A grant for my project

I am beyond thrilled to share that I have been awarded a NYSCA (New York State Council on the Arts) grant for my project “Return to Sender: Women of Color in Colonial Postcards and the Politics of Representation.” This project will involve a short film, an art exhibition, artist talks, and a community discussion led by three women of color. The film premiere will be at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY, on Oct 1st this year.

There are so many amazing people to thank: first of all, Patty Eljaiek at Huntington Arts Council, Inc. without whose encouragement I wouldn’t have applied for this grant and whose consistent support was invaluable; Emily Dowd, Kieran Johnson and everyone at @huntingtonarts; Stephanie Gotard at @huntingtonhistoricalsociety who is my community partner (and my biggest cheerleader); Dylan Toombs who shot the footage for the film with dazzling artistry; Boris Sapozhnikov for additional cinematography; the beautiful and talented Fatimah Arshad, Urvashi Bhattacharya, and Sumayia Islam who are the stars of the film; Rajesh Barnabas and Darien Lamen who will be helping with postproduction; Nia Adams, Madeline Churney, and Farhana Islam for agreeing to lead a post-screening discussion; Jeremy Dennis for being open to a screening at Ma’s House & BIPOC Art Studio; and finally, Dylan Skolnik and René Bouchard for a film premiere and discussion at Cinema Arts Centre in spite of many complications.

Also trying to get a student intern from Stony Brook’s Women’s and Gender Studies dept to curate the art exhibition — thank you to the faculty there.

I will write more about the film, but for now I want to thank all my people — everyone who has worked with me, believed in me, and inspired me. Love you all!

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by The Huntington Arts Council, Inc.

Editing The Injured Body: Greta Niu

Greta Niu: I just don’t want to lose sight of what makes up the microaggressions. It is implicit biases around race or ethnicity or gender or gender expression or class or size or disability. Those are the pieces that we’ve been fighting and we have always been fighting against. I don’t want people to think we are done with that. Now all we have to deal with are these microaggressions. The fact is, it’s a whole continuum of behaviors that are harmful, from a little poke to physical violence.

Photograph by Rajesh Barnabas

Editing The Injured Body: Lauren Jimerson

Lauren Jimerson: On the reservation, I didn’t think about my life past 18 or 20. It was hard to imagine being an adult. When I was 12, I saw the first young person pass away. Someone I grew up with, my cousin and neighbor. He was 19 or 20 and died in a car accident. I saw all these young people passing away. I didn’t know what the future looked like. Then I had Angel and it changed the course of my life.

Photograph by Erica Jae

goodbye dear robert

as we start the new year, i can’t help but reflect on the linearity of time (a western concept imposed on many of us). i hope to continue to struggle against that programming. in urdu, for example, kal means both yesterday and tomorrow. it’s the same word. there are no borders between the past, present and future.

we lost a dear friend and comrade yesterday, on new year’s eve. my friend Robert Navan. i went to ireland three times, in 2013, 2016 and 2018. each time i met robert. he always gave me a little tour, took me out for coffee and pastries, for cuban food and beer in the most authentic pubs (even though i stuck with lemonade) and had plenty of recommendations about what to do in dublin.

most importantly, robert supported my work via the progressive film club. they screened ‘pakistan one on one’ and organized a brilliant screening/community event for ‘a thin wall’ (one of the best post-screening discussions i’ve ever had). they also put together a retrospective of my work and showed all three documentaries, including ‘the muslims i know.’

how lucky, how amazing to have audiences engage with my work, on the other side of the pond, in a country that’s special to me. i have always been proud to say i have wonderful friends in ireland, all of them opposed to war and imperialism, all of them fervent supporters of justice in palestine. robert was/is one of them. an old school socialist who had been to cuba many times. he told the best stories. they will continue to be with me. how i will miss him. rest in power my friend <3

with robert navan, dublin, 2013

Editing The Injured Body: Mercedes, Erica and Tianna

Listening to a brilliant convo between Mercedes Phelan, Erica Bryant and Tianna Manon.

-Mercedes: I was brought up to be tough – don’t show your emotions, no crying, breaking down is weakness… It’s difficult to learn to express my emotions in a positive way.

-Erica: Black women carry generational trauma, personal trauma, all these micro-aggressions. And there is no healing for it. We must reverse that stigma. Taking care of yourself emotionally and psychologically is important.

-Tianna: There are institutional issues. For a long time health professionals were not trained to deal with trauma faced by Black people. So it wasn’t always good help. Also, how many can afford it? There are some free things out there. But how do you navigate that system? This is on top of how we force each other to be tough.

Erica Bryant

my short film – best in show

with the wonderful christophe lima, juror for the new exhibition at huntington arts council which opened today. the theme of the exhibition is the exploration of the human body. i wrote a poem called ‘the body has memory’ and created a short experimental film around it. not only was it selected for the exhibition but it won ‘best in show.’ couldn’t be more excited!

thank u Rajesh Barnabas for the beautiful cinematography and Mariko Yamada for the dance choreography. stunning dance performances by Cloria Iampretty and mariko. mostly thank u all for being who u are. sharing some of rochester’s talent and heart here on long island <3

career panel at pronto

wonderful journalism and documentary career panel discussion yesterday, organized by pronto in bay shore. pronto is a nonprofit doing amazing work on long island, from being a food pantry, to helping with govt paperwork and providing after school programs to students, it’s a one-stop support system that people can rely on. thank u ginger for inviting me to the panel <3

meeting madeline

with the lovely madeline del toro churney at druthers coffee today. yes, it was a sunny day but a lot of what u see in this picture is madeline, full of knowledge, humor and light. one of my life’s greatest accomplishments is the connection/friendships with extraordinary people, esp women of color. thrilled to continue that tradition here on long island. madeline teaches anthropology at stony brook and i am excited to say, will be one of the panelists for a post-screening community discussion related to a new short film i will be working on next year. more soon.

My questions for Shirly Bahar

The obligatory selfie after a satisfying dinner. It was a full house at Hofstra on Nov 9th for a discussion about Shirly Bahar’s book, ‘Documentary Cinema in Israel-Palestine: Performance, the Body, the Home,’ and my film, ‘The Injured Body.’ Here are my questions for Shirly:

1) You say that although oppression and racialization have impacted Palestinians and Mizrahim differently, the documentaries you discuss in the book share a political commitment and performative affinities. They defy the removal of the pain of Israel’s marginalized people from public visibility.

You discuss how documentary performances of pain by Palestinians and Mizrahim, when seen together, invite us to contest the segregation of pain and consider reconnection. Could you elaborate on that?

2) There is one sentence in your book which hit me hard. It is the commonly held notion that ‘the trauma of witnessing destruction directly harms the usage of language.’

Meaning that those who are occupied (on whose minds and bodies violence is constantly enacted) are never seen as credible witnesses of their own pain, of their own lived experiences, based on dominant codes of credibility. It’s like the gaslighting I was talking about in the context of microaggressions. You take issue with this notion. Could you tell us more?

3) Since we are talking about language and violence, I also wanted to bring up the constant threat of violence. You talk about Palestinian children experiencing ‘withheld violence.’

Your words reminded me of Fanon of course, and the muscular contraction of the colonized body. What does this imply in the P/I context?

4) I would like to end with something you say in the book, that ‘it takes perpetual learning and training to try and relate to the pain of others in a politically informed and committed manner.’

You also say: ‘More often than not, those who care for the pain of others are found in relative vulnerability themselves—political, physical, mental—thus chancing their becoming further undone.’

I think of the #BLM movement and its principled support for justice in Palestine. Could you expand on this important point.