(www.BlacksinHollywood.com) – Where were you the night that Melissa Harris Perry cried, Michaela Angela Davis declared, “I need a drink and a shrink,” and Dr. Jeff Gardere must have broken a world record for conducting a mass psychotherapy session to a hundred emotionally wounded African Americans (or those who love them) after seeing the only big screen showing of, “1982,” starring Hill Harper, LaLa Anthony and others?
If you weren’t attending the Revolution Awards in Manhattan on February 10, 2016 in New York City, you missed a lot. Weeks before the Oscar Awards, from which BlacksinHollywood.com will be reporting LIVE, and just 72 hours after Beyonce’s pro-Black halftime performance, Melissa Harris Perry – the feisty political talk show host who often finds controversy with her choice of words, on February 10, 2016 in New York City – found acceptance so intense that she broke down in tears.
Of the movie screened, Michaela Angela Davis tweeted after viewing the movie: “I’m still haunted by the beauty of this film. Hill Harper gave such a gorgeous performance in the movie 1982.” There was also a quick snap of Will’s goodies, so that helped, too.
Photo Gallery located at VERY END. Video in BiH’s “Screening Room.”
The tale of two journalists: The night Melissa cried, I swallowed my pride and a torch was passed for good
OPINION EDITORIAL* by DC Livers
For the past couple years, whenever I am asked to attend an event, I always look for an excuse not to go. I prefer to send a photographer, a reporter or an intern. I try my best not to go because I made myself a promise to work 9-5 and not give up any of my nights or weekends to “work.” While most people punch the clock by pushing paper or some other form of work, for me work happens in a phone interview, a locker room of a professional sports arena or snapping pics at a Beyonce concert or interviewing people on the red carpet. It would be an understatement for me to say, I do not enjoy it. I am more of a historian than a celebrity chaser. I enjoy just about everything that most people don’t even notice. For me, it’s about the historical significance, not the star power. But from time to time, there’s an event that surprises me. It’s actually only happened twice: Once in 2010 and on February 10, 2016.
As founder of the Black Focus Newsweekly (1994), Historical Black Press Foundation (1999), AfroScreen.com (2002) and BlackPressRadio (2004), I’m often called “the original Black girl who codes” and recently even “the Black Bill Gates,” so it was cool to hear Beyonce sing about Black girls that code like me in her now infamous Super Bowl Halftime show. I’m a techie. I’m a book-nerd. I’m a research freak. I’m just about everything other than a Hollywood type. If you’ve never heard of me, I’m doing my job right. I’m a background player. That’s why it’s ironic that my latest digital property (I own over 100), BlacksinHollywood.com/net/org is so popular – and even officially credentialed to attend the 2016 Oscars. Seven months ago, I set out to liquidate some of my digital properties to raise money hire an attorney to help me and my child escape the clutches of domestic violence, when I founded BlacksinHollywood.com/net/org. It was my intention to sell the properties but God had other plans, I guess. Many people think domestic violence ends when you leave. I can assure you. It does not. It is the beginning of a nightmare that rarely ends well….and it’s very expensive to leave.
2010: A little background
A few years ago when a publicist I respected invited me and other reporters to a screening of her new film, many of us picked up the phone and asked if there was a typo. She’d been known to help promote films but not MAKE films. The movie was called, “I Will Follow” and it was directed by Ava DuVernay. Ironically, six years later, it would be DuVernay who would be at the center of another big movie night for me.
Needless to say, I went to the “I Will Follow” screening – against my better judgment because it was held after 5 pm and I’d just had a baby and didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting a sitter. I decided not to attend but after someone told me how important it was for me to attend, I decided at the last minute to attend – with a catch: “If I can’t bring the baby, I’m not coming.” I arrived late and ironically, as Kerry Washington – an actress I’d worked with on a dozen various projects – was coming out of the studio I was going in. She already ran into the baby in the stroller because who expects to see a baby in a stroller at a movie premiere? Kerry said, “She’s so beautiful.” I thanked her and told her I was sneaking in late but was only planning to stay a few minutes so I was going to watch from the hallway. Kerry said, “Oh don’t do that. I’ll watch the baby.” I could tell she was glad to get a break and she clearly knew I needed one. I agreed.
Fifteen minutes later, I came out to see my child playing with Kerry. It was sweet.
That’s how it all began. My child would later be called the “media mascot” because she and I attended so many events together. My little mama loved movies and never cried. After the lights would come up people would approach me and say, “Wow. I didn’t know a baby was even in here.” A few months prior to the Kerry Washington event, I paid $10 for my child to become a member of the NAACP. I had no way of knowing that she’d become the youngest member (5 months old) in the history of the NAACP. The little old ladies who gave me the membership told me that the had to check but they were pretty certain they were right. “Stand right there. Don’t move.” It was pretty serious business. My child was confirmed the youngest member of the NAACP and before I knew it things got hectic. They whisked us off to take photos with Julian Bond, Benjamin Jealous, Kwesi Mfume, Andrew Young and there was talk about us taking photos with Barack Obama, who was speaking the next day for the 100th Anniversary ceremony. I’ve been a member of the NAACP since my teenage years so it was important to me that my child be raised with activism as part of her personality.
