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Statewide coalition presents Black History Month Film Festival in OKC

blk history month poster

By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
A statewide coalition of community organizations and artists will present the Black History Month Film Festival on Saturday, February 21 in Oklahoma City.  This event is free and open to the pubic.

The festival venue, from 10 a.m. to noon, will be the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive. Then, from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. the event moves to Cinemark Tinseltown, 6001 Martin Luther King Blvd.  

Festival lead organizers are Tiffany McKnight and Jaybe Holiday.

“The festival will include award-winning films from Sundance Film Festival, locally-produced short films, civil rights films and biographies of great Oklahomans like Wayman Tisdale, Anita Hill and Clara Luper,” said Ayanna Najuma, a festival organizer.

Najuma was one of the original sit-in activists featured in Julia Clifford’s documentary film ‘Children of the Civil Rights.’”

The festival opens with films and art activities for children 3-12, including a curated tour of the current History Center’s pictorial exhibit “Colored Memories,” which features 25 digitally colorized photographs from Boley, OK in the 1920s.

Oklahoma City University adjunct film professor James Cooper will offer a class on the history of African American cinema and Andre and Jessilyn Head, of the Coltrane Group, will present a selection of short films about Oklahoma’s historically black towns.

McKnight said, “This isn’t just a film festival. This is a place for people to reconnect to their roots! As black people we have had to survive a long history of violence, but now we should focus on celebrating our lives because a lot of our families paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to still be here. 

“It makes me so happy to know that this festival is deep on many levels, and has the opportunity to bring families, friends, and most importantly communities together for one purpose – celebrating the legacy of black life,” McKnight added. 

The festival continues at the Cinemark Tinseltown, where guests age 12 and older can attend a film seminar series and see a selection of feature-length films and shorts available on two screens.

The seminars will include How to Make Movies, Meet the Casting Agents, How to Write a Screenplay, and Entertainment Law: Know Your Rights.

Film screenings begin at 1 p.m. with “The Wayman Tisdale Story,” the Emmy Award-winning documentary about the life of the OU basketball legend and jazz musician.

A curated selection of Oklahoma Shorts Films will screen at 2 p.m.

“Children of the Civil Rights,” a new film by director Julia Clifford will begin at 3 p.m., featuring a discussion with Ayanna Najuma and other participants of the historical Oklahoma City sit-ins.

At 4 p.m., Inclusion in Arts will present online film competition winners, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Sundance Film Festival comedy “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,” will screen at 5 p.m.

At 6 p.m. there will be a screening of “ANITA,” a documentary by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Mock about OU Law Professor Anita Hill. The film gives a rare glimpse into Hill’s private life, then and now, and the events that led her to testify before the Senate.

“Take Me to the River,” a music documentary about the rise and fall of Memphis’ Stax Records during the 1960s will begin screening at 7 p.m. Cast members include Terrence Howard, Mavis Staples and Snoop Dogg.

Director Jeymes Samuel’s western adventure “They Die by Dawn” begins at 8 p.m. Set in Langston, OK, the film stars Erykah Badu, Rosario Dawson and Michael K. Williams. 

“Big thanks to Lance McDaniel for putting his money where his mouth is,” said Holiday. “Without deadCenter Film Festival this event would not be possible.”

Other community groups involved in making the Black History Month Film Festival happen are The Coltrane Group, Bare Bones Film Festival in Muskogee, The Charlie Christian Festival in Lawton, Langston University and The Urban League, and local artists Josh Norman, Njeri Haygood, Nathan Lee and Mauricio Griffin.

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