Finally, a film celebrating the American heroine Harriet Tubman. Cynthia Erivo portrays the abolitionist passionately in Kasi Lemmons 2019 film. Harriet Tubman crossed 90 miles on foot to freedom in Philadelphia from Maryland. She succeeded despite being hunted down by slave catchers, and being illiterate. Harriet joined the Underground Railroad and made 13 subsequent trips into slave country to bring 70 other slaves to freedom. Harriet then commanded a regiment of freed slaves in the Civil War and ferried into the Confederacy to rescue black Americans from their former masters. She was the first woman in American history to lead a military regiment and engage in combat. Later, Harriet joined the women's suffrage movement. The film captures the extraordinary strength of conviction of this remarkable woman, and the obstacles she overcame in the name of liberty.
Good Girl's Revolt (2016)
Amazon Prime's series 'Good Girls Revolt' recreates the first ever lawsuit taken to the Equal Rights Commission. Set at the end of the 1960s, the series captures the cultural revolution sweeping America. From the Vietnam War and Black Panthers, to marriage and equal pay, this series recreates pivotal moments in American history with great care to honor the memory of the veterans and martyrs who shaped that history.
In the 60s and 70s, newsrooms across America forbade women from taking up the post of journalists, being instead limited to the positions of secretaries and researchers. Researchers were in fact writing the stories and doing the brunt of the work for the male journalists who made ten times as much and received all the recognition for groundbreaking reporting. Until, women at one specific newsroom took the publisher to the Equal Rights Commission to demand equal pay for equal work. The film also explores the intersectionality of being a black woman in America facing double discrimination, despite being qualified and hard working.
Hidden Figures (2016)
Directed by Theodore Melfi, this film brings to light the stories and contributions of three true American patriots.Three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) -- serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit. Without these 3 black women and their pure genius and persistence, white men would never have reached the stars. They overcame segregation and discrimination in the deep south to become leaders at NASA during the height of the Space Race between the USA and the USSR. At a time of high race tensions, many could not stomach that black women were in fact so intelligent that they held coveted positions at NASA, seen as the premier institution for the greatest minds in the world.
Katherine Johnson later calculated the trajectories for the Apollo 11 and Space Shuttle missions. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The following year, NASA dedicated the Langley Research Center's Katherine G. Johnson Computational Building in her honor. In 1949, Dorothy Vaughan became acting supervisor of the West Area Computers, the first African-American woman to supervise a group of staff at the center. She later was promoted officially to the position. During her 28-year career, Vaughan prepared for the introduction of machine computers in the early 1960s by teaching herself and her staff the programming language of Fortran. She later headed the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division (ACD) at Langley. Mary Jackson began as a computer at the segregated West Area Computing division in 1951. She took advanced engineering classes and, in 1958, became NASA's first black female engineer. After 34 years at NASA, Jackson had earned the most senior engineering title available. She realized she could not earn further promotions without becoming a supervisor. She accepted a demotion to become a manager of both the Federal Women's Program, in the NASA Office of Equal Opportunity Programs and of the Affirmative Action Program. In this role, she worked to influence the hiring and promotion of women of all backgrounds in NASA's science, engineering, and mathematics careers.
Fun fact: The first computers were in fact humans, who calculated complex arithmetic all by hand, including for space operations. How many of us can even fathom doing simple arithmetic without an actual calculator? The first computers, as we understand them, were created by IBM. They took up an entire room and simply functioned as the calculators we now have on our smart phones.
