Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Panel discusses "Faith and Gangs"

“Your gang won’t be there if you go to jail,” one of the panelist said after being asked why youth decide to join a gang. “Your family will be there, but they don’t care about you.”

125 people packed the education room at the Holton Resource Center to discuss “Gangs and Faith”. A panel of youth sit on one side of the room while those representing the faith community were positioned on the other. Solomon Burnette, the organizer of the event, moderated. There were plenty of questions coming from those in the crowd. The pieces of paper with those questions kept coming as Burnette did the best he could to facilitate a conversation related to a subject that is on the minds of so many. What is the faith community doing to reach youth?

Most of the exchange centered on the need for faith communities to be more loving of youth. All of the youth on the panel attend church. They talked about why they go, and what has inspired them to stay. All of the youth knew of people who have joined gangs. One of the panelist admitted that he joined a gang.

“I decided to change my life when I was in jail,” he says. “The thing that got me was when I read the book of Revelation.” He went on to say that he left the gang. He’s now a member of God’s gang.

John Fitzpatrick, the young man’s pastor, reached over and whispered in my ear as the young man talked about being in Jesus’ gang. “He’s called to ministry,” Fitzpatrick muttered. I wasn’t surprised.

Listening to the young people talk took me back to the time just before I entered ministry at the age of 19. It happened after a battle with drugs and engaging in acts to support my habit. Listening to them reminded me of why I decided to change my life, and how faith helped pave the way. The truth is things aren’t so different. Times have changed, but the struggles I endured to come to myself mirrored most of the young people on the panel.

I listened to the religious leaders on the panel in wait for them to say what was on my mind. They lifted the need to offer places for young people to thrive. One talked about the importance of living the faith in a way that offers a positive model for youth.

“Young people are tired of watching people get slain in the Spirit on Sunday and living in a way that contradicts what they claim the rest of the week,” he suggested.

I listened as the youth on panel discussed why their peers join gangs. One said it is for protection. Another said it is because of money. In all the talking back and forth between the youth on panel and the religious leaders on the other side, there seemed to be a broken bridge. There was a gap between the sentiments of the youth and the agenda of the faith community.

As I continued to wait for someone to say what was in my spirit, my mind wondered even further into memories from my youth. It was like a prayer – what changed me? More than that, what is it that I have in common with the youth on the panel?

The answer is connected to what I was waiting to hear. I needed faith because I was in crisis. The role of faith is to be present for youth as they struggle to find meaning within a context of crisis.

It’s part of what comes with growing up. There are so many questions that need to be answered, and faith helps solve the riddle in a way that brings special meaning. Faith helps people get past feeling lost and empty due to the guilt they carry. It teaches us that God loves us despite our mistakes.

Youth, just like older folks, blunder when they endure deep crisis. It happened to me due to a series of deaths. I simply couldn’t find my way after my sister’s death. I felt abandoned by God, and unloved when the people positioned to love me were too busy with their own pain to see my need. I felt rejected by the community of believers who came with an answer that hurt me more – this is God’s will. I hated thinking that God’s decision was to rob a 13 year-old of life for the sake of some higher purpose.

Could it be that the bridge between faith and gangs is rooted in being present when crisis hits? Maybe, just maybe, it has more to do with understanding our true purpose more so than a particular teaching or system of being. It’s not what we say. It’s being present to love when things are falling apart and no one seems to know the reason why.

I left the discussion encouraged by the people in the room. I appreciate the different voices gathered to solve a problem that impacts us all. Each comes with a unique perspective. My truth is for the work I’ve been given. It is deeply rooted in the life I have overcome and lived. Overcoming is a message of hope. Thank God for that message.

I’ll continue to be present for those in crisis. What will you do?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Play to Explore Black Women's Journey With Their Hair

It’s a shame that black women have to worry so much about their hair. That stuff on top of their head goes a long way in establishing their identity. It’s the reason behind the enormous amount of money spent to press, relax, weave, twist, loc, curl, and dye and cut their glory.

It’s why a black woman will do serious damage to anyone who attempts to touch her hair. It’s one of those rules in black culture that those on the outside need to know. Keep your hands off despite your fascination with the unknown.

It’s virtually impossible to talk about a black woman’s understanding of self devoid of a conversation about how they view their hair. Many grow up with a conception of beauty linked to those Barbie dolls with long straight hair. Sadly, research still shows little girls pick those white dolls over the black ones. Beauty, in the eyes of too many, is connected to those white features.

Those themes and more are uncovered in a new play written by Chaunesti Webb. I Love My Hair When It’s Good: & Then Again When It Looks Defiant & Impressive will premiere in Durham, NC at Manbites Dog Theater, March 8-17. Webb will then take the play on the road to Boulder, Co on April 5. The play is certain to create the kind of buzz that will have folks talking about their journey with hair.

Webb grew up in Durham, NC where being Black and proud is made easy by the significant Black population. She moved from Durham to Boulder, CO where she completed the Master’s in Fine Arts in Theater and Contemporary Performance at Naropa University.

