Juneteenth: Celebrating Black Filmmakers

Featured Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

It is Juneteenth! If you don’t know what that is or why, click here (because that website does a much better job of explaining a history I have no right to explain). I’m a whitey mcwhiterson, and I do not spend enough time highlighting Black figures on the seventy million platforms I have. And because I am an aspiring filmmaker, I’d like to talk about three of my favorite Black filmmakers. Please spend some time educating yourself today!

Kemp Powers

A recent gem who’s come out of some BIG projects, Powers was behind the masterpieces Soul (2020) and and One Night in Miami… (2020) as well as Star Trek: Discovery (2017). Wow! The utter creativity of this man’s mind just repeatedly blows me away, and seeing him at the Academy Awards brought me so much joy. If you haven’t seen his films yet, please do indulge.

At different points in our lives and careers, we’ve all been … ‘lost souls,’ based on our definition of it. Because when you find something you enjoy and you’re passionate about and you actually are pretty good at it, it is so easy to take the extra step of hiding behind that thing and using it to not deal with so many other elements of life.

kemp powers

Ava DuVernay

I am absolutely obsessed with Ava DuVernay. She has 27 producer credits starting from 2008, as the producer for This Is The Life — a documentary about The Good Life underground hip-hop scene and the rejection of gangster rap. She’s also directed 21 works, helped write 15, and she’s got more than that under her belt!

I think that if we really want to break it down, that non-black filmmakers have had many, many years and many, many opportunities to tell many, many stories about themselves, and black filmmakers have not had as many years, as many opportunities, as many films to explore the nuances of our reality.

Ava duvernay

Chinonye Chukwu

An up-and-coming superstar, I can’t wait to see more from this artist. Clemency (2019) was absolutely gut-wrenching, with all the brilliant power you’d expect from a female-led prison film. Do watch. I think what’s so wonderful about Chukwu’s work so far is how much emotion she can squeeze out of a few seconds. And her work on the upcoming film about Emmett Till is bound to blow away our expectations.

When I started to detach from ego and embrace the unwavering belief that I am enough, I started making films for myself and embracing the craft of filmmaking again. Consequently, my work got so much better.

chinonye chukwu

Now, I kept this list short because I’d rather you deep dive into these three artists than just scroll through a list of names. I really hope you’ll take the time to interact with the work by these spectacular artists, not just because it’s Juneteenth, but because they have made great art that deserves to be seen.

That’s the issue that I’ve noticed lately. Non-Black folks enforce engaging with Black creators not out of a natural appreciation for their work, but out of a desire for activism. It shouldn’t be revolutionary to appreciate Black creators and artists. It should be automatic, and that’s the problem. That’s why Juneteenth shouldn’t just be one day — it should be every day. And yes, it should be a national holiday! But the practices people encourage on Juneteenth shouldn’t be limited to one single day in a year. June 19th isn’t the only day you should amplify Black voices.

Much love,

-el ❤

racism: if you are not against the problem, then you are the problem.

I do not pretend that I am “more woke” or “less white” than other white people. As a person with a readership and following, and as someone with white privilege, I’m using my platform to speak about the issue everyone sees but does not recognize. If you are a person of color who has more to add to the conversation, please do so in the comments below, and I will edit this message. Do not be afraid to correct me, as it is not my place to presume or understand your suffering and oppression.

One of the most influential messages I’ve seen in recent days was a video from Chaz Smith, who became popular on Vine from his funny “pronouncing things incorrectly” videos. Now on YouTube, Smith took a break from his usual comedic content to make a statement about 3 things white people can do right now to help fight racism.

I find myself struggling between wanting to help and not wanting to step too far. After all, it is not a white person’s place to speak for people of color.

It is not a white person’s place to speak for people of color.

However, what Smith said in this video really struck me and helped me realize something. “When white people speak to other white people about problems that people of color have, your words have greater weight and influence with them. You have influence, or a privilege (white privilege), that I, as a Black man, may not have with them.”

Let that sink in for a moment. There are so many white people who do not listen to people of color. The ones who do? It’s our job to pass the message along to the people who won’t listen. No, we do not claim to know or understand the prejudice, violence, and injustice toward Black culture or identity. But when their voices are not heard (and they aren’t being heard), we as people in a society from a place of privilege MUST speak louder.

Choosing not to speak up makes you part of the problem. Yes! Don’t click away. If you do not show with your words and actions that you are against the problem, then you are part of the problem. Not choosing a “side” means that you are choosing the side of the oppressors. Not acting means that you are fine with the hate that is being carried out through speech, media, action, or non-action.