In the land of Blood and Honey (2011)
Written and Directed by Angelina Jolie, this Bosnian language film captures the horrors of a crime against humanity that hardly receives the memorialization and awareness it deserves. In 1995, Serbian rebels in Bosnia, along with support from the Serbian National Armed Forces, waged a civil war to overthrow the democratically elected government in Sarajevo. Horrifically, this was not enough to satiate the rebels. They wanted to eliminate all Bosniaks and claim Bosnia as a Serbian Orthodox homeland. Despite speaking the same language, sharing a common history, co-existing for hundreds of years, and identical appearances, the Serbians wanted to expel all Bosniaks simply because they were Muslim. They used any and every terror imaginable to realize this gruesome agenda. They rounded up Muslim women and imprisoned them in what was later dubbed, Rape Hotels. No women were spared. Elderly Muslim Bosniak women and young alike were subjected to daily humiliation and sexual abuse. Their babies were thrown off roofs and patios, killed before their mothers' eyes. Muslim men and boys, Bosniak civilians, were rounded up and shot, while their wives and mothers were forced to dig their mass graves. To this day, bodies continue to be uncovered. If you visit Bosnia today, you cannot go anywhere without seeing expansive cemeteries. 8,000 Bosniak Muslims were killed in just 3 years. Europe was paralyzed by shock. How could another genocide take place in Europe after the Holocaust. They thought they had seen the worst of humanity after WWII. Their horror is summarized best in the term they introduced to the International Criminal Court in acknowledgment of what took place-ethnic cleansing.
Angelina Jolie, an ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), spent much of her tenure drawing global attention to the plight of refugees in South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. However, she was particularly struck by the horrors that took place in Bosnia, yet the immense kindness and softness of her people today. She fell in love with Bosnia, and directed this film as a love letter to the victims and the survivors they left behind. Inspired to action, Angelina Jolie has lobbied to acknowledge rape as a weapon of war and a war crime.
LGSM (Lesbians and Gays support the Miners) was an unexpected alliance between the Welsh miners and the Queer community during the Miners' Strikes in Britain from March 6, 1984 – March 3, 1985. Members of the LGBT+ community in London were horrified by the treatment of the Welsh miners at the hands of Margaret Thatcher's anti-labour policies. Met with resistance at first, a beautiful partnership and friendship blossomed out of their shared resistance to prejudice and bias. The film is drastically different from most Queer films as the ending is a positive one, and the film is comic, warm and celebratory. Most Queer films have a tragic ending, painting a grim picture for our young Americans.
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)
Authored by a woman at a time when there were very few female authors in the world, Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel laid the ground work for the Civil War. Stowe was a passionate abolitionist, who authored the first work of art to highlight the brutal nature of slavery. As a quaker, her faith condemned any form of violence from war to slavery. Quakers, also known as The Society of Friends, began to protest slavery in the New World as early as 1688. The movement only gained momentum in the 1740s, after which quakers around the world successfully lobbied against the international slave trade in 1807, when the British -ruler of the seas- banned the practice. The British quakers had further success in 1838 when slavery was outlawed across the British Empire, effectively outlawing it in most of the world. In contrast, it was outlawed in the US as late as 1863, only to be replaced with Jim Crow and segregation. Ironically, if the US had remained a part of the British Empire, and later British Commonwealth, slavery and segregation would have ended in this land much earlier. The American quakers however, did not share their cousins' fortunes. They met considerable resistance in the US, but were not deterred. The quakers responded by creating the Underground Railroad. Working with freed slaves and white abolitionists alike, across the US to help slaves find freedom in the the North, even as far as Canada.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel was her major contribution to the abolitionist movement and quaker mission. Published in 1852, the novel had a profound effect on attitudes toward African Americans and slavery. Featuring the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave around whom the stories of other characters revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as enslavement of fellow human beings. Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, only outsold by the Bible itself . In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States; one million copies in Great Britain. The impact attributed to the book is great, reinforced by a story that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln declared, "so this is the little lady who started this great war." This novel was a vital antislavery tool and should be celebrated to this day for its efforts to bring humanity to the oppressed.