“I became part of the tiny 1% African American sliver of the demographic pie,” she says. “Coming out of the diversity of Durham, I was in shock. Everything "Black" about myself was magnified in this environment: my attitude, my point of view, my hair.”

It was while in Boulder that Webb began exploring her complicated relationship with her hair. She found 7 Black women from the Boulder-Denver area and for 10 weeks facilitated a creative process where they explored their feelings about their hair. Those discussions were transformed into her first full length play. The play integrated interview text, original music, movement and video.

Webb decided to dig deeper than with the first work. For the past few years she has listened to other Black women talk about their hair. The final product tells the joys and sorrows that Black women endure as they manage that nappy stuff. It travels through those early years when mama burns the neck with the pressing comb. It ponders the impressions of others when natural hair becomes a viable decision. More than that, it’s about relationships, coming of age, gender identity and so much more.

Webb received support for the development of the play through a Creation Fund Award from the National Performance Network, co-commissioned by the St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation in partnership with Naropa University, and the Durham Arts Council Emerging Artist program. “We still need to cover expenses related to rehearsal space, costumes, set construction, props, design and printing,” Webb says.

Given that so much of the identity of Black women is connected to their hair, this play paves the way for broader conversations involving how Black women view themselves and how those views are shaped by both their own and others perceptions of their hair. It is certain to stir memories. Hopefully it will help Black men understand Black women, and open the window for others to understand the agony Black women feel because of their hair.

As for me, I love a Black woman who loves her hair the way God made it!

You can contribute by going to this link:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

$15K in 30 days for American American Males

I have three amazing kids. Krista, I call her “Suga Baby”, exude intelligence. After graduating a year early from Jordan High School, she has moved on to complete degrees at North Carolina State University and graduate work at Columbia University in neuroscience. Lenise, I call her “Sweet Baby” teaches at Dudley High School. She has two Masters Degrees in her pocket and has enough passion to inspire a city.

Then there’s my son King. I call him “Your Royal Highness." After graduating with the highest grade point average in the sociology department at North Carolina Central University, the King relocated to Minneapolis Minnesota to take a shot at life in corporate America. Problem is he couldn’t get the doodles out of his system. His love for all things creative drew him back to his first love. His art landed him a scholarship to attend the School of the Arts Institute Chicago.

To say that I’m extremely proud and often overwhelmed with how my youngins turned out is an understatement. I’ve spent incalculable hours in an attempt to grasp how they blossomed into such wonderful fruit. Saying that acknowledges that behind it all is something more prevailing than my influence. Given all the variables related to the rearing of my children, it’s safe to conclude a higher power was in the room.

There is one consistent theme that permeates that room. They were nurtured in a community that understood and celebrated the clout of education. They watched me and their mother struggle to pave our own path. They watched two young parents fight to make a way for them devoid of the resources to make the journey easy. They watched us grow up with them as they were challenged to do the best they could. They watched us not as parents of privilege, but as two people grappling to do the best we could with what we had.

I wonder if my son’s new project is rooted in the agony of witnessing our struggle. I wonder if it is fueled by the pain of having to suffer as we pursued a dream in hope that we would be able to do more for our children.

King, along with his business partner Jeff Johnson, has set a goal to raise $15,000 in a month to create a college scholarship for a deserving African American male graduating from a local public high school. It’s their answer to combating the miserable truths confronting African American males. At Duke University, 73 percent of the African Americans enrolled are female. African American males aren’t making it to college, and, for those who do, many don’t graduate.

A study released by the American Council on Education in 2010 shows that only 35 percent of African American males who enter college graduate in six years. This compared to 59 percent of white males, 46 percent for Hispanic men and 45 percent for African American females who entered college the same year. As African American males drop out of college, some campuses are left with nearly twice as many African American females as African American males.

Jeff and King are convinced that these disparities are rooted in a lack of consistent resources for African American males. They contend the cost of education has become a barrier for those who would attend college or remain enrolled if not for the cost.

It’s a factor often missed in conversations involving the psyche of African American men. If the goal is too costly, and there is no help to get to the other side of the river, one finds ways to contend with what remains. Could it be that poor academic performance among African American males is correlated to seeing college as an unattainable ambition? For those who do well, imagine the hostility linked to doing well in school, but not being able to go to college because there isn’t enough money left after mama and daddy balances the check book.

It’s a truth I understand all too well. King was born when I was 19. Lenise was born two years later, and Krista came when I was a 26 year-old graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. The cost to achieve my goal was brutal on my kids. They watched as their mother ached because she had a passion to finish her degree. We grappled with not finding work that paid enough to provide for all they deserved because we were so young and lacked the education we needed.

How many African American males give up because they have to pay child support or work to pay for diapers? How many can’t go to college because they won’t have enough money to eat and pay the rent? How many cry through the night because they won’t be able to walk in the light of their dream. That dream withers like a raisin in the sun.

