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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Sydney Augustine at 1:07PM

Written by Sydney Augustine, Sports Media ‘19, Blogging Intern, Queens, New York


As a Black American woman, I have always found myself constantly in the role of an educator. It feels as if since I left the comfort of my mother’s womb, I have either been bombarded with questions or put in the uncomfortable position to correct when it comes to the topic of blackness.

From having to explain the social construction that is race to justifying the power that exists in racism to enlightening many of white privilege to condemning cultural appropriation, I have been suffocating in academia for years.

The second-half of my experience at FLEFF allowed me to breathe.

Between Thursday and Sunday, a series of events occured that celebrated and positively embraced Black culture. And I was able to find comfort, peace, and pride in my identity as a Black woman.

Thursday, at noon, I attended Philip Mallory Jones’ Master Class in Job Hall. I already had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Jones for the FLEFF blog, but the Master Class gave me (as well as others) a chance to journey through South side Chicago during the 1930s and 40s.

After taking an in-depth look of Mr. Jone’s most recent work, “Bronzeville: Etudes & Riffs”, students all presented takeaways. My friend, Ashae, expressed that she deeply admired Mr. Jone’s for not trying to provide an explanation for his work, especially because Black artists often try to justify their work to white audiences.

Though I had already viewed many of Mr. Jone’s vibrant and detailed digital pieces, Ashae’s statement reminded me of my earlier interview.

Mr. Jone’s disruption is unique because it isn’t loud and bold like many define chaos to believe. Instead he disrupts the narrative with silence and providing no explanation. His work is meant to resonate with people who were there during that era or those who share similar experiences.

If you don’t fully understand it, that is fine. You are more than welcome to bask in the beauty of Mr. Jone’s work but do not ask for an explanation.

My presence has always been a disruption as I take my seat in classrooms full of peers who do not look like and who definitely do not share similar experiences. Because of this, I have always felt a need to justify my success and prove why I belong in white-controlled spaces.

There is an immense amount of anger and pain in that and it will not melt away overnight, but I believe there is something amazing about Black people, where they take that pain to create fantastic work. I saw this with the FLEFF diversity scholars who are working on obtaining their doctorates and in the Sunday screening of Mr. Soul!

The late and great Maya Angelou said it best, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”


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