Orange is the New Black (2013)
One of the most groundbreaking series in 21st century America, Orange is the New Black shines a light on the realities of incarceration. Our so called 'justice system' is corrupt, racist and classist to its core as the series illustrates through narratives of women from all walks of life. You will be hard pressed to find a marginalized group not included in this explosive Netflix original. Whether it be rival hispanic groups in NYC, privileged white women from the Upper West Side, the mentally ill, queer women, trans-women, targeted black women, the series highlights the ongoing assault on civil liberties and basic humanity in this country. Not many of us are aware of the fact that our public justice system is managed by private corporations, call it socialism for the rich. These private corporations are incentivized to subjugate inmates to inhumane, and often, illegal conditions in order to maximize profits. Profits made off of tax dollars that were earmarked for rehabilitation, not for corporate executives to purchase new mansions. Worse so, most women released from this broken justice care system are disfranchised from society and are unable to obtain gainful employment. Abused by systems meant to protect the most vulnerable, these women are exploited by the corporate elite, who are in fact profiting off of these women as if they were cash cows. All the while abusing them repeatedly, rather than empowering them to contribute to society. Regardless of race, socio-economic factors contribute to criminal acts -acts of desperation- that lead vulnerable women to prison repeatedly, as they are unable to ever re-integrate into the society that disadvantaged them to begin with. In the wake of Black Lives Matter, we all need to better educate ourselves in regards to the systems of oppression and subjugation that remain in this country, even after Abolition and the Civil Rights Movement.
Emmeline Pankhurst, Leader of the Suffragette Movement
"Deeds not words will win us the vote"
During these times of global protests- Black Lives Matter, pro-democracy in Hong Kong, women's rights in Poland, and many more- we should look back in history to remember and celebrate the forefathers and foremothers of activism and protest. One of the greatest figures in history worth studying would be Emmeline Pankhurst. The mother of the Suffragette movement, Pankhurst introduced the concept of civil disobedience, sit-ins, hunger strikes and branding to civil rights causes. Women sentenced to prison for demanding the right to vote across the United Kingdom, defied the government by refusing to eat. The government responded by introducing force feeding, which permanently damaged many women internally. Below is an excerpt from her speech, delivered from Royal Albert Hall, to crowds of women before policemen forcibly broke up the peaceful meeting.
"Be militant each in your own way. Those of you who can express your militancy by going to the House of Commons and refusing to leave without satisfaction, as we did in the early days—do so. Those of you who can express militancy by facing party mobs at Cabinet Ministers' meetings, when you remind them of their falseness to principle—do so. Those of you who can express your militancy by joining us in our anti-Government by-election policy—do so. Those of you who can break windows—break them. Those of you who can still further attack the secret idol of property, so as to make the Government realize that property is as greatly endangered by women's suffrage as it was by the Chartists of old—do so.
And my last word is to the Government: I incite this meeting to rebellion. I say to the Government: You have not dared to take the leaders of Ulster for their incitement to rebellion. Take me if you dare, but if you dare I tell you this, that so long as those who incited to armed rebellion and the destruction of human life in Ulster are at liberty, you will not keep me in prison. So long as men rebels—and voters—are at liberty, we will not remain in prison, first division or no first division."
To learn more about this massive personality in the global movement for women's right to vote, read and/or watch:
Suffragette (2015 Film)
My Own Story (1914 Novel)
Freedom or Death (1913 Book/Speech)
Selma, a powerful and poignant film, captures the depths of passion, pain and hatred around the figures of the Civil Rights Movement. The film explores the movement around the context of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. While it does not showcase every notable figure of the Civil Rights Movement, it does honor those it does showcase such as: Martin Luther King Jr., Rosetta Scott King, Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz, President Johnson and the everyday heroes and martyrs of the march.
All The Way (2016)
"All the way with LBJ" was the campaign slogan of sitting President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. The 1964 election was a major transition point for the South, and an important step in the process by which the Democrats' former "Solid South" became a Republican bastion. LBJ defeated Republican Barry Goldwater in the largest majority to date. Johnson won with 61.1% of the popular vote, and 486 electoral votes to Goldwater's 52 electoral votes. No President has one by such a massive margin since. This film captures the work behind the scenes (the protests) to secure the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. While honoring the last New Deal President, the film explores the internal struggles Johnson faced in order to advance the cause of humanity through the fight against segregation and voter suppression. LBJ, a Southern Democrat and Texan, lost lifelong friends and colleagues for opposing segregation. However, acknowledging the urgency of the day and the humanity of the black Americans in his own immediate circles, he made those personal sacrifices for the greater good.