They have to raise $15,000 in a month. We should double that amount. If you believe in youth and care about the dreams of those who are told no – find a way to support those dreams. Wipe those tears with your love.

I struggled to make my way. God knows I regret how it harmed my children to have a dad who pushed so hard to fulfill his own dreams. I hope they understand that I did it for them. I was young and lacked the support that so many take for granted.

Despite my limits, thank God for my kids. “Suga Baby,” “Sweet Baby,” and “Your Royal Highness.” God carried them when I couldn’t even carry myself.

Help me by helping my son help others fulfill their dream.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 to be shown at the Hayti Heritage Film Festival

The New York Daily News gave it four out of five stars. “And you are left in a bracing state of confusion, wondering how much has changed and how the change took place,” The review in the New York Times concluded. “How did we get from the America of Stokely Carmichael to the America of Barack Obama, who represents a very different kind of black power?”

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is the talk of the documentary film community. It steps into a time when black resistance and pride took center stage over the nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition. It was a time when burning buildings and calling for a revolution was the common theme among those prepared to change things by any means necessary.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is the work of a group of Swedish journalist who documented the Black Power Movement in the United States during a period of upheaval stirred by youth tired of waiting for those with power to do the right thing. It tells the unsettling truth about why many weren’t enamored with the Gandhain, nonviolent strategy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The documentary delves into the perspectives of leaders like Angela David, Harry Belafonte and Louis Farrakhan, as well as ordinary residents of Harlem, Brooklyn and Oakland, California. It presents the reflections of younger people who have been influenced by the Black Power movement. You hear from Sonia Sanchez, Abiodun Oyewole, of the Last Poets, as well as musicians impacted by the movement.

The documentary is a must see. Although not a comprehensive history, it is a work that deserves to be seen and discussed. It will be shown this weekend as part of the 18th Annual Hayti Heritage Film Festival, February 9-12 at the Hayti Heritage Center.

The schedule for the festival is below. Check out The Black Power Mixtape and the rest of the films to be shown at the Hayti.

Thursday, February 9

6 p.m. STRAY a short film by Poetic Mike

STRAY (Part Uno) is a short film written and produced by Mike Anderson who is the CEO and Founder of Polished Souls. STRAY is an acronym that stands for Showing Truth Reaching All Youth. Part Uno, the first part of a three part series, has a primary focus of educating the youth about the unnecessary evils of the streets and gun violence. This film stars Dasan Ahanu, Donesha Pitts, Diamond Pitts, Ricky Cotton, and Mike Anderson himself who plays three roles in this film. Edwin Lewis, an awesome cinematogropher for CotLu films, also makes a featured appearance in STRAY. In front of the camera and behind the camera, Mike Anderson creates the perfect tool for educating youth thru the reality of making the wrong choices. You will be blown away by the plot as Mike Anderson takes you into the mind of the STREETS.

7 p.m. The Interrupters producer/director Steve James and producer Alex Kotlowitz
125 minutes

The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. This film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. Shot over the course of a year out ofKartemquin Films, The Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in our cities. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student, whose death was caught on videotape.

The film's main subjects work for an innovative organization,CeaseFire. It was founded by an epidemiologist, Gary Slutkin, who believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. One of the cornerstones of the organization is the "Violence Interrupters" program, created by Tio Hardiman, who heads the program. The Interrupters - who have credibility on the streets because of their own personal histories - intervene in conflicts before they explode into violence. The Interrupters follows Ameena, Cobe and Eddie as they go about their work, and while doing so reveals their own inspired journeys of hope and redemption. The film attempts to make sense of what CeaseFire's Tio Hardiman calls, simply, "the madness".

Panel discussion on gang violence immediately afterwards....This is also a chance for our community to discuss this pressing issue. Through the wonders of Skype, one of the interrupters will be here to discuss their film and there will also be a panel featuring Mike Anderson, Poetic Mike, who will discuss his film Stray and well as others who have been involved in Gang intervention work.

Friday, February 10

5 p.m. Against All Odds A film by Sandra Pfeifer
82 minutes

In the works for over four years, Against All The Odds recounts the sometimes gruesome historical events that led to the birth of America's only 'All Black City', as well as taking an insider's look at the important grassroots community efforts that hold this unique city together today. It showcases many of the courageous citizens who work non-stop, in the worst of circumstances, to make their city a better place to live, despite the hopelessness that the outside world sees.

Against All The Odds sheds light on the courage, problems and accomplishments of a most unique and remarkably challenged city.

The issues of poverty, race and economic devastation are searing in East St Louis, Illinois and America's failure to deal with these issues on a national level comes home to roost in this remarkably challenged all Black city.

What has survived in East St Louis speaks to the depths of the human spirit, the fundamental need for human dignity, and the right to belong within a community, no matter what the circumstances.

