The status quo can no longer stand. As so many of us recommit (or awaken) to this truth, and roll up our sleeves to cultivate the promise of this season, I believe we must also reckon with its pain and casualties. I’ve often compartmentalized or avoided feeling the devastation caused by the assault on Black life, the fallacy of white supremacy, state-sanctioned violence, inadequate and inequitable healthcare, and economic stratification around the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent string of video recorded murders compel me/us to be present to what we have accepted as the status quo. And in this, I find hope.
I am clear about my role as a global citizen, Black woman artist and Founding Producer at Kuyamba Media. I create authentic depictions of Black community life. Through my films, I aim to decolonize memory and imagination. To reveal, inspire and allow us to heal. In this season, I am inspired to focus in on my contribution/assignment while standing in solidarity with you as you focus on yours.
Friday, June 19 | FINDING COMMON GROUND: HOW LOCAL PUBLIC TELEVISION STATIONS AND FILMMAKERS CAN WORK TOGETHER IN A TIME OF CRISIS
The closest thing you will find to “patriotism” in me is my love for three institutions: the public library, public transportation and public television. I get to geek out about the latter of those this Friday on a panel at the online AFI DOCS film festival. If you would like to tune in, see the details here.
It’s been a minute since I’ve written you, so here is a quick list of other recent happenings at Kuyamba Media:
- The WHAT’S IN A NAME? team has wrangled 11 years of footage into a smooth system. Whew! Khalil’s story of becoming the father he always wanted is getting closer to postproduction.
- The REUNION CHOIR team stayed connected to our main participants while we all waited out the quarantine. Filming will resume as soon as it is safe to do so.
- I handled archival research for Ema Ryan Yamazaki’s MASAZUMI CHAYA: KEEPER OF THE FLAME, which premiered on NHK (Japan’s national broadcaster) in commemoration of Chaya’s retirement from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
- THEY SAY I’M YOUR TEACHER, a historical short from Catherine Murphy and Lucy Massie Phenix, had a great festival run. I was honored to consult on the identification and transfer of 16mm archival material.
- I’m supporting a few additional indie docmakers as Archival Producer and Creative Producer; I’ll share more as their powerful projects reach completion.
- My American University course (Writing the Doc) survived the transition to online classes this spring. I congratulate my students for turning out inspired work despite the disruptions!
Friend Shout Outs:
- June 29-30, my colleagues at AND SHE COULD BE NEXT air their two-part film following gamechanging women in the 2018 election cycle. I had the honor of providing production support when they filmed in DC. (Look for the Capitol Hill scenes!)
- Attorney and justice reform scholar Kristin Henning speaks brilliantly about the policing of Black youth – and about solutions – in this Politics and Prose talk. The entire discussion is edifying, but you can hone in on her remarks beginning at 14:16.
At the end of 2019, PBS affiliate WETA went behind the scenes of our documentary-in-progress, REUNION CHOIR. You can still watch our feature on WETA ARTS here: https://watch.weta.org/video/weta-arts-november-2019-5pjutf/ Scroll to 7:51 for our segment.
We started 2020 in production mode. In January, the Joyce Garrett Singers backed the one and only Diana Ross in her performances with the National Symphony Orchestra. Our REUNION CHOIR crew was there for the whole process, capturing this significant moment in Garrett’s career. REUNION CHOIR will chronicle Garrett’s tenure as director of the famed Eastern High School Choir, but it will also share her trajectory after retirement from teaching; she is one of the most sought after choral directors around. Garrett’s singers (including several Eastern alumni) rightly earned the Kennedy Center crowd’s rousing ovation and Ms. Ross’ kudos at each performance with her.
We kept the cameras rolling in February, our beloved Black History Month. This time we filmed in Philadelphia for WHAT’S IN A NAME?, our feature doc that is headed into postproduction. The Munir family invited us over for a send-off celebration for Baba Khalil, just before his Umrah pilgrimage to Medina and Mecca. In collaboration with Khalil (Jr.) Abdul Malik Raheem Munir, we’ve been following this multigenerational story of healing for more than a decade!
It’s wonderful to bear witness to creativity and healing; life stories and legacies. I love my job.
Yes, I screen grabbed this shot of Mrs. Garrett and I on WETA Arts.
Good, good, good stuff is happening, right on time for the new blog. I will cut to our biggest announcement: We’re featured in the November 2020 episode of WETA ARTS! This local PBS series profiled me and the illustrious Joyce Garrett, about the making of REUNION CHOIR. It is affirming to have our documentary film-in-progress about DC’s Eastern High School Choir discussed in the same episode as the Kennedy Center’s new Reach extension. (Those of y’all in the know remember the big role Kennedy Center played in Eastern’s route to worldwide stardom.) The episode teaser is out now and the full show premieres on November 1! There are multiple air dates on WETA 26, and it will also be viewable online.
October has lots of significance for my family and I (anniversaries of births and crossings over). It also marks the “go-hard” season for independent filmmakers, and my team is chipping away at major grant applications and pitch opportunities for REUNION CHOIR and plans for a stylized stage shoot this winter for WHAT’S IN A NAME? We promise to keep you posted.
With all my best,
See us on WETA! (Scroll to 7:51): https://watch.weta.org/video/weta-arts-november-2019-5pjutf/