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Theatre & Performing Arts

Tribute Paid To Womanist Mentors And Other Artists II

In 1976, an extraordinary group of Black feminist artists and activists organized the first ever Black women’s film festival: the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts. Films by Michelle Parkerson, Ayoka Chenzira, Edie Lynch, and Madeline Anderson, among others, were screened. The festival was simultaneously a celebration of the emerging world of Black women’s filmmaking as well as a radical call for the kinds of socio-political and institutional changes necessary for a Black women’s film culture to thrive. Four decades later, the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts, 2023 commemorates the 1976 festival with a nine-week screening series, held in conjunction with Professor Allyson Nadia Field’s winter 2023 course “Creating a Different Image: Black Women’s Filmmaking of the 1970s-90s,” and a two-day symposium about the original festival and the tradition of Black feminist filmmaking. For more information, visit

This program brings together films that highlight artistic practice and a range of creative endeavors. Ayoka Chenzira’s SyvillaThey Dance to Her Drum (1975) pays tribute to Syvilla Fort, a groundbreaking dancer and choreographer. Cheryl Fabio’s Rainbow Black: Poet Sarah W. Fabio (1976) focuses on the filmmaker’s mother—poet, literary critic, scholar, and a key figure in the Black Arts Movement. Michelle Parkerson’s Storme: Lady of the Jewel Box (1987) is a portrait of Stormé DeLarverie, emcee of the Jewel Box Revue, the first integrated drag revue in North America. Iman Uqdah Hameen’s Unspoken Conversation (1987), which Hameen made under the mentorship of Kathleen Collins, tells the story of a woman who decides to return to college to pursue her dream of becoming a filmmaker. We then conclude with Debra Robinson’s I Be Done Been Was Is (1984), which profiles four hard-working and hilarious Black women comedians as they navigate a profession dominated by men and often inhospitable to women, particularly Black women. (digital video, 157 min.)

Syvilla: They Dance to Her Drum courtesy of Milestone Films and Kino Lorber. Rainbow Black: Poet Sarah W. Fabio courtesy, Black Film Center & Archive, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Storme: Lady of the Jewel Box courtesy of Women Make Movies.

Presented by the Film Studies Center, Sisters in Cinema, and South Side Projections.


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