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Elizabeth Heath

Mousstapha Alassane, one of Niger's first filmmakers, excels in animation, a genre of film typically ignored in Africa. His work aims to preserve and revalue his African cultural heritage and to provide biting social commentary on Niger's postcolonial bourgeoisie.

Alassane was born in N’Jougou, Benin. He moved with his family to Niger in 1953. While in primary school, he began to develop the film style he would later polish as an adult. Alassane entertained his relatives and friends with shadow shows and makeshift cartoons drawn on translucent wrappings and shown through a projector he built. Throughout his teenage years, he refined his animation technique and at the age of twenty, he produced two short animated films—Le Piroguier (The Canoe-Paddler) and La Pileuse de mil Woman Pounding Millet While working at the Institut Fondamental d Afrique Noire Alassane had the opportunity to show these films to French ...

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Sada Niang

Nigerois filmmaker, was born in Ndougou (Niger). A mechanic by trade, he revealed himself to be an inventive young man at an early age. When no film theater existed in his village, indeed at a time when most of his fellow villagers had never seen a film, Alassane drew characters on cardboard, cut them out, and offered his fellow villagers their first cinematic experience by animating a rudimentary set of puppets.

In 1960 Alassane met Jean René Debrix and with his support obtained employment at the Institut d Afrique Noire Ifan in Niamey Later on two major figures exerted profound influence on the art and filmmaking career of Moustapha Alassane Jean Rouch a French engineer turned Africanist and advocate of direct anthropology and Norman McLaren a Scottish Canadian who made his first film at age twenty and later became the animation guru at the studios of National Film Board ...

Article

Donna Waller Harper

dancer, choreographer and actress, was born Deborrah Kaye Allen in Houston, Texas, to Andrew Allen, a dentist, and Vivian Ayers-Allen, a poet and librarian; her parents had two other children, the actress Phylicia Rashad, and Hugh Allen, better known as Tex. Although she exhibited an early interest in dance and desired to join the Houston Foundation for Ballet, she was denied admission when she applied in the 1950s in what her mother saw as a clear example of discrimination. Her parents were able to pay for private ballet lessons with the Ballet Russes. She later traveled and trained in Mexico City with the Ballet Nacional de Mexico. In 1964 she returned to Houston where she once again auditioned for the Houston Foundation for Ballet This time she was not only accepted to the prestigious organization but was awarded a scholarship Her talent won her ...

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Kathleen Thompson

Ambitious, talented Debbie Allen has broken ground for black women in a variety of roles, primarily behind the scenes of the entertainment industry—directing, producing, writing, and choreographing television shows, films, and musical theater.

Debbie Allen was born into a remarkable family in Houston, Texas. Her father, Andrew Allen, was a dentist, and her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, is a poet who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her sister, Phylicia Rashad, is a well-known actor, and one of her brothers is Andrew “Tex” Allen, a jazz musician.

Allen decided early that she wanted to be a dancer She began her training when she was three and by the time she was eight she had decided to go into musical theater When she tried to enroll in the school of the Houston Foundation for Ballet she was rejected for reasons her mother considered discriminatory As a ...

Article

Jill Silos-Rooney

actor, athlete, singer, and producer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Annabelle Patricia West and John Allen Amos Sr., a self-taught diesel auto mechanic and tractor trailer driver. Shortly after his second birthday, the family moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where they lived while John Sr. served in the military during World War II. His father left after the war, and his mother struggled to support her family by working as a domestic and then as a certified dietician. Amos recalled that, “the only time [he] ever saw his mother concede to possible failure was one time when she could not find any food in the cupboards. She had to ask him to go to the next-door neighbor to borrow food” (interview with John Amos by the author, 2010 Amos first joined the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark New Jersey at about ...

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Maxwell Akansina Aziabah

Ghanaian filmmaker, writer, producer, and director, was born in Agona Swedru in the Central Region of Ghana. His father, J. R. Ansah, was a professional photographer, a painter, dramatist, and musician, and his mother was a trader. Kwaw Ansah, after his Anglican elementary education in Agona Swedru, moved to Accra, where he completed his ordinary-level certificate examinations. While studying for his ordinary-level certificate, he worked as a fashion designer for the United Africa Company. He later entered London Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) in 1963 to study theater design. Having decided to pursue a career in film production, he then enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and graduated two years later, in 1965 with a diploma in dramatic arts That same year he was admitted to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy It was while there that he understudied film production in R ...