My little mama is one of the sweetest, most caring people I’ve often met. She’s giving and bright as can be. She started tying her shoes at age 3, wrote her first “book” at 4 and has been photo “blogging” for as long as I can remember. In fact, I have a photo of her holding a giant Canon DSLR in the media room at the 100th Anniversary of the NAACP. She stops her teachers when they read books to the class to ask, “Excuse me teacher, who is the illustrator.” She’s even got her own blog complete with an online art gallery. We managed to move from domestic violence victim to survivor and we were pretty darn happy, too.
2016: Melissa Harris Perry cried for me
Years later, we’d be caught in the biggest civil rights struggle of our lives but ironically we’d get little help from the NAACP. To this day, I remain baffled how they could make such a big deal about my child (who still holds the record to this day) but ignore our cries for help when we needed the organization the most. But as I’ll discuss in my first documentary which I just started filming, civil rights leaders aren’t afraid to sue police departments but they are scared to death to take on child welfare and foster care pimps.
There was a part of me that wanted to skip the “Revolution Awards.” I’d never heard of them but when I was asked to attend, I wavered. The mom in me – the part of me which has been disillusioned by the very people who often call me to write about their stories and triumphs – felt angry. “Why should I go to yet another Black event where everyone pretends that lives matter when none of these same people are willing to fight for my child or other children like her whose lives are hanging in the balance. Their lives matter, too.” But, as a content producer, I knew I had to go.
I arrived at the Revolution Awards with every intention of staying 15 minutes and leaving. Instead, I stayed until the very end mesmerized by how important the event was. At the risk of being corny, the event was nothing short of revolutionary. I remember stopping the co-founder and telling her, “You’re a bad chick! You’re simply inspiring.” I’m sure she probably has no idea what to make of me, but if she’s reading this I want her to know how profound her work is and how touched I was to be a part of it.
When Melissa Harris Perry cried as she was giving her speech, I felt she was crying for me and people like me fighting to right and write wrongs. Her speech was a blessing for all of us who heard it. (See it below) By far the most epic moment for me was watching the young lady who represented Black Lives Matter be introduced by the Black Panthers representative. In her speech the BLM rep said, “This is generational. Please come back up and stand next to me. This is our award.” It was like a passing of the torch. The Oscars could never do anything like that.
WATCH: Black Lives Matter and Black Panthers pass the torch
Attending the Revolution Awards was also bitter sweet. I saw several people who I had personally turned to for help when our crisis began. Their fake friendship was revealed quickly when I asked them to watch my child for a few hours until my out-of-town relatives could arrive. “I’m not getting involved in that,” said one person who holds himself out to be a community activist and an advocate for justice. “I’m not comfortable,” said the other. It was hurtful considering that my child attended his child’s birthday parties, I helped him get his daughter into ballet and never missed a moment to be a friend to his wife and family.
I’ve never spoken to either of them since their fake friendships were revealed to me, but I’ve forgiven them but I will bever work with them ever again. Some men aren’t meant to be leaders and lack the courage their fathers had. I don’t have an ounce of energy to dedicate to anything other than ending the nightmare for me and my child. I also got to see Dr. Jeff Gardere, a man who is a national treasure in my eyes. I think he’d agree that I’m giving it my all to fight for my child, and I’m doing it in a healthy way because writing is after all fighting.
Tommy Oliver, the director of the movie “1982” shared with the audience during a post screening Q&A that the movie was based on his personal life story. He even read heartbreaking text messages from his mother, who was addicted to crack most of his young life. I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d been in foster care at some point of his journey. I found myself feeling endeared to him – praying that the cycle could end for our children. It also renewed me in my quest to continue to fight for my own child’s life so that one day she doesn’t have to make a movie about the injustices that have happened to her.
Like fate intended, I introduced myself to the director after the movie and handed him the flyer for my upcoming film, “MOTHERING WHILE BLACK: The Documentary.” I’m not sure if he kept it or discarded it in the frenzy of the event, but it was a defining moment for me. I knew in that very moment that he had passed the torch of filmmaking to me.
Since the nightmare began, I’ve struggled to remain silent about my disappointment in the Black community when it comes to Black kids, foster care pimps and family court corruption. It’s been hard to want to write about a community that I feel is turning it’s back on so many Black children who need them.
As sex trafficking of foster children rises, I’ve struggled to understand why I should spend any time supporting the NAACP. In fact, on the night of the 2016 Image Awards, I participated with other Black mothers in what we called “Hashtag Takeover” sponsored by Falsely Accused Moms, an organization that I founded to help loving parents rescue their children from family court corruption. Hashtag Takeover is an online social justice event in which we use the hashtag of important events to spread the message of our children and the injustices that are being done that no one is doing anything about.
