ThrowBackThursday: A Night At The Movies… ahem, Film Fest

Popcorn Buckets at the Door.

It’s #ThrowBackThursday and I’ve been looking through my old blog posts. This is one that’s been listed under my “Last Updated” tab since November 2011. Basically, it was still a draft. I’d been really excited about this post when I first started the topic, but other things came up and somehow I never got back to it. After a while, I started to feel like it wasn’t “new” and “fresh” enough anymore. But who says there’s nothing of value to be had in a slightly middle-aged post? That’s what ThrowBackThursday’s are for! So without further ado, I give you ‘A Night At The Movies… ahem, Film Fest.’

For anyone passing through the Georgia State University campus in downtown Atlanta, GA last Wednesday night it would have looked like a typical evening in college town. Vendors and restaurants closing up shop after the rush, young people making plans with friends about what to do with their next few hours of freedom, and a few dedicated students just heading inside for evening classes. But in one of those classrooms there was a group of students, faculty, and community members coming together for something not so typical to the University. On the corner of Decatur Street and Central Avenue, in the Classroom South Building, a student film festival and panel discussion was taking place burgeoning with fresh young talent and creative ability.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m all about scoping out the new and fresh creative scene. So now that I’ve given you the perfect visual, let’s cut to the juicy parts!

The First Annual Black Student Film Festival (sadly, it was the 1st and only edition of this festival) featured submissions across seven genres: Documentary, Suspense/Mystery/Horror, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Action, and Music/Video – and there were over 20 films screened during the two day festival.

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One of my favorites was the documentary “Keepers of the Culture” – by Amris Bell & Imani Warren

This piece took me back to my childhood days hearing my mother and aunts playfully refer to our family as “a bunch of Guichie’s [sp]” because we all love to eat white rice in place of the more traditional Southern African American breakfast, Grits. I gotta admit, I can throw down on some long grain Carolina white rice! At the time, I thought the word Guichie was simply a reference to rice farmers from the wet marshlands of North and South Carolina.

Around the time I started college, I learned two things. First, that I’d been misspelling the word for years. I think I subconsciously wanted to throw a little French Creole flavor in there. It’s actually spelled “Geechee”. You learn something new every day! I also learned that the Geechees are more than just rice farmers. They’re an entire community of people who migrated to the US from various Afro-Caribbean islands and countries. They’ve managed to preserve a distinct culture – known as the Gullah culture – within this small region. Remember that Nickelodeon children’s show, Gullah Gullah Island? That’s right. It was about the Geechee people of South Carolina!

I was intrigued to discover all this because it shed new light on one of my family’s great mysteries. My grandmother’s real name. I’ve started to think she may have had an Afro-Caribbean background on her father’s side of the family – and a first name to match! Bernice Hopkins, as we all knew her, was the daughter of Susannah Green. Susannah died in child birth when my grandmother was two years old, and Bernice wound up being raised by her maternal grandmother, Betty. So the story goes, Betty never really cared for the name Susannah (or Susannah’s husband, maybe?) had given my grandmother at birth. She made sure my grandmother always knew her real name, but she personally chose to call her by what we think was actually her middle name, Bernice.

When my grandmother got older, she did a bit of the typical teenage rebelling and ran off with a man who was never any good for her. You know the type. Gambler, swindler, drunkard, and all around skirt chaser. But he was fun, exciting, and her over-protective mother (in this case, grandmother) disapproved, so he had to be Mr. Right! Right? Needless to say, the marriage lasted just long enough for him to think he could “lay hands” on my grandmother and she ended it.

Time went by, she met my grandfather, they got married, and she needed to fill out the paper work for a legal name change. Betty had passed away by this time and my grandmother was looking for a way to say “Thank you for raising me and I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you sooner.” She decided that, although she would always respect her birth mother, the woman she had become was forever tied to the principles Betty taught her. She decided to legally change both her first and last name.

I think she saw it as the great secret of her life. Something that gave her a certain “Je ne sais quoi.” My grandfather probably knew her “real” first name. But neither of them would ever tell the rest of us. She took that knowledge with her to her grave. I’ve often thought about trying to discover her secret. I have an Ancestry.com account, but I go back and forth in my mind about whether it would be a betrayal of her confidence. Then again, if I knew it, I’d name a daughter after her. I still haven’t decided and I may never decide. But films like the one above are a nice reminder that I have a rich cultural history with “new”, “fresh” stories to discover every day!

If you live in the Atlanta area and are interested in other global/ cultural events in the Arts, check out CENCIA’s website. Their current schedule takes audiences from France to Greece to Brazil and back to the United States. Talk about culture! ~ cS

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