From experimental shorts and web series to Hollywood blockbusters and feminist porn, the work of African American lesbian filmmakers has made a powerful contribution to film history. But despite its importance, this work has gone largely unacknowledged by cinema historians and cultural critics. Assembling a range of interviews, essays, and conversations, Sisters in the Life tells a full story of African American lesbian media-making spanning three decades. In essays on filmmakers including Angela Robinson, Tina Mabry and Dee Rees; on the making of Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman (1996); and in interviews with Coquie Hughes, Pamela Jennings, and others, the contributors center the voices of black lesbian media makers while underscoring their artistic influence and reach as well as the communities that support them. Sisters in the Life marks a crucial first step in narrating the history and importance of these compelling yet unsung artists.


Jennifer DeVere Brody, Jennifer DeClue, Raul Ferrera-Balanquet, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Thomas Allen Harris, Devorah Heitner, Pamela L. Jennings, Alexandra Juhasz, Kara Keeling, Candace Moore, Marlon Moore, Michelle Parkerson, Roya Rastegar, L. H. Stallings, Yvonne Welbon, Patricia White, Karin D. Wimbley

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Table of Contents:

ix Preface •  To Be Transparent: Seeing Directions and Connections in Black Lesbian Film Alexandra Juhasz

Introduction • The Sisters in the Life Archive Project Yvonne Welbon

PART I • 1986–1995 

Introduction Yvonne Welbon 

1. Birth of a Notion: Toward Black, Gay, and Lesbian Imagery in Film and Video     Michelle Parkerson

2. Narrating Our History: An Introduction Thomas Allen Harris

3. Narrating Our History: Selections from a Dialogue among Queer Media Artists from the African Diaspora Edited by Raúl Ferrera-Balanquet and omas Allen Harris, with Shari Frilot, Leah Gilliam, Dawn Suggs, Jocelyn Taylor, and Yvonne Welbon

4. Construction of Computation and Desire: Introduction to Yvonne Welbon’s Interview with Pamela L. Jennings Kara Keeling

5. Ruins and Desire: Interview with Pamela L. Jennings, July 27, 2012 Yvonne Welbon

6. the book of ruins and desire: Interactive Mechatronic Sculpture Pamela L. Jennings

7. A Cosmic Demonstration of Shari Frilot’s Curatorial Practice Roya Rastegar

8. Identity and Performance in Yvonne Welbon’s Remembering Wei-Yi FangRemembering Myself: An Autobiography Devorah Heitner

PART II • 1996–2016

Introduction Yvonne Welbon 

9. Producing Black Lesbian Media Candace Moore

10. Stereotypy, Mammy, and Recovery in Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman
Karin D. Wimbley

11. Coquie Hughes: Urban Lesbian Filmmaker. Introduction to Yvonne Welbon’s Interview with Coquie Hughes Jennifer DeVere Brody

12. Stepping Out on Faith: Interview with Coquie Hughes, July 27, 2012 Yvonne Welbon

13. “Invite Me In!”: Angela Robinson at Hollywood’s Threshold Patricia White

14. Shine Louise Houston: An Interstice of Her Own Making  L. H. Stallings 

15. From Rage to Resignation: Reading Tina Mabry’s Mississippi Damned as a Post–Civil Rights Response to Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” Marlon Rachquel Moore

16. The Circuitous Route of Presenting Black Butch: The Travels of Dee Rees’s Pariah
Jennifer DeClue

17. Creating the World Anew: Black Lesbian Legacies and Queer Film Futures                  Alexis Pauline Gumbs


Selected Bibliography