Admission: $5

7 p.m. Payin' The Price directed by a New York teen, Jordan Coleman

Payin' The Price film was written and directed by Coleman when he was 14-years-old. It's a cautionary tale for teens. about dating violence. Payin' The Price chronicles the story of 17-year-old Jazz Johnson whose privileged life is turned upside down when a beautiful young girl from the "wrong" side of the tracks accuses him of brutally assaulting her. Johnson becomes the poster boy for teen dating violence as the film follows his relationship, arrest and trial; weaving between flashbacks of classmates, friends, family members and school officials.

According to statistics, one in three teenagers experience dating violence; one person tries to gain control over another through physical or verbal abuse. While the majority of victims are young ladies, young men are also affected and teen dating violence crosses racial, socio-economic and social lines.
A cautionary tale about teen dating violence. Jordan was inspired to tackle this issue after the Chris Brown and Rhianna "domestic violence incident." He said it was the first time that he and many of his peers had heard about domestic violence. To this day, Jordan said the conversation becomes heated among teens when asked who was at fault Chris or Rihanna. Their celebrity status brought the topic of dating violence into the homes of American families like never before.

At 16-years-old, he's a filmmaker, actor, author, education activist, honor roll student and athlete. He was recently named one the 25 Most Influential People in Our Children's Lives by Children's Health magazine. Jordan won the 2011 Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival HBO Best Feature Film competition with Payin' The Price.

Admission: $5

9 p.m. Dar He, The Story Of Emmett Till Rob Underhill, director/co-writer
68 minutes

In 1955, a 14-year-old Chicago youth named Emmett Till travels to the Mississippi Delta with country kinfolk and southern cooking on his mind. He walks off the train and into a world he could never understand: a world of thick color lines, of hard-held class systems and unspeakable taboos. Young Emmett crosses that line and steps into his gruesome fate by whistling at a white woman. Experience the story, trial and unbelievable confessions of the men accused of Emmett's murder in this riveting drama. DAR HE: They Lynching of Emmett Till, is the TRUE STORY crafted from public record; it transports us back to this historic tragedy that became a lightning rod for moral outrage and pivotal in inspiring a whole generation of young people to commit to social change in the 1950s. This is the Durham preview of this special film before it goes off to its World Premiere in California at the Pan African Film Festival.

Admission: $5

Saturday, February 11

10 a.m. The Start of Dreams directed by The Horne Brothers

The Start of Dreams, directed by The Horne Brothers, is the story of award-winning director Kenny Leon bringing aspiring teenage actors to a Broadway stage in his annual August Wilson Monologue competition. In a new age where Arts Education is considered expendable in such a penny-pinching economy, Leon is determined to use his celebrity and influence to expose kids across the country to the wonderful world of theatre. Featuring A-list actors like Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Phylicia Rashad, "The Start of Dream" is packed with Hollywood's elite weighing in on this important art form and what it means to the United States.

Admission: $5


Sleeperz Awake - Terry Barnes - Living Arts College at School of Communication Arts

Pickaniny - Eric Barstow - St. Augustine's College
This was a film projects for a Motion Picture Directing class at St. Augustine's College. The assignment was to pick one of his paintings and use it as an inspiration for a short film, maximum of four minutes long. "Pickaninny" was inspired by Rockwell's Girl at Mirror which was the cover for the March 6, 1954 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. In the original painting, a young girl sits at a mirror with an open magazine on her lap turned to the page of a glamorous model. It's the theme of measuring up to societal standards of beauty.

Doc Wiggins Impact - Kai Smith - NC Central University

Seeing Through - Jessica Wright - Duke University

White Sugar in A Brown Pot - Rachel I. Johnson - New York University
White Sugar in a Black Pot an NYU thesis short film directed by Brooklyn native Rachel I. Johnson recently won a CINE Golden Eagle Award and will premiere at the 10th Annual San Diego Black Film Festival January 26 - 29th 2012. The film kicks off with the innocent hustle and bustle of the Mackey family and unravels to reveal a true to life family and a mother who faces a dilemma. Within the film, Johnson explores the family unit and female subjectivity. She also touches upon issues of gentrification, a heated topic in many Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Rediscovering Maggie Walker - Students from Legacy Media Institute/Virginia State U.
During jim crow era and segregation southern America, one woman revolutionised the way black Americans saw themselves. The first woman to start and charter a bank she gave hope in a time when hope seemed impossible. Now a group of youth, who seem lost go on a search to exhume her memory, to rediscover Maggie Walker.

2 p.m. Panel discussion (FREE)
Topics: new media, you tube, vimeo, social media and how it is impacting the modern day world of filmmaking, the current state of filmmaking around the country, both commerical and documentary style

Lana Garland, Documentary Filmmaker
Rob Underhill, Director of Dar He
Noel James, Event Planner
Tyrone Young, NAACP Image Award Nominee for 2011
Ablavi Gbenyon, Liberian American filmmaker
Mark Anthony Neal, Professor, African & African American Studies Duke University

4 p.m. Behind Closed Doors (Short Film) by Nicole Bowman (FREE)
A film about domestic violence.

