Her Name Sounds Like

“Who chooses black women first and wins?” — Esther Armah

“Video helps us scan events; film expresses a worldview.” — a very beloved professor of mine

My friend and I were stopped by the police while sitting in his car, edge of Brooklyn, last hours of June.  Their car confronted ours, lights flashing and all. I cursed and immediately got into a look calm, no sudden movements pose. Irritated and mildly resigned and probably really scared.  I let him answer all the questions.  What are you guys doing here?  Where are you from?  You don’t have anything in the car do you?  I just stayed silent.

It was over as quickly as it started.  We pulled off, minutes later, in search of milkshakes. We both tried to act like we weren’t scared, but I know the deal.  Even if nothing “happened” to us, the climate right now is one of terror.  I haven’t known what to say in the wake of Charleston.  Maybe, like many, I’ve been shocked into a silence.  I have gone about my daily existence. I have taught black kids.

The school year was bookended by the murders of a black boy in the street and black women and men in the church.  I know this because I have read article after article, watched video after video. Analysis and analysis and analysis. And then I have pretended to have enough where with all to be able to help kids in Newark process remote black death in the midst of their own turmoil. I hope I did okay.

Like many of you, my days involve scanning “news” and noise.  We know a lot and I don’t know how much we can really absorb.  When I moonlight as a filmmaker, I know that some of my job has to be to break through some of the noise and present something that’s capable of being digested. A way of seeing the world.

So, here’s what I can say, as a black female filmmaker: black women are primary. Not as a point of defense, not as point of division.  As an expectation that black lives mattering means all of us.  When I went to the #sayhername event in downtown Manhattan several weeks ago, a group of us said the names of black women who have been targeted by police.  The moment I posted pictures from the event, I was challenged by a brother who felt it was a divisive distraction. I challenged him back. He didn’t let up and when I got tired, one of my girls chimed in.

Voice, everyone’s voice is so important right now.  The attached video is all about voice, sound.  We have to say these black women’s names, we have to acknowledge their our humanity. Being vocal about that cancels out no one and only strengthens this burgeoning, painful, critical moment.  No one’s silence, like Audre Lorde said, will protect her or him.  Nor will it protect a movement.

Those cops only silenced me temporarily.

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