Nikki Giovanni has never been one to pull any punches. When the celebrated poet is asked how early racism develops in children, she dryly responds, “Yesterday.” Referencing the intellectual might of Black people, and Black women specifically, she reminds us, “It’s time that we utilize our energies once again to make some changes.” Numerous such nuggets of Black feminist wisdom abound throughout To Be Woman, Gifted, and Black: From One Generation to Another (2020), a briskly edited archival short by filmmaker Rikkí Wright. The film is one of seven — all directed by Black women — that make up the special Inauguration Day program Protect Black Women, presented by Alfreda’s Cinema via Metrograph.
Curated by Melissa Lyde, Protect Black Women is framed as a call to action which centers the lives and interiority of those who have “historically been the most vulnerable,” on the eve of Kamala Harris’s inauguration as vice president. A historic first in numerous senses (the first Black woman, the first Asian woman, the first Caribbean woman, the first woman, period), Harris’s election on the Biden ticket is worth celebrating, with a few grains of salt — not least due to her contradictory record on issues of policing and incarceration, which disproportionately impact communities of color.
Fittingly, Lyde’s own film, On the Backs of Blk Wmn, a work-in-progress included in the program, reimagines the first speech Harris made as vice president-elect. Framing excerpts of her remarks as bookends to the more radical voices of Black women luminaries like Angela Davis, Lucille Clifton, and more recently Stacey Abrams and Kansas City activist Keiajah “KJ” Brooks (of “I’m not nice and I don’t seek to be respectable” fame), Lyde positions Harris as one (centrist) voice among many.
Protect Black Women will also feature films by artists Rashayla Marie Brown, Alisha B Wormsley, Jamika Ajalon, and Zainab Floyd, whose lovely, diaristic short Movement (2019) offers a portrait of a Black woman artist carving out her own space on her own terms.
When: Live screening with introduction by programmer/filmmaker Melissa Lyde on January 19, 8pm EST; program will be available on-demand January 20–25
Where: Online, via Metrograph
More info at Metrograph.