Fri 5/1 @ 6:30-8:30pm
Sistah Sinema invites you to spend an evening watching two short films about transwomen of color in connection with the I AM: a Trans* Art Exhibit at Waterloo Arts. The films, Kumu Hina: A Place in the Middle and Stealth, will be followed with a discussion led by local trans activist Zoë Renee Lapin. Both films were initially screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
The event is free with a suggested $5 cash donation to benefit Margie’s Hope, a nonprofit helping transgender people secure stable housing, employment and other necessities.
We spoke to Deidre McPherson of Sistah Sinema, Amy Callahan of Waterloo Arts and Zoë Renee Lapin about these films and what the screenings and art exhibition means for the community.
CoolCleveland: How did you decide to put on this event?
Deidre McPherson (DM): This event was inspired by an art exhibit called I AM: A trans* art exhibit currently on view at Waterloo Arts. I AM: a trans* art exhibit currently on display through May 25. Amy Callahan, executive director of Waterloo Arts, invited Sistah Sinema to present a film that would connect audiences to the exhibit.
Amy Callahan (AC): Local artist Craig Matis proposed the idea to Waterloo Arts of doing a transgender art exhibit after he spent time listening to the stories of trans individuals and their families. Craig wanted a way for these stories to reach a broader audience. In planning the exhibit we developed a more comprehensive project we call the Trans* Art and Video Project, which includes community educational workshops, panel talks, film screenings, our own video interviews with transgender individuals, as well as a way for the trans community to record and share their own story on our website, and finally, the art exhibit I Am, featuring 15 transgender artists from round the country. Sistah Sinema is an excellent partner and we were thrilled that they agreed to present these films during the exhibit.
What made you decide to screen these two particular films?
DM: There are major challenges that go along with being a transgender individual (discrimination, assault, bullying, significant health disparities, etc.), but that’s not the focus of these films. These are two uplifting and inspiring films that offer examples of how to be a compassionate human being.
AC: I like that the subject for these films are young people because I think it is important for schools, parents and communities to be accepting of how children identify at a young age to help mitigate the pain and suffering that happens when we marginalize people for being truthful about who they are.
Kumu Hina: A Place in the Middle is a documentary about an 11-year-old Hawaiian girl (Ho’onani) that dreams of leading her school hula group, but the group is just for boys. Thankfully, her teacher, a proud transgender woman and respected community leader, knows what it’s like to be ‘in the middle,’ the ancient Hawaiian tradition of embracing both male and female spirit. Together they set out to prove that what matters most is being true to yourself. This film received an Honorable Mention for the Spalding + Jackson Award (In Celebration of Joy) at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival.
Stealth, is about an 11-year-old named Sammy that is trying to make friends and fit in at a new school. But Sammy has a secret: she was born a boy, but knows that she was meant to be a girl. As she makes new friends, they get closer to discovering her secret and she has to decide if and when to tell them. This film won the Best Student Short Film Award at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival.
What do you hope viewers will take away from the event/films?
DM: I hope the Pledge of Aloha from Kumu Hina sticks with people. Part of that pledge is that every person has a role in society and deserves to be included and treated with respect in their family, school and community. The pledge also states every person should be free to express what is truly in their heart and mind, whether male, female or in the middle.
AC: I hope that viewers will listen humbly to the experience of trans people, both when viewing these films and when seeing the artwork in the exhibit I Am. I hope they come away with an understanding that the gender we identify with is not a choice, it is how we come into this world and we all deserve the dignity of being able to express this truth. I hope viewers will ask questions and try to better understand this subject so they move beyond acceptance to appreciating trans individuals as fully as they would any other individual in our society.
Can you provide more details about Margie’s Hope and the Cleveland trans community in general? What are the community’s biggest obstacles? And how can they be overcome?
Zoë Renee Lapin: Margie’s Hope assists transgender individuals in need. Margie’s Hope is the manifestation of Jacob Nash’s dream to help transgender people who are in need of assistance. Named after his mother Margie Nash, in September of 2011, Jacob took steps to make his dream a reality by hand-picking the founding Board of Directors for Margie’s Hope.
Since then, Jacob and the board members have devoted their time and energy to creating the framework that will enable Margie’s Hope to open its doors to transgender people throughout Ohio and neighboring states. Though still in the planning stage, Margie’s Hope will soon have a transitional living program that will help homeless transgender individuals to secure stable housing and employment as well as other necessary services.
The transgender and non-binary community are at the head of a revolutionary fight for liberation from the systemic prejudice, discrimination, ignorance, and violence that is occurring not just in Cleveland, but all across the globe. Trans and gender nonconforming people are often the number one targets to inequality due to a lack of protection, representation, and education both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. What this looks like is staggering numbers of trans and non-binary people being criminalized and in often cases, victims of forms of violence, for simply living their truth and a lack of outcry over a pandemic issue.
In 2015 alone, there have been over 10 trans women that have been murdered — this is beyond sobering and disturbing, especially considering that hundreds of trans women of color are murdered every year…the most targeted group for victims of murder.
One of the biggest obstacles our community faces is to gather attention around these alarming issues by not only media organizations (which often further disrespect trans and non-binary victims, alive and post mortem) but also by the organizations that are supposed to be dedicated to equal rights and the liberation of oppressed groups.
There are, however, many intersectional movements happening in Cleveland and in solidarity with local, state, and national efforts. To overcome these issues, communities must work with the trans and non-binary communities and establish efforts that promote diversity, encourage education, amplify and uplift the community, and create change. Everyone and anyone can have a place in the movement, it is the work of many-especially members of communities that aren’t the transgender and non-binary community. As long as you internalize a vision for liberation and justice and willing to use your privilege as a platform for those whose voices are all too often silenced.
What are the goals of Sistah Sinema in the upcoming year?
DM: Sistah Sinema brings people together around films about queer women of color, a community whose stories are not often represented by the mainstream media. Each screening is followed by a discussion because film is a catalyst for thought-provoking conversations and ideas.
We moved to a quarterly event model in 2015 to draw bigger audiences, pursue more strategic community partnerships and secure sponsors. A big goal this year is raise enough funds to bring filmmakers or cast members to Cleveland. This will give our audience the opportunity to learn more about the issues raised in the film or what it’s like making a film.
Any more info you’d like to provide?
DM: Screening rights for these films were generously provided by the Cleveland International Film Festival, so I’d just like to thank them for helping make this event possible.
AC: This event coincides with our district’s monthly art stroll, Walk All Over Waterloo, so before and after viewing the films, visitors can check out the I Am: a trans* art exhibit at Waterloo Arts as well as many gallery openings and events happening up and down the street, including the grand opening party for Brick Ceramic Studio.
Cool Cleveland correspondent Sarah Valek studied art and writing at Ithaca College. After graduation, she came back to Cle and served two years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. She can be found on all sides of the city in pursuit of homeschooling activities for her son and the perfect soy latte. Contact her at CoolEditorATCoolCleveland.com or via Twitter.