A quote (I don’t have an original source for this, so if someone could help me I will edit this later) I’ve been seeing lately is, “It is not enough to not be racist. You must be actively anti-racist.” I try to think about this from a minority point of view.

As a queer person, comments like “I’m sorry people don’t believe your identity,” or “It’s so sad that 12 transgender people have died of violence in 2020” do not comfort me. So if I say, “I’m sorry George Floyd couldn’t breathe,” that does nothing. Stop feeling sorry, white people. Start acting sorry. Start being angry.

I’ve compiled resources and quotes from friends and from activists who have spoken out about this issue. All of their social media links will be posted next to the content. Thank you to anyone speaking about this.

Student Jordan Taylor Brown: instagram.com/jxrdan.taylxr

“At this point, honestly, I feel so defeated. I feel like there’s nothing I can do but just hope that no one tries to kill me. That’s honestly really scary, especially now.”

“What if I get pulled over. What if someone tries to kill me because I don’t look like I belong here or for a routine traffic stop.”

“I’m annoyed and tired of seeing my fellow Black people getting killed for things that no one should get killed for, things that they didn’t do.”

Student Danny Gage: instagram.com/dann_gage

“You came to this land to escape torture, injustice, and slavery from your king. You then inflicted all of that on anyone who was different from you. Anyone who got in your way. America is a land of hypocrites. How many have to suffer before you realize it and make a change?”

Actress Lesley-Ann Brandt: instagram.com/lesleyannbrandt

In tears, she said this: “I just watched the video of one of the bystanders who was standing there fighting with policeman, to try to help George Floyd. That grown man, when he was dying, called for his mama. Called for his mother. And it didn’t start with George Floyd, and it’s not gonna end there. Unless you all speak up because this has been going on for years. So don’t, with this fake outrage, if you don’t really mean it.”

Student Haleigh Davis:

“dear all lives matter,
anybody that supports you whole heartedly is kind of crazy. take this for an example. if you have five fingers and one of them is broken, you don’t pay attention to all five fingers. pay attention to the one that needs it the most. and in case you did not know, the broken finger is the african american community.  our lives matter to not all, and that is sad, and it should not be the case. some people think that we are treated and discriminated all the same when that’s not the case. you’ll never hear about a cop beat up a white school shooter. you’ll only see that when an african americans are doing nothing to harm the country. we cant play cops and robbers (tamir rice), you’ll see us pinned to the floor for an accusation of counterfeit money , and you’ll even see us get killed for no reason (emmett till). these are racial crimes , and the cops get away with it. that is it. that is why we fight. that is why we will not stay silent. Floyd was the last straw, and you’ll hear us roar.”

What you can do:

  1. Sign and share petitions on change.org. There are several listed for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others who have been wronged by the justice system.
  2. Post about it on social media without “worrying that it will ruin your feed.” Your precious Instagram feed doesn’t matter right now; people do. Speak about it in an educated way. Don’t make it about you, and don’t expect someone to congratulate you for “supporting Black people.” The world should have been doing that already.
  3. Donate to your local bail fund. Kansas City has one, but do some searching to see if there’s one near your city. It’s important to contribute if you can, because these funds help get those who have been detained without cause. Well, the cause is prejudice, and we won’t stand for it.
  4. Listen. White people do too much talking and not enough listening. Listen to your POC friends, family, and influencers.
  5. When you’re considering where to get a bite to eat, think of Black-owned small businesses first. They need your support right now. And with the pandemic, you should probably think of small businesses first anyway.
  6. Reach out to any Black LGBTQ+ youth in your community right now. This specific group is at high risk for suicide. Most LGBTQ+ hate crimes are against Black trans women. Give them a hand, and tell them you believe and love them. That’s what they need right now.
  7. Finally, keep in mind that your friends and family might have dissenting opinions about what’s going on… In a time where hate runs rampant, meet disagreements with love and understanding. Your grandmother may be upset at the destruction of her hometown, and you may think the riots are justified. If someone is projecting hateful speech, and you disagree, choose to listen to those projecting loving speech. Don’t give hateful people a platform.

I know that I am not the end-all be-all opinion holder on this subject matter. Most of this content is passing on what people of color have said – because I have a platform, I feel obligated to continue to push the narrative. It would be wrong if I didn’t take advantage of my website to speak up about this. Please, please, please. Above all else. Love.

-ellynn ❤