4:30 p.m. HAYTI: The Legacy of Black America (FREE)
directed by Cultural Heritage Group. Written by: Victor Stone, Jaisun McMillian and Kelvin De'Marcus Allen

The film explores the rich African-American experience in Durham' North Carolina Hayti community during the city's first 100 years.
In the years after the Civil War, former slaves all over the south looked forward to new independence and the prospect of great opportunities ahead. Many migrated to Durham, NC to take advantage of the booming tobacco and textile industries. Durham quickly developed a vibrant Black community, the center of which was an area known as 'Hayti'. From the 1800's through the 1900's, Black Durham prospered both politically and socially as a self-reliant community.

Hayti became one of the most unique and successful Black communities in America, where in the early 20th some of the largest Black-owned and operated businesses existed. Recognized by prominent national Black leaders as the "The Black Capitol of the South", Durham's most well-knowned businesses were North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company and Mechanics & Farmers' Bank which would come to be known as "Black Wall Street." In 1910, Dr. James E. Shepard founded North Carolina Central University, the nation's first publicly supported liberal arts college for African-Americans.

5 p.m. MI, A Different Kind of Girl A Premiere Screening by Leslie Cunningham
48 minutes

Laine Brown, a spirited and passionate male impersonator born on North Carolina's rural coast, transforms by taping down her breasts, shaving her head, and studying the masculine performance of today's most famous male entertainers- to become the incomparable Nation Tyre, show-stopper and ground-breaker for women in the LGBT community, perfecting the craft of male illusion to cut a space in American popular culture for women in drag. Pushing the bounds of female gender identity, is there room for a lone performer to challenge the constraints at work in the African-American and LGBT community in pursuit of fame and visibility on the world's stage? In a new- millennium America deeply committed to our categories of race and culture, gender and sexuality, is there acceptance for an M.I.? Featuring special commentary and music by KIN4LIFE, the film features on-camera interviews with Laine Brown as Nation Tyre,The House of Tyre of Atlanta, Breyannah Allure, Paris Brooks, Image, First Lady, Hollywood and many more.

Admission $5

6:30 p.m. Honey Boy (Short) a film by Teri Burnett (FREE)

The Jackie Torrance story. This short film, which was originally told orally by the late, great storyteller Jackie Torrence of Salisbury, is a riveting story. This film is about a young man, who is suspected of being a Robin Hood-type, who robs the rich and gives to the poor people in his community. Someone who fits Honey Boy's description is killed for the reward money, and Honey Boy's mother is asked to identify his body, as community citizens watch to see if he is, in fact, the person who has been killed. Written, direted and edited by Teri Burnette,, the film features local actors and members of the NC Association of Black Storytellers as the cast. Using local donations, Burnette financed this film herself.

7:00 p.m. America's Dark Secrets a film by Kim Brummell (FREE)

Power, privilege and injustice can be more lethal than a car bomb in the heart of a major city. This film takes a look at some of the most infamous extremist, radical, and cult groups in American history and their crimes. This documentary is historical, ground breaking and full of tense, real life footage that exposes government secrets and dirty money. Filmmaker Kim Brummell will be available for discussion.

8:30 p.m. Filling the Gap film by Tyrone Young
Untold stories of African Americans during America's Civil War
83 minutes

Filling The Gap is a 2011 NAACP Image Award nominated film that shares little-known facts of American history, focusing on the Civil War and African-American contributions in their fight for human rights. It is a must-see as a resource in providing the "whole story" --completing afractured telling of America's Civil War era. It is a docudrama that allows viewers to see history from a new angle; offering vignettes with three dimensional portrayals of patriots such as Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Phyllis Wheatley, and the numerous heroic acts of ordinary people of all colors who helped make America what it is today.
We believe, by presenting stories that fill in the "gaps" in our history, a new generation of Americans will be inspired to appreciate and embrace this new telling of our history with pride.

Admission $5

9:30 p.m. Being Elmo Directed and produced by Constance Marks
76 minutes

Beloved by children of all ages around the world, Elmo is an international icon. Few p eople know his creator, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of working with his idol, master puppeteer Jim Henson. Displaying his creativity and talent at a young age, Kevin ultimately found a home on Sesame Street. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this documentary includes rare archival footage, interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O'Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and others and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop.

This film was a tremendous success at last year's Full Frame Festival and we are proud to show it here at our festival.

Admission: $5

11 p.m. The Christmas Wish (FREE)
One year after his wife's Christmas Eve murder, Asia is on the brink of suicide, when he is approached by a stranger who convinces him that he can reunite him with his wife. Asia accepts the deal, only to discover the catch: He must relive the day of her death over and over again in order to be with her"

Sunday, February 12


12 p.m. Rediscovering Maggie Walker Produced at Tim Reid's studio
During jim crow era and segregation southern America, one woman revolutionised the way black Americans saw themselves. The first woman to start and charter a bank she gave hope in a time when hope seemed impossible. Now a group of youth, who seem lost go on a search to exhume her memory, to rediscover Maggie Walker.

