For Black History month 2012, I am doing a project called Black Women - Past and Modern, and sharing my writing, curated lists and photographs on my blog for the project. All blog posts connected to this project are labeled: bwproject. To view the post where I initially announced the project, click here.
Though Black women are often stereotyped, marginalized or ignored altogether (in terms of video and film), many Black women are still moving forward creatively through video and film mediums. We live in a unique time where despite so many negative portrayals through art, and as pertaining to this blog, video and film, Black women can still shape their presence in this area of art, though often not through mainstream ways. Mainstream media may decide the epitome of who we are as to be portrayed through art is as a maid in The Help, while not so mainstream media (Sundance Film Festival) grants a Best Director award to Ava DuVernay, the first Black woman to receive such distinction. (I almost cried hearing the news). In an interview, DuVernay alludes to the fact that she is interested in MODERN representations of Black people that are substantial and dynamic, especially since the only spaces for Black film seems to be ones that are open for comedy or historical pieces. I like that she mentioned that modern stories are important as well. They are.
The word mainstream often invokes a perception of space and area to move around but the truth is, perceptions and stereotypes makes that space very small for Black women, and often non-existent. Couple this with what appears to be concerted efforts of erasure and silencing by others, challenges continue to exist for Black women in video film. However, some interesting things that Black women are doing with video and film include:
Black women photographers who are also interested in HD dSLR video and/or filmmaking. It's neat that so many photographers of many backgrounds who create photographs are now interested in video or filmmaking as well. There's so many ways to share stories, and learning more than one way to do so is good. I follow some talented Black women photographers on Twitter, and have seen their work with HD dSLR video. Some of these include an award-winning wedding photographer, Tracey Brown, who used video to capture her experience teaching other photographers through a workshop. Another talented portrait and wedding photographer, as well as graphic designer, Mary Brown, is new to HD dSLR video and captured an amazing performance that had the mood and feeling that made me feel like I was there too.
Black women natural hair vloggers. Though not all vlogs are created equal, and some have better editing, legally acquired background music and concise instructions while others do not, the presence of these vloggers is great. It is providing a new connection for women who don't know each other but are interested in hair styling tips and hair health/education. This is important for Black women as historically hair has never been "just hair" in the Black diaspora. Some Black women look for the connection, experimentation and sisterhood that comes about in this vlog community, so I think using video as a medium has been really interesting. I don't watch these videos daily as some users I know do, but I have come across several great channels on YouTube including LUVNaturals, Naptural105, and Afrobella. There are SO MANY more. Keyword searches on YouTube reveal many.
Black women comedians (with videos) who self-publish and self-promote. Humor by large is considered something male even before race or culture is concerned. Many studies report that men AND women tend to think that men are automatically funnier than women. This is interesting because humor is a culturally dependent construct, so there is no way to determine that men are funnier without realizing the impact of gender bias on every facet of culture. Despite all of this, there are some pretty funny Black women in the social media space including: @awkwardblkgrl who has a hilarious and popular web show called The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, @chescaliegh (now famous for the Sh*t White Girls Say To Black Girls videos), @cueblackgirls, who are 2 hilarious theatre degree holders with interesting perspectives, and @oreoexperience, who has an extremely satirical outlook on race and other issues.
Black women already making moves in filmmaking: Clutch Magazine (a very popular blog among Black women) shared a link about 10 Black women making moves in film. The post there is GREAT. (It mentions Ava DuVernay and Issa Rae (@awkwardblkgirl), who I previously mentioned.
Black women using filmmaking to tell multi-layered and dynamic stories about Black women, on a larger level: This would include projects such as the film Pariah and what I mentioned above, Ava DuVernay winning Best Director at Sundance for her film The Middle of Nowhere. This is genuinely inspiring to me.
Art in it of itself is neither automatically good nor bad. It can be used to harm, as Black women know all too well. However, it still can be used to inform, inspire, educate and heal. With self-publishing mediums and creative Black women ready to create, the possibilities continue to grow. I hope that one day the norm and the mainstream view will be one of truth and layers, not stereotypes and lies where Black women are concerned, and that our stories will prevail and be endlessly shared.