AJ McClenon | Led Zeppelin Can’t Steal My Daddy’s Black

AJ McClenon was awarded a Spring 2018 Co-MISSION Residency, and participated as a performing artist in Links to Haiti.


Featuring Jamillah Hinson, Simone Simone, and Xris Espinoza

Led Zeppelin Can’t Steal My Daddy’s Black is an interdisciplinary performance that has been performed in basements, small rooms and in theatrical spaces like Links Hall. In honor of my father’s recent passing and in honor of my late stepfather and grandfather, this work brings into discussion their experiences with police encounters and prison, exploring existences of Blackness that have inherent consequences on family, fatherhood and how the power of unconditional love works through these effects. As performer, as daughter, as inner-child within a living Black body I encounter memory as history and fragile gifts through aspects of theatre, sound, movement, texts and the origin & meaning of the song, Gallows Pole, most popularized by Led Zeppelin but historically sung by Huddie William Ledbetter “Leadbelly.”

AJ McClenon was born and raised in Washington, D.C., where they learned to fish and wander. Humid summers spent between D.C., Baltimore and New York, raised by southern grandparents, Nelba & Ernest and a D.C. native mom named Patricia Ann, aunts Cassie & Lalu and mom’s boyfriend Bill. AJ was able to build a relationship with their father, Reggie, during their adult life; his separation from the family was partly due from PTSD and the prison industrial complex.