12:30 p.m. Am I Your Favorite film by April Mials

1 p.m. Burned film by Phylllis Toben Bancroft
This film tells the story of a female firefighter and Air Force Veteran who returns from the Iraq War suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and stars former Raleigh native Bianca Jones. It was financed with a $100,000 "Lens on Talent" award from BET Network.

2 p.m. Chasing The Mad Lion Film Trailer

Global Center Initiative Shorts dealing with sports in Africa

Little Brother filmmakers Nicole Franklin and Jasmin Tiggett
Little Brother is a series of fifteen minute documentary films dedicated to giving Black boys a uinque voice. Beginning in 2010, filmmakers Nicole Franklin and Jasmin Tiggett take an annual look at Black boys as young as nine years old for a one-on-one conversation demystifyihng what society tends to rob them of : Love. "It's a rarity to see representations of black boys as they really are: beautiful, open, curious,k intelligent, funny and vulnerable. Little Brother, a caring documentary about the hopes, dreams and experiences of black boys is as important as it necessary.

2:45 White Wash Trespass Productions
60 minutes

White Wash, the documentary, is a film exploring the complexity of race in America through the eyes of the ocean. Examining the history of "black consciousness" as it triumphs and evolves into the minds of black surfers, we learn the power of transcending race as a constructive phenomenon. The story is narrated by the legendary, Grammy Award winner Ben Harper (Fistful of Mercy, Relentless 7, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals) along with Tariq "Blackthought" Trotter of the Grammy Award winning hip hop group, The Roots whom also originally scored the film.

Admission $5

4 p.m. Black Power Mixtape Written and Directed by: Göran Hugo Olsson
96 minutes

The Black Power Mixtape is an award winning compilation feature documentary that displays the story of the African-American community 1967-1975, the people, the so ciety and the style that fueled a change. Told with sparkling, beautiful and deep footage, lost in the a rchives in Sweden for 30 years. This recently discovered 16mm footage, collated by filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson into a vibrant 70s-style mixtape, allows us to see black America-and such iconic figures as Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, and Eldridge Cleaver-in the heat of the times, unfiltered by the standard American media spin. This rich document intersperses commentary by present-day cultural icons and artists Cornel West, Robin D. G. Kelley, Harry Belafonte, Sonia Sanchez, Erykah Badu, ?uestlove, and Talib Kweli, all of whom have been inspired by and have participated in the movement.

Admission $5

6 p.m. Derek is Dying
Directed/written by London base filmmaker Stephen Lloyd Jackson
90 minutes

A young, successful hedge fund manager has just been told that he is HIV positive. He is informed of the possibility that his fiancée and unborn child could also be infected. Through an intense therapy session with his psychiatrist, David takes us on a pernicious journey that starts twelve months prior, exposing the women, the sex and the demons. David knows that he will die and he can live with that. But before that he must resolve the ghosts of his past before he can face his end. A disturbing psychodrama that illustrates the ugly side of love and tragic passion.

He's Lying, He's Loving, He's Dying.

Admission $5

8 p.m. ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert
Directed by Vivian Ducat
78 minutes

With his intensely autobiographical paintings depicting the day-to-day existence of African Americans in the segregated South, Winfred Rembert has preserved an important, if often disturbing, chapter of American history. His indelible images of toiling in the cotton fields, singing in church, dancing in juke joints, or working on a chain gang are especially powerful, not just because he lived every moment, but because he experienced so much of the injustice and bigotry they show as recently as the 1960s and 70s.

Now in his sixties, Rembert has developed a growing following among collectors and connoisseurs, and enjoyed a number of tributes and exhibitions of his work. In "ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert," the artist relives his turbulent life, abundantly visualized by his extensive paintings and, in a series of intimate reminiscences, shows us how even the most painful memories can be transformed into something meaningful and beautiful. A glowing portrait of how an artist-and his art-is made, "ALL ME" is also a triumphant saga of race in contemporary America.

Admission $5

10 p.m. A Small Town Called Descent Directed by Jahmil XT Qubeka
106 minutes

The South African film "A Small Town Called Descent" has made big waves at the seventh Dubai International Film Festival. It deals with the 2008 xenophobic attacks, in which over 60 people died.

Somewhere in a remote part of South Africa, a heinous crime is committed. Against the backdrop of Xenophobic riots that have swept across the country, two Zimbabwean brothers, along with a local girl, are brutally attacked The older brother (Getmore Sithole) is burnt alive whilst his younger sibling (Morgen Bousa) and the girl (Hlubi Mboya) are sodomised, raped and left for dead. Three investigators from the elite crime fighting unit known as the Scorpions are deployed to A Small Town Called Descent. Their mandate is clear : uncover the truth. However, are they the right men for the job? The senior Investigator (Vusi Kunene) has a proverbial Monkey on his back that has torn his family apart. The other two investigators; One (Paul Buckby) is an apartheid relic with a drug problem and the other (Vuyo Dabula) is a naive rookie with something to prove - seem an unlikely team to tackle the case. Guided by the zealous hand of an eccentric cleric (John Savage) they manouvre through the small town's complex, social dynamic to get to the truth.

