Rebekah Henderson works as a Ross-Cherry Creek librarian. Trish Tolentino makes movies and owns Stories Not Forgotten, a video production company that archives family memories. The two had never worked together before they partnered on "What Makes a Mother," a short interview-driven documentary about the hills and valleys of motherhood, which was released this year. But they found that they collaborated well, and now they've regrouped to start work on a second film, "Mixed Up," which will delve into the experience of being a mixed-race person in the United States.
After seeing another film about a mixed-race family that she says downplayed the challenges of navigating U.S. culture and systemic racism, Henderson, who is half black and half white and is married to a man who is also of mixed race, felt driven to share stories of others like herself, who may not fit any particular check-box of racial identity. She also felt compelled to share her experience with her son, who looks white. "It's hard to say this publicly, but I was disappointed that my son turned out so white," she says. "On one hand, I think it's just that mom thing that you're disappointed that he doesn’t look like you. But it brought up all these things. I’ve always identified as black, because I grew up in the ’80s: If I checked white, they would erase it and say, 'No, you're black.' That was my experience growing up as mixed race. My husband is also mixed race, but he looks white, so he identifies as mixed race."
She began having conversations with other mixed-race people who shared her anxieties and experiences, and so she and Tolentino decided to explore the stories on camera. "I started asking people if they’d be willing to participate and do interviews," she says. "It's a conversation starter." She's gathered three interviews, which she and Tolentino cut into a trailer to launch their Kickstarter campaign.
Assuming the project is fully funded, she'll expand the web a bit to bring in people from other cities to speak on film. And she hopes that even if mixed-race people who might participate in this can't come to Denver, they'll feel encouraged to share their story publicly. She plans to facilitate that via a website connected to the work.
Henderson has been leading discussions about race at the Ross-Cherry Creek library, and she also hopes that this is another way to spur tough conversations that she believes America should be having.
"I think people tend to be more open talking to mixed-race people — they say things to us that they wouldn’t say to a quote-unquote fully black person," she explains. "We’re constantly navigating multiple worlds, so we have a special skill set in having these conversations. I think that’s important in the discourse. We need to be having these uncomfortable conversations, and mixed-race people are used to being uncomfortable — we’re used to feeling like we don’t fit in, and that’s helpful when it comes to discussing this."
If Henderson and Tolentino's campaign is funded, they'll begin shooting in August, with an eye toward releasing the film in November. But Henderson hopes the conversation won't stop there. "This is just the beginning," she says. "I wanted to give a voice to people who are left out. We're the fastest-growing demographic in the country. America is going to look a lot different in the coming decades."
Head over to the film's Kickstarter page to learn more about what's planned.
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