In 1976, a group of Black feminist artists and activists in New York co-organized the first Black women’s film festival: the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts. From January to March, 2023, the University of Chicago, Film Studies Center, Logan Center for the Arts, South Side Projections, Sisters in Cinema and partners across Chicago and beyond will celebrate the legacy of that festival with the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts 2023, a nine-week screening series and symposium devoted to Black women’s filmmaking of the 1970s-1990s.
Five Black feminist artists and activists — Michele Wallace, Faith Ringgold, Patricia Spears Jones, Margo Jefferson and Monica Freeman — co-organized the 1976 Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts. Films by Michelle Parkerson, Ayoka Chenzira and Madeline Anderson, among others, were screened. None of the films at the festival had received mainstream theatrical release; they were all independently produced and difficult for moviegoers to find. The festival, which took place at New York’s Women’s Interart Center, powerfully linked Black women’s filmmaking to other art forms: Ntozake Shange and Joanne Braxton gave poetry readings; Ringgold debuted a performance piece; Camille Billops lectured on art history; and an array of artists participated in panel discussions.
Situating new film work by Black women within a broader Black feminist arts ecosystem, the 1976 festival was simultaneously a celebration of the emerging world of Black women’s filmmaking as well as a radical call for the kinds of sociopolitical and institutional changes necessary for a Black women’s film culture to thrive.
Four decades later, the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts 2023 will commemorate the 1976 festival with a nine-week Jan. 5-March 2 screening series in conjunction with University of Chicago Department of Cinema and Media Studies Professor Allyson Nadia Field’s winter 2023 course on Black Women’s Filmmaking of the 1970s. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.