"Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?" is a film about threats -- racial and otherwise

FILM & VIDEO REVIEW

“Trust me when I tell you this isn’t a white savior story. This is a white nightmare story.”
--Travis Wilkerson

If I were a moth, the story of white men reckoning with race in America would singe my wings every time. With that in mind, I was not disappointed when I went to see Travis Wilkerson’s Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? on March 24 as part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. In fact, there are about eight pieces I could write about this film, which was one of the 10 features in competition at the year's fest and ended up winning the Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film.

Diaspora Dimensions: The films in URe:AD TV grapple with black representation

FILM & VIDEO REVIEW

“The diaspora is a cultural continuum. An ever-evolving consideration of Blackness is its vehicle.”
--Ashley Stull Meyers

The United Re: Public of the African Diaspora Television (URe:Ad TV) special program at the Ann Arbor Film Festival was an experience. 

URe:AD TV is a network of creators who make print and audiovisual work by and for the African diaspora. Curated by Shani Peters and Sharita Towne, the works grapple with the meaning(s) of black representation. By "grapple," it could be said that these works record meaning, and make meaning.

Ephraim Asili’s "Diaspora Suite" explores the influence of African culture throughout the world

FILM & VIDEO REVIEW

Ephraim Asili The first time that I really thought about the African diaspora was in college. During a Caribbean literature class, the concept of diaspora was ever present. Despite having taken several American history classes, considering the Caribbean diaspora is what led me to attempt to understand myself as a part of the African diaspora. 

Ephraim Asili’s Diaspora Suite -- shown March 22 at the Michigan Theater as part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival -- presented an excellent opportunity to examine someone else’s take on the topic. This collection of five films explores the interaction of past, present, and place it relates to the African diaspora. The films were shot in a variety of locations, among them Ethiopia, Harlem, Ghana, Philadelphia, Brazil, and Detroit. 

Exist & Resist: U-M's Yoni Ki Baat group encouraged women of color with "Resistance"

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Kyla Cano, a member of U-M organization Yoni Ki Baat

Kyla Cano, a junior at U-M majoring in screen arts and cultures and communication studies, was one of the speakers at Resistance. Photo by Hannah Qin from Yoni Ki Baat's Facebook page.

On March 9 and March 10, Yoni Ki Baat, an organization that seeks to educate the campus about the issues pertaining to South Asian women and all women of color, produced Resistance, a show inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.

In fact, Yoni Ki Bat is Sanskrit for “talks of the vagina.”

Gaining Experience: A2SO's "Music From Harry Potter"

MUSIC REVIEW

Sherlonya Turner and her son at the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra's performance of the Music From Harry Potter

“I’m going to have to make you a wand. You can’t be out with me without a wand.” --My son

On more than one occasion, my son has pointed out to me that I’m lucky that he, a teenager, still wants to hang out with me, you know, a mom. With that in mind, as soon as he mentioned that the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra would be at Michigan Theater playing songs from Harry Potter, I pulled out my debit card and secured tickets for the Sunday, March 4, afternoon matinee performance.

Fulfilling Promises: Sherri Winston discussed her writing process at AADL

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Sherri Winston

“You’re like family now because the weather has conspired against us.” --Sherri Winston

If you want to attend an intimate author event, attend one during a snow (slush?) storm that follows an unseasonably warm day. On Thursday, March 1, middle-grade author Sherri Winston talked about her latest projects and her process at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Asking to Be Written: Robin Coste Lewis at UMMA

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Robin Coste Lewis

When the first poem in a book is titled “Plantation,” you should probably just go ahead, pour yourself a drink, sit somewhere quiet, and prepare to be transported.

I suppose you should expect to be transported, too, by a book called Voyage of the Sable Venus, especially since it won the National Book Award for Poetry.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, Robin Coste Lewis read her work as a part of the Zell Writers Series. I don’t know how it is possible that an auditorium feels cozy, but that was the vibe in UMMA’s Helmut Stern Auditorium that evening: warm, relaxed, somewhat dark. 

Jagged Paths: Morgan Jerkins at Literati

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Morgan Jerkins, This Will Be My Undoing

I accidentally purchased two copies of Morgan Jerkins' This Will Be My Undoing. I bought one copy the day it came out and the second copy, a digital one when I mislaid the first, because I simply couldn’t wait to read more. She writes about things I have thought about but don’t think I’m brave enough to put on paper. It seems important to her that she writes openly. “Hey, I’m messy," she said at her Feb. 16 reading at Literati.

Life, Stories: U-M's 4th annual W. M. Trotter Lecture focused on trans lives

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Janet Mock

Janet Mock was one of the headline speakers at the 4th annual W.M. Trotter Lecture.

I think that the first time I heard Janet Mock was on the Another Round podcast. She charmed me right away. I loved her passion and the way that she told her story. So, when I heard she was going to speak on Feb. 8 at the University of Michigan's Rackham Auditorium, I knew I wanted to be there at the 4th annual W. M. Trotter Lecture, “My Life. My Story! Centering the Voices of Trans Lives.”

I hadn’t taken a close look at the event when I reserved tickets for me and my son. I didn’t know I was going to spend an entire evening listening to seven trans people of color share their stories and then spend the entire weekend thinking about what I heard. On the other side of the event, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Homes and Homelands: Yaa Gyasi at Rackham Auditorium

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

U-M professors Guarev Desai and Aida Levy-Hussen joined author Yaa Gyasi (center) at Rackham Auditorium on Feb. 6.

U-M professors Gaurav Desai and Aida Levy-Hussen joined author Yaa Gyasi (center) at Rackham Auditorium on Feb. 6. Photo by Lisa Powers.

I am a little afraid to read Yaa Gyasi’s novel, Homegoing, much for the same reason I’ve picked up but never finished reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I’m gun shy when it comes to fiction that portrays, in any fashion, chattel slavery. I’ve never even seen Roots. For me, there is something extremely uncomfortable about knowing my existence and all the opportunities that have come with it are a direct result of my ancestors’ suffering.

On Feb. 6, I had to face my fears to a certain degree at “Homegoing: A Conversation with Yaa Gyasi,” the 2018 Institute for the Humanities Jill S. Harris Memorial Lecture, which took place at Rackham Auditorium. Homegoing is also the 2018 Washtenaw Reads book, a title selected by a panel of community members from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township, Saline, and Ypsilanti. The Washtenaw Reads program aims to promote reading and dialogue through community members experiencing and discussing a common book.