This month Sista Sinema, a monthly screening event focused on queer women of color films, selects four shorts that turn the lens on black lesbian mothers. Below we chat with Isis Asare, founder of Sista Sinema:
Black Lesbian Love Lab (BL3): Please explain for those who do not know, what exactly Sistah Sinema is and does?
Isis: Sistah Sinema is a monthly event screening queer women of color films. We started in 2011 in Seattle, and are currently in 15 cities in the [United States] and Kingston, Jamaica. We hope to be in 20 cities by the end of the year. Click here if you want to bring Sistah Sinema to your city. We are also working on launching a pay-per-view streaming service on Vimeo this fall.
BL3: Explain the power/importance of film as a medium.
Isis: Film is a great way to foster discussion on various aspects of identity politics, the complexity of intersectionality, and the outliers that aren’t seen every day. Also, unlike a book club or a university course, there is no pre-work required of the attendees.
BL3: What are some of the topics covered by the selected films so far?
Isis: Using film, Sistah Sinema has covered futuristic queerness, the revolutionary act of women loving women, how queer communities form familial ties, marriage equality, undocumented immigrant status in the queer community, and bisexuality. That is just in the first six months of 2014!
BL3: And this month you’ll focus on black queer moms. What is it that sets black queer moms apart from all other moms?
Isis: Sixty-seven percent of African American children are raised in single mother homes. This is higher than any other racial group in the United States. In our view, that called for a deeper look at stories from that experience and a celebration of the strength it takes to be black, a woman, a lesbian, and a mother. Black, queer mothers are warriors, but their stories are rarely told in mainstream media.
BL3: What films did you select and why?
Isis: The best thing about Sistah Sinema is that because we have so many screenings, we can be very focused in a given month. I chose four shorts that adhere to the theme … which lent itself to a conversation on black lesbian motherhood:
Truth. Be. Told: StaceyAnn Chin. In this interview with Katina Parker, StaceyAnn is candid about the joys and challenges at the intersection of blackness, queerness, womanhood, and motherhood. I think there are a lot of powerful lessons to be pulled from her story. We chose it for two reasons. One, the interview perfectly fits the theme. Second, we wanted to highlight the work of Katina Parker.
If She Grows Up Gay, produced by Frameline Voices, is a rich part of queer women of color herstory. Shot in 1983, it is a short documentary following the life of a 19-year-old mother and her two-year-old daughter. Unlike StaceyAnn’s highly political decision to become a mother, the lead in this short barely had a choice. Despite battling homelessness, joblessness, and a lack of education, she gracefully takes on the role of mother the best way she knows how. Sistah Sinema has to thank Frameline Voices for producing the work and serving as a national sponsor for this month’s screenings.
Crossover is an amazing short produced by Morgan’s Mark—a production company run by Black lesbian power couple Tina Mabry and Morgan Stiff. Set in 2028, it shows how far a mother would go to give her child a better future. The short was the catalyst for the July theme. In addition, it depicts a world were the most basic infrastructure—healthcare, electricity, running water, education are reserved for the wealthy and the implications of that vast disparity.
Brooklyn’s Bridge to Jordan is also by Tina and Morgan. Again, the filmmaker tells the tale of a black lesbian mother against the backdrop of a major societal challenge. In this case, it is marriage equality.