12 things white people can do now because Ferguson

To make #blacklives matter, we all need to care. I stand behind #ferguson as a Latina and as a person that believes all of this to be true. Show your support today!

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To The Women Who Choose Not To Have Kids

Thought Catalog

To the women who choose not to have kids, I have one thing to say: thank you.

You probably don’t hear it enough. In fact, you probably don’t hear it at all. What youdo hear is an array of pro-childbearing responses, such as, “You’ll change your mind someday,” or, “Doesn’t your mother want grandkids?” or, “You’ll never find a husband if you never want to have kids.”

All things considered, “thank you” is probably on the opposite end of what you hear.

But seriously: thank you. Thank you for recognizing that childrearing isn’t for you and being true to who you are. It doesn’t mean you hate kids. It just means that raising one is not part of your path in life.

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Thank you for not succumbing to the societal pressures. I’ve known far too many parents who had kids because that’s what was…

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Meeting Dr. Angelou and Toni Morrison

The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, awarded its 2013 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to Dr. Maya Angelou at the 64th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner.  Given that I’ve been a National Book Foundation, Author-in-Residence for the past few years I was able to meet, talk and take a photo with one of my amazing sheroes Dr. Maya Angelou.  She was the epitome of elegance, compassion and wisdom.  Her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing,  opened the door for my inside truth as a Latina woman tp push forward my own stories as a filmmaker, writer and educator.   Maya has a curriculum vitae that proved that we as women of color can be hyphens.  She is a writer, poet, activist, essayist, educator, filmmaker, singer, actor, dancer, playwright and the list continues to an impressive list of life long learning and accomplishment.  Any one or two of her accomplishments would have been enough, but combined her life is truly humbling.  Despite a life of wounds that paralyze most, strengthened her with determination and her creative impulse continues to strike with triumph.

What a blessing to have seen her speak at the Masonic Temple in San Francisco twenty years ago, then at my Columbia MFA graduation, but this past week to meet her in person was a blessing that I needed and made my year.  Thank you Dr. Angelou for sharing your spirit and reminding me when we took our photo to, “Stand up straight and never bow down to any man.”  Words remembered and never forgotten.

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Photo with Dr. Maya Angelou and my sister writers:  Sofia Quintero and Lissette Norman

1471813_10152002745909660_207002127_nPhoto above with author Toni Morrison and my peer of authors Sofia Quintero, Lissette Norman and Eisa Ulen Richardson

Here is what Dr. Maya Angelou said when she accepted her award.  So profound, humble and profound…

https://vimeo.com/80091024#at=0

Grateful for pioneers that inspire action and change

ImageI’ve received some incredible news today and and it made me reflect about those moments along the way that inspired me to continue on this creative path as a filmmaker, writer and educator.  I choose every day to teach and create from a place of audacious authenticity and social activism.  About five years ago, I had the honor to interview actress, singer and dancer Rita Moreno who was a pioneer before anyone heard of Puerto Rican’s in entertainment (pre Rosie Perez and J-LO) and her words still stick with me as I continue my own journey.  She is also the only Latino to win the four major entertainment awards — Oscar, Emmy , Grammy and Tony.  Some mostly remember her as Anita in West Side Story, I grew up with her and Morgan Freemen on the PBS television show Electric Company, she played Otto the Director and Millie the helper, who belted the famous, “Hey You guys!”  However, she was constantly acting in Broadway plays and musicals, television shows and feature films. Always trying to debunk the stereotypical film roles even after winning an Oscar for West Side Story.

I was greeted at their home by her late husband Leonard or “Lenny” as she referred to him who left his medical practice to become her manager and support Rita in her own career.  He offered my crew and I, pastries and coffee. They were fixed up on a blind date and almost didn’t meet because she forgot about their date, but he waited for hours outside the exit door of her current theater gig and New York, determined to take her out.  Rita feel in love with him after a few failed Hollywood romances with stars like Marlon Brando or Elvis Presley.  She chose love and a person who treated her so kindly and with support. I appreciated their relationship as a driven creative myself that a man in the 1930’s could be liberated enough to leave his own career to support the destined journey of his wife.  A sacrifice many men,  even today would never make for a woman.  Though, something we’ve seen women do time and time again for men.