I was livid that the NAACP talked about how much it cares about the community and used the night to come across as a group of people who moms like me could turn to when in need of support or to fight for the injustices in our lives. Still, I’ve been a long time supporter of the NAACP, of Black film festivals, of Black lives so it’s hard not to want to tell their stories.
Domestic violence victims like me are regularly harassed by their abusers by using New York City family court to track them down, punish them for leaving and re-victimize us. In fact, according to New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services’ own reports, 60% of all calls to their hotline are made by false and malicious reports that are eventually unfounded. Instead of the child being unharmed, ACS leads the nation in a policy often dubbed, “When in doubt, pull them out.” Said bluntly, even though ACS knows the allegations are false and calls are made with malicious intent, they still put children – mostly Black children – in foster care because of the excessive amount of grants the agency gets for each child. New York City’s $3 billion budget for child welfare is nearly double the $1.8 billion budget of the U.S. secret service. Think about that: Nearly double. Plus, Black children are four times more likely to be removed than any other child.
When the false allegations were made, my child could have been taken to the homes of people who knew her until my family could arrive the next morning. Instead, she was taken by child welfare to emergency foster home where she stayed until the judge granted my motion to have her placed with out-of-state relatives. But because my abuser was abusing family court trying to get custody of my child – a promise he’d made along with threats of killing us – I fled the city to be closer to my child.
Because we’re still in the middle of court drama, I’m forced to commute back and forth to New York. Plus, I’ve recently learned that my child is being abused in the current placement despite being with relatives. What I’ve learned about family court corruption is that many people take advantage. Family members can take advantage of the situation because they know that there is little that can be done.
“MOTHERING WHILE BLACK: The Documentary” explores the dark side of “The Village” that it takes to raise a child. The documentary also showcases the beauty of strangers coming together to support my child and me, to share our story with their friends and to help expose family court corruption.
In June 2015, WNYC radio issued a scathing report that read “Black mothers four times more likely to be judged unfit and have children removed.” (They eventually responded to mainstream critics and softened the title.)
Since the beginning of July 2015, our story has ran in over 40 publications including Miami Herald, Associated Press, San Fransisco Chronicle, Washington Post and was even featured as “Photo of the Day” by Yahoo! In September 2015, The Nation magazine wrote a 5,000 word cover story entitled, “Has Child Protective Services gone too far?” My photo was used as the cover story. Hurtfully, only two Black media outlets have covered our story: The Alfreda Love Show (radio) and Amsterdam News. The bite of knowing that much of the Black community doesn’t care about Black children until they are dead, it particularly difficult pill to swallow especially considering how I’ve dedicated my life to the Black experience.
But it was Rev. Al Sharpton who convinced me it was time to come out of the shadows and shine light on family court corruption. At a private dinner at Mr. Chow’s that he invited me to attend, Rev. Al said, “If you don’t tell your story, God can’t get the glory.”
Ava DuVernay didn’t attend the Revolution Awards because she’s filming a new project with Oprah, but it was just as well. She’s getting to be a bit much. I’ve been to nearly half a dozen events over the past two years that she’s bailed on or refused to talk to the press. I’ll always be proud of her accomplishments but I don’t like it when people don’t show up.
In DuVernay’s defense, she recorded a video message that was played at the event. In all fairness, it was a really good message. She was truly honored and touched. Her video made up for her missing the event and allowed Melissa Harris Perry to shine and steal the night.
If you haven’t already, please take a moment to support the Revolution Awards. I can think of no worthier cause than organization that allows us to tell our stories. Who knows? Maybe next year my own documentary will debut at the awards show…or maybe yours!
Even though I went kicking and screaming, I am unbelievably grateful that I attended the Revolution Awards. I met Hill Harper’s mother so of course I’ll talk about that in the documentary. When I asked her if I could take her photo, she said, “Of me? Oh my. You want Hill. Hill’s the one you want to take a picture of.” I said, “No mam. Hill is great but I’m interested in you because moms really matter.”
Melissa Harris Perry and I came into that theater as journalists but we left bonded by an experience that was clearly meant to be written in the Black History books. I hope that we’ll also be bonded by a quest to expose family court corruption but I’m not holding my breath because if I’ve learned nothing else about today’s media it’s this: Our tragedies they will report but our triumphs we’re on our own.
I’m hoping that she’ll prove me wrong for the sake of Toussiant, who is in his third foster care placement after being removed from his mother after she reported being a victim of domestic violence. I’m hope she’ll stop talking about Beyonce’s “Formation” and start talking about all of the clients of Falsely Accused Moms whose children who have become real-life causalities in the war on Black mothers.
WATCH HILL HARPER’S SPEECH
WATCH BLACK PANTHERS and BLACK LIVES MATTER pass the torch