Only a personality like LBJ could ensure the passage of such a controversial bill as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The film illustrates just how Johnson's loud and towering presence/personality was so monumental in swinging votes in his favor. From declaring a "War on Poverty", and working towards a "Great Society" through programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Step Up, highway beautification, lake restoration and more, LBJ has had lasting influence on all Americans today.
Princess Kaiulani (2009)
Most Americans are aware of the egregious fact that the land we live on in continental America was stolen from the Indigenous peoples who had lived here for thousands of years. Despite having their own systems of belief/values, culture and political institutions, the European settlers saw fit to enslave and massacre hundreds of thousands of humans in the name of Christianity, White Supremacy and Social Darwinism. However, very few Americans are aware of the history of American treachery in Hawaii and exactly how this holiday destination became a US state. To most of us, Hawaii is just a picturesque set of islands we would like to visit for our Honeymoon. The fact remains, yet eludes most, that the history of how America came into possession of these islands is a dark one.
On Jan. 17, 1893, Hawaii's monarchy was overthrown when a group of businessmen and sugar planters forced Queen Liliuokalani to abdicate. The coup led to the dissolving of the Kingdom of Hawaii two years later, its annexation as a U.S. territory and eventual admission as the 50th state in the union. The Hawaiian Monarchy was 80 years old at the time of dissolution, however the Hawaiian people had settled the islands as early as 400 C.E. In 1778, English colonialist James Cook landed on the islands, and in typical European fashion declared that he had in fact discovered the islands. Within five years, European military technology helped Kamehameha I conquer and unify the islands for the first time, establishing the Kingdom of Hawaii. The kingdom was prosperous and signifiant to the west for its agriculture and strategic location in the Pacific. American immigration began almost immediately after Cook's arrival, led by Protestant missionaries. Americans set up plantations to grow sugar. Their methods of plantation farming required substantial labor. Waves of permanent immigrants came from Japan, China, and the Philippines to work in the fields. The government of Japan organized and gave special protection to its people, who comprised about 25 percent of the Hawaiian population by 1896. The native population succumbed to disease brought by the Europeans (particularly smallpox), declining from 300,000 in the 1770s to over 60,000 in the 1850s to 24,000 in 1920. Americans within the kingdom government rewrote the constitution, severely curtailing the power of King "David" Kalākaua, and disenfranchising the rights of most Native Hawaiians and Asian citizens to vote, through excessively high property and income requirements. This gave a sizeable advantage to plantation owners. Queen Liliuokalani attempted to restore royal powers in 1893 but was placed under house arrest by businessmen with help from the US military. Against the Queen's wishes, the Republic of Hawaii was formed for a short time. This government agreed on behalf of Hawaii to join the US in 1898 as the Territory of Hawaii. In 1959, the islands became the state of Hawaii of the United States.
From the first encounter with the English, European ceremony and iconography began to replace native forms in the Monarchy. The King and Queen adopted European dress and styles. The Kingdom was organized more like a European Kingdom, than a Polynesian one. Westernization rapidly spread among the indigenous peoples, who were coerced into learning English and adopting western manner in order to remain relevant in an economy that was coming under the sole control of westerners. Today, there are only 298,000 indigenous Hawaiians on the islands, despite the overall population of the state sitting at 1.4 million. After the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Crown by American invaders, the Hawaiian language was banned. Today, only 24,000 of the island's 1.4 million can speak the language fluently. Hawaii is a perfect example of how this country almost eradicated an entire culture and people. Hawaiians are working tirelessly to save their endangered language and heritage. In 1997, the number of speakers had been as low as 2,000, most of whom lived on the island of Ni'ihau. The island was not seen as a priority by the Americans, and had been spared excessive interference in their daily lives, allowing them to retain much of their historic identities.