Article

Kendy Vérilus

was born Celesti Corbanese in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 3 December 1942, the son of Germaine Delva and Paul Corbanese. He completed his elementary and secondary school education at the Petit Séminaire Collège Saint-Martial, an acclaimed all-boys Catholic school in the capital city. Throughout his childhood, he frequented screenings of art films that played at the Tribune, an esplanade and theater complex formerly located on the Champ de Mars, an important public square in downtown Port-au-Prince. Upon finishing his études classiques, he left for Europe—a popular option available to the middle and upper classes at the time—to pursue a bachelor’s degree in economics, and in 1970 he earned a Ph.D. at La Sapienza Facoltà, Università di Roma. While in Europe, he joined a film club and regularly attended art-house film screenings in both Rome and Paris.

On completing his studies and finding himself unable to return to his homeland ...

Article

Robert N. Anderson

was born on 10 November 1954 in the town of Nanuque, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. It was there that, as an adolescent, he discovered world cinema in the city’s movie theaters and frequented his uncle’s theater company. He later moved to the state capital of Belo Horizonte, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in sociology of education, all the while maintaining his connection with the local film club scene. He moved to São Paulo in 1984, where he later became a doctor of philosophy in communication science at the School of Communication and Art of the University of São Paulo (ECA/USP).

Araújo began his filmmaking career with the mid-length docudrama Memórias de classe (Class Memories, 1989 exploring the role of Afro Brazilians in São Paulo s labor movement This debut effort won the Ford ANPOCS Film Festival award for best screenplay The ...

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Wendi Berman

playwright, actor, director, singer, and dancer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of Gloria Diaz Bagneris and Lawrence Bagneris Sr. Bagneris's mother was a housewife and deeply religious woman who “quietly outclassed most people,” and his father was a playful, creative man, a World War II veteran, and lifelong postal clerk. Bagneris grew up in the tightly knit, predominantly Creole Seventh Ward to a family of free people of color that had been in New Orleans since 1750 From the age of six he had a knack for winning popular dance contests and during christenings and jazz funerals he learned more traditional music and dance By the mid 1960s the once beautiful tree lined neighborhood in which he was raised fell victim to the U S government s program of urban renewal known colloquially as Negro removal A freeway overpass was ...

Article

Margaret Wade-Lewis

the first African American female linguist, early theorist in Pidgin and Creole linguistics, and educator, was born Beryl Isadore Loftman in Black River, Jamaica, West Indies. Her mother, Eliza Isadore Smith Loftman, was a teacher, and her father, James Henry Loftman, was an educator who became an inspector of schools. Because she was of the middle class, Beryl Loftman was expected to converse in Standard Jamaican English. Nevertheless, she valued the rhythm, music, and style of Creole: “Though I was forbidden to speak Jamaican Creole in the home during my childhood, my use of Standard Jamaican English was restricted to the earshot of my parents, teachers. … With my playmates, brothers and sisters, household help, and the country folk, I conversed always in Creole” (Bailey, “Creole Languages,” 3).

Loftman was the eldest of six children and she and her siblings Lucille Myrtle Kenneth Seymour and Howard who died ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was born in Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on 6 May 1935, into a black family with a long tradition of producing masquerade bands. He would come to be regarded as the greatest bandleader in the modern history of Carnival, the annual festival of masquerade and music. His first influences came from his father, Aldwyn “Sonny” Bailey, who led his own band from 1932 to 1940, as well as other bandleaders like Ormand Hackshaw, Leonard Carty, and Ken Morris. His family seems to have been influenced by the ideas of Marcus Garvey who had a large following in Trinidad and Tobago While a student at Tranquility Government School Bailey s interest in fine art was enhanced under the guidance of Mohammed Farouk M P Alladin one of Trinidad s foremost visual artists Bailey excelled in track and field and basketball and in fact became a member of the national ...

Article

Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

a still photographer and documentary filmmaker, was born in Houston, Texas, the second child and only daughter of the schoolteacher Mollie Carroll Parrott and the dentist Frederick Douglas Parrott Sr. At least one grandparent had been born a slave. Both parents were the first in their respective families to obtain advanced college degrees, but racism kept the family poor. The Parrotts lived in the Third Ward, one of Houston's African American neighborhoods, and Blue attended a segregated grade school. As she wrote in her memoir, The Dawn at My Back, the challenges of growing up poor and black in a racist, classist society put a shadow over her life.

Blue did not intend to pursue a career in the visual arts. She enrolled as an English literature student, specializing in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English Renaissance period, at Boston University in 1960 with the goal of becoming ...

