Truthfully, I have a very boring bucket list. Actually, I have a non-existent bucket list. There are only a few things that I want to accomplish before my death, and since these things are so few I never felt the need to list them. These wishes are more like pipe dreams – things I passionately want but would never expect to actually happen…until one actually did.
I have always been fascinated with African-American history in the US. My lullabies were negro spirituals. My cartoons were 90s sitcoms with all Black casts. My bedtime stories were newspaper articles about the Civil Rights Movement. I had the urge to march before I could walk. So when the opportunity arrived to meet Angela Davis, I stopped rushing to my Italian class and decided that I would be a little late.
A day before the iconic Angela Davis and feminist thinker Gina Dent spoke to the New York University Florence community about systemic racism within American institutions, two NYU Florence students organized a series of panels to discuss how race and gender impact the representations and interactions of Black women globally. The event was entitled the “Black Femininity Series.” Six Black women, leaders in their respective fields, shared their experiences and reflected on how they combat the prejudices they face that affect their professional relationships and self-perceptions.
I was one of the organizers of the event alongside my friend and colleague Rahni Davis. Rahni and I are young Black women ourselves, passionate about diversity, promoting more nuanced representations of Black women and their role in society, and bringing this diverse conversation to the global forum in Florence, Italy. On a cold October evening together we jotted down a proposal for the Black Femininity Series in the basement of Rahni’s home stay. The idea ascended to heights we never anticipated. Read more
Black Femininity Panelist Rachel Wang is sharing with the NYU Florence community access to her incredible work with the project 1000 Londoners, produced under her film production company Chocolate Films.
To Wang, this work is a source of inspiration and shines light on the extraordinary black women that exist in our world today.
Saran Kaba Jones is the Founder and CEO of FACE Africa, a community development organization working to strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and services in rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa. Since launching FACE Africa in January 2009, the organization has funded over 50 projects and reached 25,000 people in rural Liberia. Prior to founding FACE Africa, Ms. Jones worked at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and as an Investment Project Manager for the Singapore Economic Development Board. She is currently a Board Member of the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Group West/Central Africa and is also a member of the U.S. State Department’s International Information Programs. She has been listed by The Guardian as one of Africa’s 25 Top Women Achievers, by Forbes magazine as one of the 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa and by Black Enterprise as one of 10 International Women of Power. Saran is a frequent speaker on topics including water infrastructure, entrepreneurship and gender equality and has served on panels at the World Economic Forum, Harvard University, MIT, the London School of Economics, and the African Union. Read more
Zerlina Maxwell is a TV political analyst, speaker, and writer. She has a law degree from Rutgers Law School and a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University. Her writing focuses on national politics, candidates, and specific policy and cultural issues including race, feminism, domestic violence, sexual assault, victim blaming and gender inequality. She has consulted with the United States Department of State to promote the use of social media by students in the West Bank and is a frequent speaker at colleges, universities, and organizations. Maxwell has succeeded in leveraging her voice on social media: she has been profiled in The New York Times as a top political Twitter voice to follow during the 2012 election season and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the best Twitter feeds in 2014. In 2015, Maxwell was one of five journalists invited to travel on Air Force One with President Obama on his trip to Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Maxwell has hosted live political and celebrity interviews for The Huffington Post and her writing has appeared in New York Daily News, The Washington Post, JET, Marie Claire and CNN.com. Maxwell was a frequent fill in host for ‘Make It Plain’ with Mark Thompson on Sirius XM Progress and also a democratic commentator on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. She most recently served as the Director of Progressive Media for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Rachel Wang is a Black British filmmaker, producer and entrepreneur. She won the award for Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2015 Black British Business Awards and is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Middlesex University. Wang developed her video production company, Chocolate Films, 15 years ago to produce documentaries and film content. Clients include Buckingham Palace (Royal Collection), Jeep, Arup, Museum of London and the Bargello Museum (Florence). Chocolate Films also serves as a social enterprise that outreaches to disadvantaged young people and adults of diverse community groups and deprived backgrounds with film-making workshops in animation, drama and documentary and community public engagement programs.
Wang is passionate about promoting diversity in the media. Her first cinema film, Afro-Saxons, was a feature-length observational documentary that followed five Afro-Caribbean salons as they competed for the biggest hair competition in the UK. In a review by The Guardian the movie was herald for the “unpretentious way” it describes the “creativity and entrepreneurialism in modern Britain, and it’s impossible to watch it without a smile on your face.” Afro-Saxons was re-released in 2015 as part of the British Film Institute’s ‘Britain on Film’ season. Currently, Wang serves as the Creative Director of the award winning web-series 1000 Londonerswhich was born from her desire to create a digital portrait of London to showcase the eclectic tapestry of Londoners though a diverse collection of 1,000 short documentaries. These three-minute short films are published online and shown in cinemas with the support of the British Film Institute and Film London. The project intends to “insight into the lives of 1000 people who consider themselves to be Londoners, taking in all ages, religions, race, income, interests and opinions.”
Watch her Chocolate Films co-founder Mark Currie give a TedxTalk on 1000 Londoners on YouTube or read an interview of Rachel about the 1000 Londoners project here.
Come to our Black Femininity Series panel on “Black Women on the Screen” and hear Rachel discuss her experience as a Black women in the media and film production industries!