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JUL
21
2015

Immigration Turf

As my first piece for The Game Changers Project I am tackling the issue of immigration raids on Latino families in the United States. I think this issue is not really focused on in mainstream media, and it is Latino filmmakers’ responsibility to address these topics and how it affects the Latino family unit.

I come from a family that was unconstitutionally deported in the 1920’s, despite my grandmother being born in Newport Beach, California. This experience has shaped my identity and I often use it to relate to my students who have experienced undocumented status in this country.

Keeping this in mind, I have developed a concept for a short experimental dance video with my students to explore the topic of immigration raids and the effects it has on Mexican families. I partnered with local non-profit United Roots and dance group TURF Inc. to create an interpretive dance video using the rich Turf Dance tradition that was homegrown by some of my students here in Oakland. For those of you who do not know, Turf Dancing is a form of Hip-Hop dance invented in East Oakland back in the early 2000’s, which continues today. It has become a staple form of expression in Oakland Hip-hop culture, and I thought it would be great to amplify that art form to be used as a vehicle to discuss political issues that affect the often-unrecognized Latino population in Oakland.

Currently the Department of Homeland Security has an “ERO Program” which is deporting thousands of people every year. This program is rarely mentioned in any journalism outlets in this country, yet they regularly lead large-scale raids on private residences and destroy thousands of families every year. Some of the statistics displayed in my film will speak to the commonality of this experience in the Latino community, and how it affects children with deported parents.

Aesthetically, I have adopted the Rasquache tradition in the Chicano community in the film. This is an art form that was popularized by Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino during the 1960’s, as they led an artistic revolution to support the United Farm Workers Movement in California. Rasquache refers to a state of impoverishment, or a working-class method of ingenuity that is comparable to the term “ghetto” or “imperfect”. It is a socio-political form of expression that describes a uniquely Chicano aesthetic that makes the most out of the littlest means. In adopting this artistic approach, I have chosen to use a film grain effect for the first part of the film, and shoot the second half of the film on my Iphone to highlight the Chicano filmmakers lack of resources. This decision not only allows me to match the form with content, but it allows me to further my own research in inspiring a “Rasquchista” Revolution in filmmaking. For more information on this movement and how my own media collective is advancing this movement, please click here to visit our Green Eyed Media Collective’s “Manifesto for the Modern Guerilla Filmmaker”

http://cinesourcemagazine.com/index.php?/site/comments/towards_a_rasquache_cinema_a_manifesto_for_the_modern_guerrilla_filmmaker/#.VYMLS2AQafQ

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JUL
21
2015

African In America: A Creative Bridge

In my first discussion with the GCP Producers at the beginning of this fellowship we spoke about using one of my films to explore the connections between Africans living in America and African-Americans. As the daughter of a Gambian immigrant this topic hit very close to home. After talking a little about my dad’s experience in the States, we all agreed that looking at his life here could provide an interesting perspective into the subject.

My dad’s creativity is the backbone of this piece. As a batik artist and photographer it’s what has allowed him to build a career here in his adopted country. The images he paints reflect the scenes from home that have remained on his heart over the years. He puts everything into his work, it’s an integral part of who he is. As a result, everyone who comes into contact with my dad’s work gets a little piece of him, and a little piece of Gambia as well.

His creativity extends beyond his canvas and into the kitchen. When he came to the US food was one of the only physical ties he could maintain to home, so he taught himself to emulate the flavors he grew up tasting. When I reflect on my own life, my dad’s cooking was was the first and most consistent element of Gambian culture that I had growing up, and it remains one of the most memorable elements of my childhood and adolescence. Whether he was cooking for just our family or for a big crowd, his food has always been a very tangible way for him to share his culture with his loved ones and friends in America.

In terms of production, I wanted to connect the dots between his cooking and his painting to show that both are extensions of his creativity, his personality, and his world view. The dish he prepares in the piece is called Benachin, which is a Wolof word that translates to “one-pot” in English. It’s a staple dish in Gambia and Senegal, served as both a common meal and when people welcome others into their home. Though he only cooks on screen for a short time, this dish really embodies what I wanted to convey in the piece. In terms of my dad’s personality, it represents how he takes everything that life throws at him and uses it to make something positive. “One-pot” is also a metaphor for the idea of the American melting pot. Though we know that idea works far more in theory than in real life, it well reflects the optimism my dad had when he came to the US, and the hopes that many still carry as they make their way to this country.

Lastly, cooking Benachin serves as a virtual welcome for the viewer into my dad’s creative process, into our family, and into Gambian culture in general. In his own peaceful, methodical way my dad has used his creative gifts to show the world how connected we are as people across the diaspora. He will continue to advocate for us to build stronger connections as we collectively fight for our freedom, and it will continue to be a privilege for me to call him my dad. I hope you enjoy the piece and I hope you enjoy getting to know a little more about him.

-Njaimeh

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OCT
16
2014

Closing the Story Gap: Shifting Perceptions One Film at a Time

National Film Fellowship Spotlighting Males of Color Expands, Launches Narratives

Rites production still

a scene from the film “Rites,” a story about black fatherhood and lost innocence one day at Brooklyn barbershop

 

Oakland, CA – – Yesterday the Game Changers Project (GCP), an Oakland-based national media fellowship for emerging filmmakers of color, made four significant program announcements for this, their fourth year: a new partnership supported by The California Endowment and their Sons and Brothers Campaign; a new genre added to the program: the short narrative, including a new web series; the completion of 18 new “micro-documentary” and short narrative films by ten filmmakers from six cities across the country; and a rebranded logo and new website.