When Ms. Moreno sat down for the interview with me, her first comment was her excitement to be interviewed by not only a female crew, but all Latinas.   I’m not one to be star stuck, but I was so full of respect for such a pioneer in my community.  We were all Latinas on my crew, but I was the only Puerto Rican and while she spoke with such depth, honesty and presence, I was so proud to be in her presence.  She spoke with wisdom, humility and such confidence at the same time.  Then there were silent pauses, where she was reflective and I saw this pioneer who had survived obstacles, but in the end triumphed but not without war wounds.  There I thought, lies the story.  One that must be told during a time when our narratives are still ridden with roles like Devious Maids and stereotypical Colombian bombshells in Modern Family.  There are redeeming elements of the aforementioned shoes, they employ Latin@s but are still evidence of how far we must go.  The next steps, are not just for Latinos to become writers, directors and producers but to create diverse stories so that our narratives become audaciously authentic to our diverse experiences, and not limited to stereotypes.
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Happy Black History Month and Valentine’s Day!

I’m not one to always say Happy Women’s, Latino, Pride or Black History month because I believe that all those histories or herstories (and MANY other voiceless histories) are a daily part of my existence, 24-7, everyday of the year. They should be integrated into our curriculum, conversations, fabric of our lives and art all the time. However, until everyone realizes that a young black girls’ story, or a Latino immigrant story, or queer liberation or a young Indian girl riding the bus and being violently attacked is just as valuable as dead white presidents– I will use every moment I have as an artist and educator to remember, remind and resist. In honor of Black History and Valentine’s Day, I honor Audre Lorde, the powerful poet, feminist, lesbian, activist and essayist. She was the child of Caribbean parents from Barbados and Carriacou. She also shares my birthday month of February. She was born on February 18th and died of breast cancer, but not before living a prolific life with words that transformed the feminist movement, that provided a voice for women of color who were both queer and straight.

Two days before my birthday, I ask myself how will I continue to be an activist for justice throughout my life? How can you I continue to use my writing and films as a tool to change and transform? How can the images that I create make people remember, think and act towards creating a better world? How can I learn balance from those elders that sacrificed for others, but did not live holistically and self-care was not in their vocabulary?

In the words of Audre Lorde, ““Your silence will not protect you.” (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches). She also said, ““It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

RIP Audre Lorde. Many blessings for your spirit on this planet that has inspired myself and so many to break our silences and transform. Ache.

Screenwriting from Iowa

“I’m in the emotional transportation business. If you want to be in that position, you have to understand drama. You have to understand how characters interact. You must understand how to move audiences emotionally, because that’s what they talk about in word of mouth. You don’t talk about what the film was about, you talk about your experience seeing the film: I loved it, I laughed, I cried, I observed. That’s what makes people go to the movies.”
Peter Guber, Chairman/CEO of Mandalay Ent Group (Exec Producer Rain Man, Batman Returns)
MovieMaker magazine
Winter 2006
Page 69

Related Post: 40 Days of Emotion

Scott W. Smith

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What I’m Grateful for in 2012!

2012 has been a challenging year in the world (too many things to list) and in my personal life, additionally with the loss of my beloved cousin Kevin, the health challenges of my BFF Sofia, my abuela, my uncles Bobby and Frank; hurricane Sandy and the cleansing of other negative forces. However, through it all I’ve resurfaced stronger, even more grateful and I’ve reaffirmed that I can’t chose what happens to me, but I can choose how I want to feel about it.

Counting my many blessings for 2012, here it goes:

1. I celebrated 12 years with my husband Alex this December. Lucky to have such an incredible love in my life that always reminds me that where doesn’t matter, together is what counts.

