We are the radical monarchs
The Black Panther Party, with its firm commitment to feeding and nourishing the children of the under-served African American community in Oakland, was founded in 1966. So it's a bit shocking that the radical monarchs needed to be born almost half a century later. Or maybe not. Historically, queer women in color – like the tireless co-founders of the monarchs, Anayvette Martinez and Marilyn Hollinquest – had never had a leading role in the Black Panther show.
Fortunately, committed feminist and filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton and her all-female team (including EP Grace Lee) are now taking a documentary look at Oakland's newest (youngest) activist movement: an alternative to the Girl Scout Brownies for color girls who can clink glasses from marshmallows to marching for Black Trans lives in one sentence. Or, as 8-year-old Amia said at the beginning of the film: "One thing that is fun about social justice is that we can write history – or" Herstory ”, as we like to say. And we'll be a tiny little part of it. Because we all know that many small parts can correspond to a large part. "(That said, when the troop ended up traveling to the state capital to stand up for lawmakers, it's pretty clear that these girls' ambitions are far from tiny. Amia turns on the marble floor and sighs," Me it should be here. "Indeed from the mouth of radical babes.)
We Are The Radical Monarchs was filmed for over three years, even before and after the 2016 presidential election, and doesn't just follow third through fifth graders when they earn their badges (on subjects such as "radical beauty", "radical body") and " radical roots ”), but also goes behind the scenes of the shabby co-founders, who bring their daily professional skills to the advocacy and organization of the community to work. In other words, Hollinquest and Martinez have found a way to use willpower rather than funding to build BIPOC women's power into a nationwide revolution.
Before the document was broadcast on POV on July 20, the filmmaker turned to the Emmy Award-winning director to learn more about the inspiring project, including filming underage characters and ensuring diversity behind the lens.
Filmmakers: So how did you first come across the radical monarchs and decided not only to follow the troop but also the tireless co-founders who run these wild (and adorable) girls?
Knowlton: I first read an article in The Guardian in January 2015 ("Radical Brownies: Is This the Future of Girl Groups?") About the Radical Monarchs and their co-founders. They had just started up in December 2014 with a group of 12 girls. They got a lot of press after being photographed marching on the Oakland Black Lives Matter march. They wore their black panther-inspired berets and a banner that read “Radical Brownies” (the group's original name). I read their mission and vision and felt incredibly inspired. I mean how could I not be? Their mission statement states: “The radical monarchs offer young colored girls the opportunity to form a wild sisterhood, to celebrate their identity and to make a radical contribution to their communities.” Their vision states: “The radical monarchs empower young people Girls with color to stay rooted in their collective strength, brilliance and leadership to make the world a more radical place. ”
I knew from the start that I wanted to follow Anayvette Martinez and Marilyn Hollinquest – the organization's co-founders – to see how two women who started a group of 12 girls would respond to the pressure to form troops across the country . At that time, both worked 60 hours a week as community organizers, looking after their own families. And when they received requests from over 200 cities in the United States for troops, they were basically asked to start a movement. The biggest change to my original idea of “a year in life” to start a movement was that we followed it for three and a half years.
Filmmakers: Is access as a documentary filmmaker different if you are dealing with underage protagonists? Have you met with parents and children to discuss concerns and negotiate certain limits?
Knowlton: It's really just about respect and trust, isn't it? I have worked with younger protagonists in some films == The world to Sesame Street, somewhere in between and Whale Rider (although not a document) – so I came to this film with positive examples of careful and respectful work with young people.
After I went to Oakland to meet Anayvette and Marilyn to get their approval for the film, I had an introductory email sent to all families to introduce me and the project. I explained to them that when I work with children I make it clear to the children that they have the power and freedom of choice to always tell me whether they feel uncomfortable with the camera on. And that they don't have to answer questions that they don't like to answer. And I explained to the families that I am parents of a (POC) daughter at the age of their own daughters. As a filmmaker, I attach great importance to the wellbeing of the child.
Then I went back to Oakland to meet with the parents in person and answer all questions == and everyone gave permission! After we filmed a few meetings of the Radical Monarchs and interviewed all of the girls and at least one of the parents, the trust that we all had among each other really took hold. We became part of the radical monarch family.
Filmmakers: I think you're working with a purely female crew, although I'm not sure how many in the team identify as BIPOC. How do you work as an intersectional feminist and filmmaker to ensure diversity behind the lens?
Knowlton: We have worked with as many BIPOC womxn crew members as possible whenever possible! I am based in LA and this was my first film in the Bay Area. So I relied on recommendations from friends and colleagues to find a new crew base. I always asked for BIPOC womxn first. Brown Girls Doc Mafia was also an incredible organization / resource that I tapped into. After that, it would be about people's availability for our shooting days.
Filmmakers: How was the editing process in terms of creating a coherent story? They have the monarchs and co-founders, of course, but also issues such as troop expansion (not to mention the background of the 2016 elections).
Knowlton: In addition to all of these storylines over three and a half years, my co-worker (editor and producer) Katie Flint became pregnant and had a baby. And I had cancer treatments and surgery. The editing process was complex to say the least (especially considering we thought we would only shoot for a year).
When it came to creating the story with all the footage, the idea finally clicked to show the many growth levels of the co-founders and the troupe from almost their beginning to their completion. Then we justified this arc with what we called the "outer backbone" of history – i.e. H. What was going on in the country and used the headlines to keep up with the times and what the radical monarchs always had to expect. This "click" came after more than two years of filming.
Filmmakers: How do the monarchs prepare for media coverage after the film airs nationwide? Are you worried that the conservative backlash – something that the co-founders have been dealing with since the beginning of the troop – could intensify, especially now that we are approaching another difficult choice?
Knowlton: I will have Anayvette answer this question. "Yes, every time our media visibility is impaired, the trolls come out of the wood! We will closely monitor all of our social media websites, but otherwise we will continue to focus on our work and movement. We want to do too much to be distracted by all the hate noise. "