Artists Are My Muse – #BlackStarFest14


by Joy Simone–

The BlackStar Film Festival was an awesome experience. First of all, it’s grown tremendously in three years. The level of attendees and the turnout was impressive. Most of all, however, it was such a nurturing environment for artists (filmmakers, writers, singers, etal.). I am reminded that these events, in their best moments, are a wonderful way to network and find inspiration, delve deeper and remember why you wanted to express yourself… and most importantly what you wanted to say.

Abstract analysis aside, I saw two films, Little White Lie and Stay Cold, Stay Hungry. White lie is a documentary about a woman who grew up believing she was Jewish, and was not made aware of her African American ancestry until she was a college student. It was gritty and raw, healing, and it approached the topic of race in a unique way, one that illuminated all sides of the issue, including an intense realness from the subject’s mother — through the course of the film, she admits to an affair and the reasons for her betrayal. Lacey Schwartz, the film’s writer, director, and main character, provides fodder for a wealth of race related discussions.

Lacey Schwartz
Lacey Schwartz and panel discuss “Little White Lie”

There was a packed house for this film, which debuted in San Francisco’s Jewish Film Festival two days later. There’s more in this New York Times review . I see in this film an opportunity to discuss skin color and “black hair issues”, class issues, race and ethnicity vs. skin color, parenting issues, and family secrets. Family secrets is a universal issue that obviously affects all cultures and races. In the African American community, secrets about heritage and upbringing are often harmful because they prevent children from learning their history as well as breaking harmful traditions that no longer serve us.

Festival Highlights

Some of my favorite moments were getting to know Marla Harris (BlackStar Film Festival Operations Manager and Volunteer Coordinator) – But I don’t have any pics with her 😦 – and meeting and discussing Black film with CEO Michael Dennis (Mike D.). Dennis also heads ReelblackTV. (Reelblack TV is currently in its fifth season on PhillyCAM and  It features interviews with up-and-coming filmmakers, musicians and living legends. Our goal is to capture and document the New Black Film Revolution.) founder Mike Dennis
Selfie with Mike. D of

I also met Tanya Wright of Orange is the New Black and True Blood fame. She was there to promote her new book, I Found God in My Hair – 98 spiritual principles I learned from…my hair! I couldn’t resist purchasing. The hair journey is such a profound one for many black women.

Author Tanya Wright
Selfie with actress Tanya Wright #OISNB #Trueblood


Volunteer selfie

The Black Star Film Festival 2014 announced its winners Sunday night at a closing ceremony at the World Cafe Live. A complete list of winners is here.

Definitely looking forward to being involved next year. Who knows, I might enter the competition myself.




A Belated Tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou

10458903_10152523824654593_247459233218316966_nI still cannot believe that Maya Angelou is gone. I can barely keep up with the passing of our matriarchs and patriarchs who through art, protest, words and actions provided a reference point for nobility, strength and courage.

Maya did for me what she did for many Black girls, she gave me a feeling of belonging. I was so excited when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I cherished every word and syllable, explored the world with Maya, a woman who had overcome odds and challenges and maintained her stride with grace and elegance.

I post her poem here, And Still I Rise, because some days it’s like that old Gospel song, it gets inside you and reminds you that you never walk alone!

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou1928 – 2014
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.