2. An incredible birth family and in-laws. I love you ALL very much! We’re not always perfect, but we weather the challenges and in the end love one another unconditionally.

3. My community of old and new friends that feed my soul, names are not necessary as you know who you are. I’m blessed and grateful for having such real, inspiring and ever evolving friends.

4. The privilege to dream, map out my desires and make a living doing what I love and makes me happy.

5. My students who everyday inspire me to be a better person and continue to make revolutionary art without even knowing it. We talk about real world issues and how to use our art as a tool for liberation and justice.

6. My continued health and my work towards trying to live more holistically and healthy.

7. Seeing Sofia finish chemo and kicking cancer in the ass for real.

8. My doggies, Zina and Zorro who bring me such incredible unconditional love.

9. Having a positive moment with my father after not speaking with him for over twelve years. I’m reminded how much he has been missed and can never be replaced.  Our visit reminded me that my dreaming started with him.  My father told me I could dream, my mother’s compassion gave me the confidence to continue.  My own courage taught me I must follow my desires to be happy.  My husband joined me and now we actualize our dreams together.

10. I’m blessed I can raise my able bodied legs to officially kick 2012 out of my life while lifting my glass to say, “Bye Beyotch.” I know that wasn’t the most progressive use of words, but if the word fits– use it.

All that said, I’m looking forward to 2013 and I’m entering again remembering that I can’t choose what happens to me, but I will always control how I want to feel about it. This is personal power and it’s all mine to use towards whatever I desire.

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A birthday wish for “La Fi” and “Nana”

It’s exactly 12 AM on February 16th. I don’t always make birthday wishes and if I do, well I don’t share.  But this year I’m making my wish public so that my BFF “La Fi” can feel the positive energy and vibrations of the universe.  I want “La Fi” to be healthy and cancer free.   If you wish me a happy birthday, all I ask is that you think of her too.  The power of positive energy goes a long way.  I could feel the chanting and well wishes that were being done while I was surviving ovarian cancer eight years ago and I do believe that energy has the power to heal.  On this birthday, I share the celebration of life with La Fi and my abuelita “Nana” two of the many powerful women who have impacted me on my life journey.  #grateful #hopeful #determined #survivors

Support Independent Films Gun Hill Road and Circumstance (opening this weekend)

While in attendance this year, my two favorite films were Gun Hill Road (Director: Rashad Ernesto Green) and Circumstance (Director: Maryam Keshavarz, Producer: Karin Chien).

If you haven’t seen Gun Hill Road yet, please support TODAY Thursday, (August 25th)  as it’s still playing at the Angelika in New York. After today it won’t be screening there. Here is a link to their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/gunhillroad. You can also check it out on the Angelika Film Center page: http://angelikafilmcenter.com/angelika_film.asp?hID=1&ID=527z260.81236532781o2s3045.92.

Meanwhile, Circumstance is opening this weekend and you meet the cast and crew at the following venues this weekend:

Please join us for the opening weekend of Circumstance!
Q&As with actors Nikohl Boosheri and Keon Mohajeri, producers Melissa Lee and Karin Chien.
See below for times.

FRIDAY 8/26@ Lincoln Center – Q&As following 6p & 8:20p shows
-Cinereach’s Phil Engelhorn will moderate the Q&A following the 8:20p show, then we’ll all head over for drinks at the Emerald Inn (205 Columbus @ 69th)

SATURDAY 8/27 @ Lincoln Center -Q&A following 3:40p show

SATURDAY 8/27 @ Sunshine Cinemas – Q&As following 7:10p & 9:35p shows
-Cinereach’s Adella Ladjevari will moderate the Q&A following the 7:10p show
-Tribeca Film Institute’s Tamir Muhammad will moderate the Q&A following the 9:35p show, then we’ll all head next door for drinks at the White Rabbit

SUNDAY 8/28 @ Clearview Squire, Great Neck LI – Q&As following 3:45p & 6:45p shows

Link to Circumstance’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/circumstancethemovie.

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