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EXCLUSIVE: Black Press Screens Two Films Headed for Major Festivals

NNPA NEWSWIRE — This week, Mahmud-Bey previewed two riveting short films that are sure to grab the attention of judges and those fortunate enough to see them. He has several potential blockbuster feature-length films he also plans to release this year and in 2021.

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Shiek Mahmud-Bey (seated, wearing the patterned hat), is the head of 25th Frame Films and Char'Actors. An actor and filmmaker, Mahmud-Bey starred alongside Andy Garcia and Richard Dreyfus in "Night Falls on Manhattan," and he starred with Joaquin Phoenix and Ed Harris in "Buffalo Soldiers." He also had a lead role in NBC's detective show, "Profiler." Others in the photos are actors, writers, and producers who are a part of Char'Actors.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Any studio would rarely provide media access to films that it plans to enter into several prestigious film festivals, like the New Orleans Film Festival and the American Black Film Festival.

Char’Actors and 25th Frame Films granted the Black Press that access. Both companies are helmed by New York-born actor Shiek Mahmud-Bey (“The Profiler,” “Night Falls on Manhattan,” and “Buffalo Soldiers”).

This week, Mahmud-Bey previewed two riveting short films that are sure to grab the attention of judges and those fortunate enough to see them. He has several potential blockbuster feature-length films he also plans to release this year and in 2021.

The first is “Unrequited Love,” written and starring Katja Sarkish Stewart, who plays opposite Nefertiti Warren (“Dari Ji Mi,” and “Reparations”).

The film serves up nine minutes and 11 seconds of raw emotion as the two sisters have just buried their father. They eventually, and reluctantly, meet inside a church, and it soon becomes evident that they hadn’t seen each other or been in contact for years.

But, they must confront a couple of family secrets that threaten to rock their lives further.

The second film previewed by The Black Press is “My Father’s Son,” written and directed by Mahmud-Bey and includes the cinematic efforts of Sean Snider (“Honour Among Thieves,” “Leak,” and “Chasing After You.”).

“My Father’s Son” stars Malachi Anderson (“Affliction,” “The Fatal Flaw,” “Extrinsic Truth,”), Carol Towns (“Little Church,” “Why Do Men Cheat”), and Aqeel Ash Shakoor (“Batwoman,” “Chicago Med,” and “Iced Out”). James Alexander serves as the photographer.

The 24-minute short chronicles life’s ups and downs for Barry Collins (Anderson), who suffered the tragic loss of his mother when he was a child.

On that faithful day, Barry’s father (Shakoor) left him alone, forcing his Auntie Pamela (Benita Hughes) to raise a conflicted and angry young man.

While Auntie Pamela leans on her faith, Barry is disenchanted, wondering what kind of God would “take his mother and his father” at the same time.

Later, when happiness in the form of a promising job offer arrives, things get even more complicated.

While he angrily rejects Auntie Pamela’s request to read letters his had father sent over the years, Barry’s juggling a girlfriend and another woman with whom he’s fallen in love.

An unexpected pregnancy brings more complications for Barry, and his actions leave everyone afraid of what’s to come.

The general contours of “My Father’s Son” brings to the screen the sometimes-rocky path traversed by men and their fathers in what some psychologists call one of the most complex relationships in a man’s life – that of father and son.

It’s a relationship that can affect others, and unless Barry gets the closure he needs, it could have a devastating impact on all of the women in his life and a newborn baby.

“Unrequited Love,” and “My Father’s Son,” also underscore the resurgence of the short film that accompanied feature-length movies in theaters decades ago.

Pixar remains the only major studio that routinely airs original short films to go along with its feature-length movies.

Char’Actors, a company of artists dedicated to acting and filmmaking and an objective to advance careers and create opportunities for members to write, produce, and direct their own works, and 25th Frame Films are jumping into the genre with other promising shorts, including “Dilemma,” a drama in which Mahmud-Bey said should reach completion soon.

“Dilemma” is a story about a woman named Lisa (Shannon Weiss) who suffers from schizophrenia. Lisa controls the condition well with her medication, but all of that changes when her brother, Joseph (Rayan Lawerance), moves in with her.

When Lisa realizes that her brother is planning to get married, Lisa stops taking her medicine and chaos ensues. What comes next is a dilemma for Lisa, Joseph and Joanne (Warren), his fiancée.

While Char’Actors and 25th Frame Films are scheduled to go into pre-production on another film titled, “Thought,” the companies are expected to release a 7-episode web series titled “Interface,” which Mahmud-Bey said contains a rare multi-cultural cast with a demographic that pleases those from 12 to 70.

“I will find a way or make one,” Mahmud-Bey stated.

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Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.
The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

The documentary She Had A Dream by Tunisian filmmaker Raja Amari premieres on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series tonight at 8 p.m. EST on WORLD CHANNEL. Season 14 of the acclaimed documentary series captures Black artists and activists shaping and reclaiming culture, advocating for change and mobilizing for brighter futures. She Had A Dream offers an intimate portrayal of one young Black Tunisian woman’s quest for political office and her fight against racism and oppression in a society that often seeks to overlook both.