The film recreates the events articulated above, through the POV of the last Hawaiian Crown Princess. Princess Kaiulani fought tirelessly to preserve the rights and dignity of her people. While D.C was in talks with the American imperialists on the islands, the Princess led an international campaign to ensure that her people would be afforded U.S citizenship and all the rights entailed in order to be spared the tragic fate of other minorities in continental America.
The British were notorious for oppressing the indigenous peoples they colonized throughout the world. Considering the fact that the British ruled 1/3 of the habitable world, few were spared the consequences of imperialism and westernization. The indigenous peoples, assigned the dirty term aboriginal by the British in Australia, were almost entirely wiped out by Anglo-Celtic settlers. This star studded film honors the victims of Britain's penal colony with powerful performances from Australia's best actors and actresses. With remarkable sensitivity, the film illustrates the depth of suffering the indigenous experienced, and the horrific racism driving that suffering.
Australia's lost generation, an entire generation of indigenous children, were kidnapped from their families by churches, christian missions and the British colonial administration. They were forced to abandon their customs, language and identities. Instead, adopting western customs, christianity and whiteness.
Set on the eve of WWII, Australia, one of the crowning jewels of the British Empire, was center stage. Fears of Japanese invasion, the fall of Britain and the Crown to Hitler, and starvation drove tensions up throughout the island continent. The indigenous people were often the ones preyed upon as outlets for that frustration. This film not only highlights the crimes against humanity, but also the integral role indigenous Australians played in Britain's victory. Thousands of British subjects around the world fought the Nazis, yet only the European sacrifice is visible in cinema. The Bengalis, Indians, South Africans who fought for Britain were often ignored.
This film is a celebration of the indigenous struggle to preserve their heritage in the face of massive opposition, and the allies who stood by them.
This Slovenian language film, explores the complexities of human sexuality. We live in such a binary world, where many people refuse to accept that there are any gray areas in any forms of identity. Either you are trans or cis, either you are gay or straight. Humans are not 1-dimensional. We are 3-dimensional. We are complex and multi-layered, and no two of us are alike. Labels have a harmful affect on human expression and identity, othering people that are different from the majority. More so, people find themselves limited from exploring their understanding of themselves, careful not to step outside the preconceived notions of others.
If we examine ancient history (pre-christianity and pre-Islam), societies in Greece, Rome, Japan, Africa and the Americas did not have words in their language to identify someone as homosexual, bisexual, asexual, pansexual. Expectations did exist that men and women pro-create for the sake of the community, however, sexual behavior was not scrutinized by government or public institutions. There may have been class limitations, as these civilizations were strictly hierarchical, and one should not interact (sexually or otherwise) with those of a higher or lower status. In today's world, we scramble to invent a new word for every individual with a characteristic or practice we don't see as conventional.
In this film, the writer and director explore the sexuality around multiple young Slovenian males, all of whom have had encounters with the police services and courts, and would be labeled by the legal system as delinquents. The two male leads have an "ambiguous" sexual orientation, never actually defining themselves as heterosexual, bi-curious, hetero-flexible, or what have you. They are sexually active with one another, other men, and other women. These casual encounters would confuse many, who feel as though you have to "make up your mind". In fact, bisexuality is on the rise in the states and Europe, where as in the UK and Germany, more and more young people don't identify with a label, but on a spectrum.
Based on true events, this film celebrates the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision to outlaw banning of interracial marriages. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a landmark civil rights decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that laws banning interracial marriage violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
This powerful story and the equally powerful performances of the cast, celebrates the strength of love and family. Overcoming opposition from all sides, the Loving family defied the conventions of the day, married and raised a family. Whites, and even some blacks, opposed them, claiming that mixed race children would be unfairly disadvantaged since they would not be accepted by either community. This family took on the enormous burden of proving everyone wrong, so everyone else in America could marry whom they loved despite the color of their skin.