Rebekah Henderson is a documentary filmmaker. She and her film-making partner Trish Tolentino—creator of Stories Not Forgotten—debuted their well-received project What Makes a Mother? in May of 2017.
Now, Henderson is seeking our help to assist in bringing another ambitious film project to fruition. She is now looking at an issue that is near and dear to her heart. Her newest topic focuses on Multiracial families and children who identify as multiracial. This is a rich subject who’s vital exploration benefits all in an America that is rapidly becoming increasingly diverse and multiculturalist.
In her own words from her Kickstarter page,
“I used to only identify as black, but now that I have a white son, I’ve started identifying as mixed.”
“This is a huge conversation. Our first step is to produce a 30-minute documentary. We need resources to continue doing our interviews, learning more, so we can produce a film that will get people talking and thinking more about race . . .”
– Rebekah Henderson Librarian/Filmmaker
I had the opportunity to interview Rebekah about her project goals, her own personal story and the challenges to produce this project.-
Alex Yarde (AY): Do you think the acceptance of Multiculturalism in America is inevitable?
Rebekah Henderson (RH): Inevitable…well if we don’t all burn up and die from climate change before we can get there, yes. The statistics back it up, multiracials are the fastest growing demographic in the country…I think there are more sane and open people in this country than alt-right wing White supremacists.
And it’s pretty hard to hate your little brown grandbaby unless you really are a monster. My white grandparents came around eventually, I mean we didn’t call them grandma and grandpa in public and they were ashamed of us and had no pictures of us in their house, but they did visit us let us visit them and we had a relationship with them…
On the other hand, I don’t know, maybe there will be a revolt? Trump is a sign of the sickness of our nation, so maybe this is it, and we are on our death bed, maybe America won’t be America anymore?…I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
AY: Have you faced any pushback about exploring this topic? Has that been surprising?
RH: Well, my own father doesn’t think that people are interested in the subject of multiracial people (although he still pledged thanks Pops!) which made me kind of doubt myself, do people care about us?
I posted this clip of me saying how I felt after the election:
One of our backers wanted their money back, which was a fear I had, that people wouldn’t understand what I’m saying or why I’m saying it. I had a couple of black female friends get very prickly about that clip as well, because I was talking about complexion, something that is and has historically been very detrimental to the black community. “If you’re brown get down, if you’re black jump back”…so I think I’m rubbing people the wrong way, and maybe they don’t understand, but I’m not sure I even understand.
This is a huge part of why I’m doing this project. If I’m having these questions, I’m sure plenty others are as well. I want to talk to more people, I want to get their thoughts and opinions and experiences to help me make sense of my own inner turmoil. If I can do this for myself. I can help others answer thier own questions.
AY: If we had a different President, do you think the underlying concern of your son’s “whiteness” would change? How so?
RH: I was pretty uneasy telling strangers that I was upset that my baby came out totally white. People who know me, know I’m pretty vain, self centered, even a bit narcissistic, so really I just wanted a little girl that looked exactly like me, so when my son was born with red hair and blue eyes and a creamy complexion it made pregnancy and childbirth seem like a lot of work to not get exactly what I wanted.
Let me be clear. I love my son. He is the most beautiful creature on the planet and when he was born I thought he was adorable, turns out though when I look back at those newborn photos I’m like, yikes, he looked like a freaky little alien. Oh so back to your original question, I think that when Obama was elected the first time, we had a real sense that things were going to change, that America was really moving in the right direction. I wept when he won, I wept for all of my black family that didn’t live to see the day that a black(and half white) man was president of our country.
When Trump was elected I also wept for my black family, but this time it was because I felt afraid. I felt like, how can I protect my brother, whose complexion is darker than mine? Who will keep all my cousins safe from lynch mobs and white supremacists that are willing to walk into a church and murder innocent people as a means to start a race war? How can we protect our black boys and men under a president that wants to bring back stop and frisk? A president that was raised by a white supremacist, and takes his counsel from Steve Bannon? The hateful rhetoric he has spewed for years even before all the shi*t he said on his campaign… If we had a President Oprah, I think I would still feel like man, my baby so white, and he doesn’t look like me, the woman who ruined her body for him, but I wouldn’t be as grateful because I wouldn’t be as fearful for him. But I think we all know that just having a black(and half white) president didn’t fix our country’s problem with race…part of this project is that I want to unpack my feelings about race and identity too…I wish it didn’t matter to me at all, I wish things were different, I wish our country wasn’t built on murder and destruction and the subjugation of others…
AY: What would you like the “take away” to be for people who watch your completed film?
RH: I’m hoping after they watch the film they will have more questions, and a desire to get these kinds of conversations going in their own circles. In my dreams, I swear I’m like an old white hippie, It’s not that I don’t want people to see color, color is one of the most beautiful things in the world…but I want it to stop defining us in hurtful ways. And I don’t just mean barbs I mean the whole system of white supremacy that is hurting ALL of us of every color, including white.
I’m hoping that when people see people of different ages and backgrounds and races sharing their truths, they will realize how much more we have in common than we think…I want people to take away a feeling that we are a human family. I know that sounds lofty for a 30-minute project and maybe a little bit corny, but I just want people to be able to talk to each other, really talk. I want to inspire conversations that will lead to change.
AY: Is the takeaway message the same for PoC & for white audiences? How would they differ if you believe they would or should be?
RH: In the sense of wanting people to be inspired and able to speak their own truth and have people listen, yes the takeaway is the same. While at the same time I think that it will affect people differently. For mixed race people, I think it’s often a good feeling to see yourself represented and to hear about other’s experiences and how they may be similar or different to your own. When white people see this, it may help them consider things that hadn’t occurred to them prior to seeing the film…especially those who are in interracial relationships and are planning on having children or thinking about having children.
AY: What are your plans for this work if your Kickstarter goal isn’t met? Conversely what are your stretch goals?
RH: Well, I’m really hoping that we do meet our goal even though we don’t have much time left. I think I might be feeling pretty crushed, and like damn, maybe my daddy is right, people are not interested in hearing from mixed race people. I suppose I will have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Most likely I will seek other funding avenues and relaunch and try to learn from my mistakes.
Our stretch goals would be to widen the interview pool and be able to travel a bit to meet with people. I have lots of people that I know would like to participate but I’d need to travel. And if the project draws enough attention perhaps I would be able to interview some high profile multiracial people like Trevor Noah, Barack Obama, Keanu Reeves…right now we are mostly doing local interviews.
This is an all or nothing Campaign. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Fri, July 21, 2017, 10:15 AM EDT.
Please consider supporting Rebekah’s efforts in getting this ambitious and timely documentary film funded by supporting her Kickstarter campaign. She is also looking for subjects that wish to tell their own stories about growing up in a Multiracial household.
You can donate and learn more about Rebekah’s project and contact her if you click on her Kickstarter link here.
Art Credit- Rebekah Henderson