Admission $5

Monday, February 6, 2012

Soul Train Line Was More Than a Dance

Photographs courtesy of Brett Chambers

The radio station back home didn’t play soul music when I was a kid. I only listened to the radio when I wanted to listen to Jack Buck do play by play of the St. Louis Cardinals during baseball season. I kept score sheets to keep pace with my favorite players from my favorite team: Lou Brock, Bake McBride, Kurt Floyd and Bob Gibson.

It wasn’t until I visited my aunt on Garfield Avenue in St. Louis that I caught a fever for the music I love so much. My father played it during the weekends with a shot glass and a bottle of vodka nearby to soak the burden of the week away. I knew about soul music, but that day elevated my appreciation for the sound that was beginning to change the tunes on the airwaves.

It was Saturday morning, and a dude with a tight afro introduced that cat name Al Green. I was captivated by his deep voice. What followed shifted my disillusionment into pride. I watched as All Green merged funk with old time revival while singing “Let’s Stay Together.” I felt something that fueled an interest in the moves and the music that made me feel like what James Brown screamed in that song – “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

Pride took hold that day. I giggled as my play girlfriend, Jodie Whatley, strutted down the soul train line. I found reason, in that moment, to connect to the amazing culture witnessed on the tube. I wanted to board the Soul Train and take a ride to black pride.

It’s the reason I organized a Soul Train line on Saturday evening. I had to find a way to thank Don Cornelius for placing a mirror before me and forcing me to view the beauty on my black face. He gave me reason to embrace my black moves and to allow my black hair to grow naturally. He gave me reason not to put chemicals in my hair to transform my nappy into something closer to white folk’s hair.

I found comfort in the banging of a bass followed by the snap of a snare drum. Yes, I wanted to take a trip to funky town, and I didn’t want to go back to that place that said there was something wrong with me. My life hasn’t been the same since that day back in 1972..

So, about 50 people showed up after I announced we would boogie oogie oogie near the big bull in downtown Durham. We gathered after 32 hours noticed. We communicated via facebook and Twitter. My son, King Kenney, and Mike set up the 1’s and 2’s and took us all to a place that forced bodies to move and memories to resurrect. We danced in the dark. We moved in the cold and rain. We strutted down that Soul Train line over and over again. Some bumped their way down. A few played the running man and robot. The old Kid N’ Play dance made an appearance.

Our gathering reflected more than a love affair with movement. This was no party reserved for black folks only. Our gathering proved the Don’s appeal beyond the nation’s soul brothers and sisters. White folks showed up. Reverend Ginny took time away from sermon preparation to strut down the line. Image this, a black male preacher danced with a white female preacher down the Soul Train line on a Saturday night. That was truly a Holy dance.

I wish more could have made it. Those who came witnessed one of those rare moments were memory is transcended beyond past comprehension. What was known takes on new meaning. What was felt is observed as the witness of a shielded truth. This man meant more than what we knew. Soul Train was more than a television show. It brought cultures divided together by a brand kept separated by skin tones. It healed wounds caused by division and challenged us to put our feet ahead of our indifference.

We danced for 30 minutes. Then the train came and took us home. Toot the whistle Don. Love, peace and soul!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Waiting for God to Show Up

As wonder about Jesus hanging on the cross that day looking down as and asking God “Why have you forsaken me. After all I've done for you. Now I set here in darkness, homeless, hungry many times, sick, confess and feeling worthless, angry, you were silent. I cried out many of nights lying in bed in fear as I hear things being thrown, the sounds of holds being punched in the wall. I balled in like a baby with my ears covered for the sounds of glass being thrown. Yet you were silent. Yet I've never given up hope that one day you would show up.
4th Floor Red Zone Williams Ward

I received the above meditation the day after that moment. It was one of those rare occasions that forced a rethink regarding the assumptions I make. It was another reminder that I, like most of us, haven’t grown as much as I had thought.

While reclining on the couch at the Bean Trader on Ninth Street, that moment came as I wrote about the affairs in Durham, NC. It was in the middle of a line about our need to affirm people beyond our notions of worth. The truth hit me in the face.

I was sitting next to one of the homeless men known among those who frequent Ninth Street. It was a chilly night. He sat with his eyes glued to nowhere. As if he was thinking of something he couldn’t shake free. His body and face barely moved as he held a hot cup of Joe in his hand to thaw his body from the cold.

Then it happened. The door hastily opened as three African American men approached the man on the couch. I knew all three as members of the community of homeless. They approached their white companion as if on a mission. The air was filled with the odor of days devoid of soap and water. I fought back my disgust as I peaked at the words on my computer – “we must see the face of God beyond our assumptions.” Then love showed up.

“You alright man,” one of the men yelled shaking with deep concern. “You ok man.”

Each of them went into their pockets. They pulled dollars out and placed them in his hands. “We got you man. Don’t you worry bout that. We got you.”