The documentary follows Ghofrane, a 20-something Black woman from Tunisia as she walks the path of self-discovery of young adulthood while running for political office in a homeland where many still view her as an outsider.

Watch the trailer below:

A dedicated, charismatic activist and a modern, free-speaking woman, Ghofrane in many ways is the embodiment of contemporary Tunisian political hopes still alive years after the Arab Spring. She Had A Dream follows Ghofrane as she works to conquer her own self-doubts while attempting to persuade close friends and complete strangers to vote for her. As audiences follow her campaign, they also follow the dichotomies of her life as a woman striving for a role in politics in the Arab world and as a Black person in a country where racism is prevalent, yet often denied.

“The 14th season of AfroPoP shines a light on the collective power, strength and resilience of Black people and movements around the world,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, AfroPoP executive producer. “Viewers will see artists use their platforms to push for progress and human rights and see ‘ordinary’ people do the remarkable in the interest of justice.”

Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.

She Had A Dream airs on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Monday, April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org at the same time.

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is presented by Black Public Media and WORLD Channel. For more information, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena.
The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BBC Africa is reporting Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing a water shortage because of changing weather patterns and aging water facilities. The article reports, “Residents in informal communities like Kibra pay private vendors for water, meaning they now control the supply and access to water in the community.” The privatization of water access has led to an increase in the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for water.

“Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena. Check out the 2018 ANEW documentary short below:

The water crisis and the sexual exploitation of girls and women as a result of the water crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

To read more about this crisis, visit BBC Africa‘s series of articles and videos on Kenya’s water crisis and the Water Integrity Network’s (WIN) study on sextortion.

This news brief was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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#WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright

THE AFRO — Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.
The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Maya Pottiger, Word in Black

It’s no surprise that we’re living through difficult times. After two years, we’re still in a global pandemic, which has predominantly impacted people of color. In addition, Book bans, attacks on critical race theory, and partisan political fights target everything from Black youths’ sexuality, to history, to health.

And we’re seeing the effects.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.

For a variety of reasons — ongoing stigma, lack of insurance, most accessible — Black students often rely on the mental health services offered at school.Outside of a mental health-specific practice, Black students were nearly 600 times as likely to get mental health help in an academic setting compared to other options, according to 2020 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In fact, mental health services in schools have been steadily gaining popularity among students since 2009, before dropping slightly in 2020 when the school year was interrupted, according to the SAMHSA report. As a result, the rate of students receiving mental health care through school decreased by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

So how are schools changing the way they address and prioritize mental health — and the specific needs of Black students — since 2020?

The Renewed Focus on Mental Health

For school-aged people, the majority of their time is spent in a school building — about eight hours per day, 10 months out of the year. To help address mental health during academic hours, schools are trying to focus on social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. This includes teaching kids how to be in touch with their emotions and protect against adverse mental health outcomes.

But it’s been difficult.

Though there’s been more conversation, the implementation is challenging, says Dr. Kizzy Albritton, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. There was already a shortage of school-based mental health professionals before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated, as have mental health issues. In addition, though schools clearly recognize the importance of mental health, they aren’t always provided adequate resources.

“Unless there are more resources funneled into the school system, we’re going to see a continued catch-up issue across the board,” Albritton says. “And, unfortunately, our Black students are going to continue to suffer the most.”

In a survey of high school principals and students, Education Week Research Center found discrepancies in how principals and students viewed a school’s mental health services. While 86 percent of the principals said their schools provided services, only about 66 percent of students agreed. The survey did point out it’s possible the school offers these services and students aren’t aware. The survey also found Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to say their schools offered services.

Dr. Celeste Malone, the president-elect of the National Association for School Psychologists and a Howard University associate professor, says she hasn’t previously seen this degree of attention to mental health in schools.

“I see that a lot in my role for a school psychology graduate program: the outreach and people contacting me with openings where they didn’t exist previously,” Malone says. “With this increased push in funding to hire more, that’s definitely a very, very positive movement.”

Mental Health Is Not One Size Fits All

Just like with many aspects of health, Black youths need different mental health support from their peers of other races. They need a counselor who understands their lived experiences, like microaggressions and other forms of discrimination or racism, without the student having to explain.

For example, in order to best address the specific mental health needs of Black students, districts need to provide information breaking down mental health stigmas; focus on hiring Black counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; and fund anti-racist and trauma-informed mental health practices, according to the Center for American Progress.

While she hears a lot of talk, Albritton says she isn’t seeing widespread evidence of these solutions in practice.

“There needs to be a willingness, first of all, to understand that our Black students, their needs look a lot different,” Albritton says. School officials need to understand where Black students are coming from — that their families and households experience systemic and structural racism, which are known to trigger anxiety and depression. The effects of the racial wealth gap also play a role, from the neighborhood kids are living in, to the schools they can attend to the impacts on their health. Students might be bringing worries about these challenges to school, which could be reflected in their behavior. This is why, Albritton says, it’s crucial to also work with students’ families.

The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .

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