Cheo Tyehimba Taylor, Founder and Executive Producer of GCP, offered this insight, “As we wrap our fourth consecutive year of refining this unprecedented new media model, our premise remains the same: We must not only capture the undocumented humanity of males of color but we must also pursue the finer aesthetics of visual storytelling. With every frame, we’re still committed to seeding a new generation of “activist story-tellers.” He adds, “They still produce media on behalf of community organizations working for social equity but this year we’ve expanded our vision. With a new scripted web series and dramatic shorts, we’re broadening our stories beyond Black males to include other males of color. These new elements will heighten our ability to spotlight complex characters.”

The program was launched in 2011 with the support of the Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement. Currently, GCP is supported by The Heinz Endowments and the California Endowments. In 2012, in only its second year of operation, GCP Fellows surpassed all expectations and produced 30 micro-documentary films for 30 non-profits across the country that advocate for Black men and boys. Also, Taylor was nominated for EBONY.com Magazine’s MANifest Award for visionary work. Beginning this fall and through the spring 2015, the new films for 2014 will be screened at GCP Film Forums in select cities and college campuses across the country. To learn more, visit the new GCP website online at www.gamechangersproject.org. On Facebook: GameChangersProject, Twitter: @GameChangers007, and YouTube: TheGameChangersTV

The Program

GCP Fellows in action on set

GCP Fellows produce short docs about community heroes

GCP is a six-to-eight month fellowship designed to catalyze men and women “activist story-tellers” across the nation who shoot, edit, and produce approximately six-minute “micro-documentaries” and dramatic scripted shorts about ordinary men of color (and other under-represented groups) who are doing extraordinarily positive work in their communities, those who are “changing the game.” The areas of focus are diverse: justice and social equity; health and wellness, arts and culture; fatherhood and family; technology and innovation; business and entrepreneurship; and other areas. Fellows in six cities (New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Oakland) work with local community organizations and produce short films that represent the organizations’ missions as well as narrative films with relevant subject matter.

Interested parties must apply to become a fellow and must have solid production experience and credits (including, shooting, writing, editing, and producing short video). They must also range in age from 21 to 40 and must reside (or have grown up) in one of the six Game Changer cities. During the program, fellows receive a stipend, orientation and training, and are assigned organizations and/or subjects to work with. In some cases, fellows are offered professional opportunities for freelance work in the industry or teaching in workshops. To apply for a 2015 GCP Fellowship, please visit www.gamechangersproject.org

2014 Media Partners

Each micro-documentary is published and/or broadcast on various multimedia platforms: various digital platforms and networks, including our official media partners WQED Multimedia, Pittsburgh’s public media company (the Filmmakers Corner show), and I Love Being Black – A Facebook page with over six million friends. In recent years, GCP films have been published on sites such as MSNBC.com, HuffPost.com, theGrio.com, Ebony.com, and others.

New for 2014 Season

For the 2014 fall season, ten GCP fellows produced 18 short films for 15 non-profits in six cities across the country. The following is a partial list of new and upcoming films and/or subjects:

  • Changing the Corporate Game: Youth Stands Up to Walmart’s Unfair Labor Practices
  • Activist-turned-Cop after Oscar Grant Tragedy; Inspires with One-man Play
  • Could an App Have Saved Trayvon? Technologist Launches First Hackathon for Black Male Achievement
  • High School Students Challenge School District’s “Zero Tolerance” Policy and Win
  • Pittsburgh Mentoring Program Closes Achievement Gap
  • Back to Africa Program Helps Transform Youth
  • Growing Good Sons: Help for Single Mothers of Black Boys
  • Accomplished Actor and Playwright Mentors Homeless Youth
  • Hip Hop DJ Inspires Youth to Social Activism
  • Pittsburgh Prison Ministry Transforms Black Men

 

In 2014, GCP also produced three short narratives.

  • “Rites” a dramatic short film about black fatherhood and lost innocence one day at Brooklyn barbershop. (Forward Ever Films)
  • “Expecting”: a multi-episode, dramatic web series with a comedic twist about black men and unplanned pregnancies
  • “Lessons”:  a short about a young father who tries to teach his daughter to stand up for herself but ends up showing her something far greater.

 

GCP on Campus

Also coming in Spring 2015 in select GCP cities, film forums will be a part of a national college tour where the shorts will be screened and followed by “talk backs” with students, faculty, and community members. Confirmed colleges and universities to date include:

  • University of California, Berkeley
  • San Jose State University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • City University of New York
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Merritt College (Oakland)

 

Community Partners

Taylor addressed the local undercurrent for this national fellowship, “This unique national model would not exist without our local community partners. The films we produce often are inspired and informed by those who are doing work on the ground.” The organizations are:

  • National: The Institute for Black Male Achievement and the 2025 Network for Black Men and Boys
  • Pittsburgh: 1Hood, Carter G. Woodson Center, Kelly-Strayhorn Theater
  • Los Angeles: LA Community Action Network, Khmer Girls in Action, Californians for Justice
  • New York: The Brotherhood-Sister Sol
  • Oakland: The Mentoring Center, The Brotherhood of Elders Network, African American Male Achievement Program (Oakland Unified School District)
  • New Orleans: Moving Forward Gulf Coast
  • Chicago: Fathers, Families and Healthy Communities

 

Media Contacts: April R. Silver or LaToya English, AKILA WORKSONGS 718.756.8501 office | 646.522.4169 mobile | pr@akilaworksongs.com | @akilaworksongs

 

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