The man on the couch nodded his head as he received the money. “Thank you,” he uttered.

“I’m impressed with you for doing that,” I said as the three missionaries prepared to leave.

“That’s what we do! That’s how we support each other,” the leader of the church said as they walked out the door.

The man next to me took a sip from his cup. He said nothing. I noticed the tear travelling down his cheek as if to say thank you.

I packed my bags and made my way to the car parked in front of the coffeehouse. I hurried my way in anticipation of the flood. It came before I closed the door. My tears came like guilt packed on top of my conceit. Guilt loaded on top of my assumptions. “That is what we do,” he said. Why can’t those who have so much do more?

The next day I received the journal entry from my friend Tony Johnson. He wrote it while in the hospital. He told me he wrote it while wondering if it is worth going on. It reflects his pain of being homeless, depressed, lonely and lacking resources to rise above the ashes. It reflects his pain of being rejected. He’s rejected for being gay. He’s rejected for being black. He carries the burden of walking in his own skin.

All he wants to do is dance.

But not just any dance. His body, frail from illness, is his voice. He moves like music in praise to the God he loves so much. Although rejected by many who see him as less than, his body says more. He keeps waiting and dancing and praying and hoping that God will show up.

Tony, God shows up whenever you show up. Your steps are guided by a higher truth. Dance Tony. Dance for the homeless on Ninth Street. Dance for those who do what they do – show love when others see no love in them. Dance for our friend on the couch. Dance for me.

While in a hospital bed he wondered if it is worth living. Yes, it is Tony. This is what we do. We love you back to your truth.

Rise and dance.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Collective Sun challenges the notion of tolerance

When the Daily Beast named Durham, NC the nation’s most tolerant city, my son, King Kenney, responded by writing about memories of being stopped by police for walking in his own neighborhood, driving for being black and enduring living in a community that fails to support African American men.

My son’s rant, posted on his Facebook wall, reflects a deeper concern related to the assumptions we make about tolerance. The absence of hate crimes, the presence of diversity and the acceptance of same-gender unions doesn’t negate the hostility felt by African American men.

His words speak to a deep angst that will appear on stage at the Hayti Heritage Center on Friday, February 24. Collective Sun – reshape the mo(u)rning is part performance, part exhibit and part audio installation. It tells the stories of how violence, prison and policing have eroded hope among African American boys and their mothers.

“We started this project eight years ago,” says Nia Wilson, executive director of SpiritHouse. “It’s a dialogue about the truth about policing in our community.”

SpiritHouse, the organization presenting Collective Sun, started listening and found common themes. They heard the pain of being followed by the police, being pulled over for no reason and having to endure it just because it comes with being black. They heard stories about life behind bars and the dread felt while waiting for your son to come home.

“How long have we survived this type of abuse,” Wilson asked. “Image the pain of a mother who has to deal with the fear of having her son walking in the streets.”

Rachael Derello will present a scene that confronts the agony of women delivering babies in prison. “They deliver babies while in shackles,” Derello says. “They give the mother 20 minutes with the baby and then they take the baby away.”

“These are stories that we don’t understand as stories,” Derello continued. “These are the stories of black mothers who fear our children will be taken away.”

“People are saying they are touched in ways they have never felt before,” Wilson says. “People are saying this is how this subject impacts me. They are saying I can’t be all I need to be out of fear.”

Derello and Wilson say the work is an organic script. It is still brewing due to their desire to not silence a voice.

“In December we had a stage reading,” Wilson says. “From that reading we heard the voice of black men wasn’t strong enough.” It was an all female cast. It presented the perspective of mothers. The women on the stage begged for solutions on how to protect their boys and men. It shared the fear of their sons being killed or arrested. But those men weren't speaking.

The men had to be heard. They needed to hear the stories we don’t talk about. How does it feel to be policed constantly? How does it feel being followed whenever you go to the mall? What happens to the psyche of a black boy when he endures all of that attention just because of the color of his skin?

The celebration of Durham’s tolerance exposes a lack of compassion for the city’s black men. Truth is it’s not a Durham problem. Black men are feared and unjustly profiled around the world. We are assumed guilty until proven otherwise. We are maligned due to the notions of those who define us based on the clippings in the newspaper and evening news.

Yes, I’ve been stopped for driving while black and walking while black. Yes, I’ve been followed while shopping. I have watched white women cross the street when I approach them. To all that I respond: I don’t want the money in your purse. I’m not here to shoplift. You’re not my type so I have no interest in forcing you to have sex with me. I don’t fit the description of the man you are looking for. I’m 6’1” with locs. He’s 5’9” with a bald head. Let’s not forget they say he’s in his mid 20’s. Yes, I look good for my age, but I have children older than that!

Durham may be the most tolerant when it comes to certain things, but it sure gets old being forced into one of those pigeon holes used to define my character.

Someone may say that’s an overreaction. To that I respond, come to the Collective Sun: reshape the mo(u)rning. We can talk after the show.

For more information and to purchase tickets go to: