Hella Local: Sistah Sinema Part II

Continuing that line of thought: young folks are the future. So, what would you say to queer youth who want to document themselves/their experiences?

IP: Do it! What you have to say is important, it is necessary, and people need to hear it. For every reason that you can come up with to not start a project there is someone out there with a story similar to yours who feels like they are alone. You have the power to change that. To you the project may be insignificant, but to someone else it will mean the world. It is imperative that we continue to define ourselves, for ourselves.

Regardless of how scared you are, how little money you have, and who supports you, do it. Pick up a camera and change the world! I believe in you and I am sending love and light your way.

AO:  Yes, do it! With advances in technology and the many crowdfunding platforms it is easier than ever to get your story made and shared.  The surface has just been scratched and there are so many more stories that need to be told, with regard to the queer experience.  We are such a multi-dimensional population. And your story needs to be shared. Even if you are documenting on a YouTube channel or with your iPhone. Just do it!

Speaking of the future, the #BlackLivesMatter movement was sparked by two black queer women. Historically, LGBTQ people of color (women, trans or not, especially) have always been behind the curtain of many civil rights movements (formal or informal.) Do you think we’re at a moment where that tradition can finally be broken and tough conversations can be had within the POC community about accepting and loving our skinfolk and kinfolk, regardless of gender/sexual orientation? Or, do we still have much longer to go before that such a watershed?

IP: Although the women who created the #BlackLivesMatter movement are queer, I do not think that their presence has sparked any significant changes in the mindsets of people regarding sexual orientation. The people who were already open to issues concerning sexual orientation are validated. And for those who are not concerned, I believe that the movement itself overshadows the sexual orientation of its creators. Which is what I would like to believe that they want.

The movement, although created by them, has grown to be much bigger than them and the identity markers they claim. I would hope that the news of their nuptials and the profiles done on the women have sparked conversations about the vastly diverse identities people carry who do advocacy work, and serve as a reminder to all of us that we are capable of impacting change.

However, it would be naïve of me to believe that we are at a moment where all POC communities are ready to have tough conversations about loving and accepting everyone. I do believe that there are communities that are having these conversations. I am grateful for those people but I also see many people for whom this is not a priority. I’ve had conversations with people about gender identity and sexual orientation and they can’t see that, they can’t see past the fact that their son, or grandson just walked out of the house to go to the store and may not come back. We are in such a state of panic that people cannot see past their own immediate fears. As long as our own narrow gaze limits our views of humanity and issues impacting humanity, there will always be other communities who are rendered almost invisible.

AO: This is an on-going topic of discussion among my circle of friends. I don’t think the fact that the creators of that hashtag are QWOC has made a huge impact on the thinking of the communities the hashtag speaks about. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not a priority for POC at this time.

However, I don’t think that we will see a watershed moment of acceptance, but more like a trickling of acceptance as marriage equality becomes the law of the land, bringing with it the “normalization” of queer people to the general population.

The idea of having guided discussions post-screening is very social justice oriented in practice. I’m interested to know: how have they helped shape the SS screening experience for your viewers?

IP: The post-screening discussions have been awesome. They allow the people who attend to engage with one another in a meaningful way. For people who have never attended a SS event and may not know anyone in the room this often serves as an opportunity for them to connect with the community in a way that they might not have otherwise been able if we all just left after the screening. So often we attend film screenings and once they are over we leave without speaking to anyone and call someone who didn’t attend to tell them how we felt about the film.

Why do that when you can stay and have a thoughtful conversation with other people who care enough about whatever the topic is, to have attended? In my city we mix up our post-screening activities. We have invited filmmakers to come in and have a Q&A with the audience and even had slam poets perform pieces relevant to the topic for that month. To me the post-screening discussions are the core of SS. It is the space where the real work is done, where healing and connection occurs.