Article

Houda Ben Ghacham

Tunisian film critic and director, was born in Tunis on 11 March 1944. His father, Taoufik Boughedir, was a journalist, novelist, playwright, and an influential figure in cultural life. Boughedir attended a French secondary school in Tunis and lived in the family home in Halfaouine, an area of old Tunis that was later to provide the name for the director’s first film. He went on to study French literature in Rouen and Paris and wrote two doctoral theses on African and Arabic cinema.

Boughedir first made a name for himself as a film critic, writing for, among others, the journal Jeune Afrique, which was published in Paris and distributed in francophone Africa. In his writing for this, he was an inexhaustible supporter of the cause of African cinema. He was involved in organizing the oldest pan-African film festival, Les Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage, in Tunis which he ...

Article

Born in Brooklyn, New York, St. Clair Bourne is the son of St. Clair Bourne Sr., who was an editor of the Amsterdam News and a reporter for the People's Voice in the 1930s. Although the younger Bourne began his education at Georgetown University in 1961, he was expelled for student activism. In 1967 he received a B.A. degree from Syracuse University after working with the Peace Corps. He began a degree in filmmaking at Columbia University in 1968, but was again asked to leave because of his political activities.

From 1968 until 1970 Bourne was a producer, writer, and director for the public-television series Black Journal. He established his own company, Chamba Productions, and produced African American documentary films such as Something to Build On (1971) and Let the Church Say Amen! (1973). In 1974 he received the Bronze ...

Article

Leslie Sanders

was born 7 January 1953 in Guayaguayare, Trinidad and Tobago. Information on her parents is unavailable. She attended Naparima Girls’ High School in San Fernando, graduating in 1970. The same year, she immigrated to Canada for further schooling, graduating from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in 1975, and from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education with an M.A. in 1976. She lives in Toronto and, since 2004, has been a research professor in the Department of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph. Brand is the author of ten books of poetry; four novels; a collection of short stories; four substantial works of nonfiction, including the resonant and influential meditation on being in diaspora, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (2001 other uncollected essays and four documentary films She has won many awards for her work ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

actor and director, was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1950, when he was seven years old, he moved with his family from Cuba to the United States, where they made their residence in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. At age fifteen, he formed a music group called the Parthenons, which disbanded after one television appearance. While some biographies list him as having graduated from New York's William Howard Taft High School, Brown did not graduate but dropped out at the age of sixteen. He appeared to be a disinterested student, skipping more than forty days of class each of his last semesters in high school, and school leaders allowed him to quit because of his lack of performance.

A year after leaving school Brown decided to try out for a scholarship to attend the Juilliard School s Institute of Vocal Arts He won the scholarship but declined it ...

Article

Dylon L. Robbins

was born Jorge da Silva on 21 September 1937 in Rio de Janeiro. His father, Sebastião Alves de Brito, was an itinerant laborer without long-term or regular employment. His mother, Rita Maria da Silva, worked to raise Bulbul and his sister after separating from his father. In interviews, Bulbul recalled his childhood as characterized by his living in a single dwelling with several other families in the Rio neighborhood of Botafogo. It is during this time that he came to be called Zózimo. Because of disciplinary problems in school, Bulbul was sent to a youth reform school where he felt a greater sense of community with what he described as its almost exclusively black student body.

After leaving the reform school Bulbul enlisted in the army Upon his discharge he took university courses in accounting before enrolling at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes National School of Fine Arts from ...

Article

Zózimo Bulbul was born in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1970s he appeared in several films including Compasso de Espera (1973), Sagarana (1973), Pureza Proibida (1974), and Deusa Negra (1979). In 1974 Bulbul directed Soul in the Eye a powerful ...

Article

Cynthia A. Young

writer, director, producer, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His parents’ names are unknown, but his father is believed to have been in military service at the time, while his mother worked as a nurse's aide. At the age of three, his family moved to the Watts section of Los Angeles, seeking jobs in California's postwar economy. Unfortunately, the end of World War II also meant the end of well-paid wartime jobs, and the Burnetts struggled to find work. Soon after the move, his parents parted, leaving Burnett to be raised by his grandmother.

Burnett's teenage years from 1957 to 1963 overlapped with the civil rights era, which by the early 1970s had profoundly transformed the United States. In Watts and other inner-city ghettos, the struggle to overturn de jure segregation and discrimination promised to address the institutional racism that cut off Watts from the prosperity and progress evident elsewhere ...