where I work now.” Garnish is an incredibly well-told 14-episode collection on topics ranging from NOVA Pro Wrestling to Chuck Brown Day and highlighting key proponents of some of the most vibrant, niche movements in the D.C. area and Baltimore.

The first episode of Garnish covers a fundraiser for D.C.’s 89.3 WPFW. Artist and culture protector Jamal Gray hosts a special edition of “Excursions,” an experimental jam session bringing out a slew of D.C. artists to jam and raise money for the city’s sacred outlet. The episode featured interviews with STEFisDope, Meche Korrect, Nate Gski, Jenna Camille, and CJ the Genesis. With cameos also made by SexGod, Exaktly, DREAMCAST, and Malaika Aminata, to name a few. Ep. 14 of Garnish covers the first Glow End Theory at the Black Cat on 14th Street back in 2016. The line-up features younger versions of names still making things happen in the city today. The episode includes interviews with Jessicunt, Tomiyeyo, Sugg Savage, Odd Mojo, Kleonaptra, XiAnne Freeman, and Matt McGhee, as well as performances from Alem Worldwide, Joy Postell, Hadaiyah Yaya Bey, and April + VISTA. Frankly, the list of Antonio’s interviewees will all be in the DMV’s graduating class of 2020.

“Indelible” is Antonio’s latest brainchild. The series is inspired by footage Antonio captured the historic night Odd Mojo opened up for one of her favorite artists, JUNGLEPUSSY, at Songbyrd in October of 2018. “I hadn’t shot anything in a while, and I saw that Mojo had a show, so I hit her up to maybe do some behind the scenes stuff.” In the episode, Mojo stops to take a picture of her name on the chalkboard marquee on the way down the steps into the venue, then turns to the cameraman to deliver a few unscripted gems. “Once I realized the material I had, I was like, whoa this is crazy, she’s never going to forget this moment…If the first episode hadn’t gone the way it did, I don’t think Indelible would have happened.”

Indelible’s stories of music and community are presented entirely in black and white. “I wanted to strip the color away so you could just focus on what they’re saying and the places.” There are 4 Indelible episodes currently: one following the new-age big band, BlackFolks Don’t Swim?, to their performance at the Dew Drop Inn, one featuring Baltimore’s Kotic Couture and Abdu Ali, and an episode covering Mojo’s own, “One Very Odd Show.”
The next episode will feature P0stb1nary founder and vocalist Yànjú.

Also known as DJ Vicunyah, DJing helped Antonio learn to arrange audio for his videos. You hear the atmosphere, then the speaker, and then you’re back in the crowd in the thick of the show.

There have been two screenings of the Indelible Series thus far. The first at The Village Cafe in Union Market in May and the second was June 22nd at clothing and culture hub FRS in Baltimore.

“I try to change the film up a little every time, extending parts or adding footage I couldn’t use in the episodes. I don’t want any two screenings to be the same.”

Following this latest screening, Antonio sat for a talk-back with the hosts of the Baltimore based Alt-Black Podcast (@altblackpod) for questions about his work and plans. He hopes to have his next screening at Suns Cinema in Mt. Pleasant.

Endearing himself to the homegrown music scenes of the Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Antonio has been able to capture invaluable footage of the early careers of many area acts. His work is the type to retro in 10 years only to reveal its prophetic qualities. He is tapped in, and there’s proof.

At a recent talk-back at FRS Baltimore, creative director Brian Seymore asked Antonio how viewers could support him best, to which he answered, “Tell somebody. And not just that you saw it, but how you felt about it. Yeah, I think that’s it.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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