AO:  The post-screening discussions are what make a Sistah Sinema screening more than just a movie night. Discussions in my city have been dynamic and empowering. Women have developed connections with women they may not have connected with otherwise. In my city we often have a mixed audience of women from many different ethnicities. Some are QWOC and some are not. One of the most awesome discussions was the one that followed the screening of The Edge of Each Other’s Battles. One of the attendees was an older white woman, who had attended the conference.  It was awesome to have her input and for her to be able to share insider information about the event.

Attendees to that screening ranged in age from 21 to 63. It is so interesting listening to how attendees may relate to the film based on their own background. I have also had authors, filmmakers and poets participate in screenings in my city. This year I partnered with a friend to facilitate the post film discussions.  She has founded an organization called Will You Be Whole, which promotes wholeness through conversation, education and information for Black women and those who love Black women. And the post-film discussions have become a part of her ministry.

I’ve asked a lot of serious questions, so let’s slow down a bit: what’s your favorite film, and why?

IP: Hands down my favorite movie is Love Jones. There is just something about that film that makes my heart race. The music, the cinematography, Nia Long (laughing) the movie never ceases to amaze me. I can even think of moments in my life that I have directly associated with moments in the movie.

For example, I remember the first time I played Sign o’ the Times by Prince on my record player. I twirled the album around in my hands and thought, “oh shit this is how Larenz Tate must have felt in Love Jones”. It’s powerful when a movie becomes so much a part of your life that you associate real moments to moments in the film. I’m telling you if someone said to me “I have to admit girl/ you’re the sh*t girl/and I’m digging you like a grave” my heart would melt.

AO: Love Jones is definitely in my top ten. That soundtrack, oh my!  I’m a romantic at heart and a sucker for poets and artists in general.  I’ve even fantasized about walking into my local open mic and pulling a “Nina”, reciting a poem while my crush just happened to be in the room. But I do love beautiful cinematography, so my favorite is What Dreams May Come.  Because it speaks to my romantic heart…to think that two people could love each other beyond death and into eternity. And because one of the main characters is an artist, the scenes are just gorgeous.

And, if you could remake any sitcom with all LGBTQ characters, which would it be?

IP: Omgosh this is a hard question, I guess I would remake Living Single. I can see it now, it would be awesome!

AO:  Easy: Friends.  My circle of friends are so much like those characters.  They even call me Rachel.  Although I think I’m more of a Phoebe.

What’s next for SS in 2015? In your region? Nationally?

2015 marks the beginning of our move from a monthly screening cycle to a quarterly screening cycle, which we think this move will provide the CBMs with a little more flexibility. There has been a bit of restructuring in the leadership of SS and we are all looking forward to a great year ahead of us. We remain steadfast in our efforts to build this brand and to take SS to the next level.

How can interested folks get involved with SS? In your city? In their own?

IP: I am so proud of how much SS Durham has grown over this past year. I am always looking for great folks who are interested in continuing to grow the SSD presence in our community. If you’re interested in learning more about SSDurham and our upcoming events check out our Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/SSDurham/

AO:  We are definitely looking for opportunities to bring Sistah Sinema to other cities. There are so many perks to becoming a City Brand Manager. Anyone who is interested in becoming involved with Sistah Sinema or in bringing Sistah Sinema to their city can contact us at the link below. As far as finding out more about what we are doing with Sistah Sinema in Richmond, Va. I can be reached at gratituderisingevents@gmail.com.

Both: In addition, to learn more about Sistah Sinema check out our website, sistahsinema.com. There are a plethora of ways that people can get involved. From signing on to be volunteers at our screenings to organizations who sign on as community partners, we are always looking for people who believe in the work we are doing to join the SS team.

To inquire about becoming a City Brand Manager, or other opportunities to support our work please send us an email at info@sistahsinema.com.



The original Homeboy With A Keyboard ™,  dap wants to be an enigma, but he’s pretty transparent. A transplant from “Back East,” he found himself in Oakland writing about alla the fun things.  He’s in love with the coco(a) (skinned women and butter,) among other things.  Find his rants and retweetery @dapisdope

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