Can a Documentary Change the World?


Black and Cuba director Robin J. Hayes discusses “Socially Engaged Art as a Tool for Social Justice” at UnionDocs Socially Engaged Documentary Art Seminar Sunday June 21, 2015 10:30am 322 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211. For filmmakers, artists and cultural producers, the seminar offers vital information about the theory and practice of documentary making with a purpose. Tell them Progressive Pupil sent you and get 20% off conference registration with promocode SEDA15. Learn more at  Share with a friend who wants to make films for their communities.

Today at 2pm EST: Black and Cuba Director Featured on New York’s WBAI

Hayes Photo 2014 10Dr. Robin J. Hayes, director of the award-winning documentary Black and Cuba will be on New York City’s WBAI today Tuesday April 14 at 2pm EST to discuss the film and “Feeling a Foreigner” on the Artsy Fartsy Show.  Listen live or download here.

“Black and Cuba” Now Streaming on Vimeo on Demand

The Harlem Chorus, narrators of Black and Cuba, following the Black studies tradition

                            The Harlem Chorus, narrators of Black and Cuba

The award-winning documentary Black and Cuba is now available for streaming.  The film follows street smart students who are outcast at their elite university, band together and adventure to Cuba, whose population is 60% Black.  Black and Cuba’s release comes on the heels of President Obama’s announcement that the US will thaw relations with Cuba and ease travel restrictions to the island.  See the film and see Cuba for yourself.  This weekend only, the filmmakers are offering a limited number of 10% discounts to subscribers in order to express their gratitude for your support.  Go to Vimeo on Demand and use the promo code SHAKUR15. 

Black and Cuba Screening at Dominican University


Friends of Progressive Pupil,

Black and Cuba is coming to Dominican University! Come and watch a free screening of our documentary, followed by a Q&A with director Robin Hayes tomorrow, Thursday on September 18th, at 6:30pm located at 7900 W. Division River Forest IL, 60305.  We look forward to seeing you there!

For Patsey and Her Descendants

(L.) Patsey from 12 Years a Slave Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight (R.) Lupita Nyong’o Kevin Winter/Getty Images

(L.) Patsey from 12 Years a Slave Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight
(R.) Lupita Nyong’o Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Happy Women’s Empowerment Month!
In Lupita Nyong’o’s inspiring speech accepting the 2013 Best Supporting Actress “Oscar” for her impressive performance in 12 Years a Slave, she acknowledged the presence of the true life Patsey (whom she portrayed in the film) and asserted powerfully “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”  Her Academy Award show statements culminated an overwhelmingly successful international run on red carpets and award show stages in which she wowed the world with her graceful beauty, impeccable style and stunning intelligence.  Joyful, cosmopolitan, and Ivy League educated, Ms. Nyong’o fulfills a durable wish we have as the descendants of Patsey and the vicious dehumanization by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that her character embodies.


American Promise: The Colors of Education

Image courtesy of 2012

Image courtesy of 2012

Being a student is a hard enough task on its own. Put aside the toil of maintaining good grades, and you are left with the inevitable adolescent social obstacles of peer pressure, fitting in and trying to be cool. But what happens when juggling classes and extracurricular activities becomes the least of your worries and, instead, you find yourself confronting issues of race and discrimination in the classroom?


12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave in an exciting and compelling text, which provides a unique glimpse into the lives of U.S. slaves during the 1800s. The book’s author and protagonist, Solomon Northup, was born a free man and lived with his wife and three children in Saratoga Springs, NY. In 1841, he was kidnapped and taken to Washington D.C., where he was then sold to a plantation owner in Louisiana. Northup’s account of the following twelve years is eloquent, raw and, at times, extremely hard to read. His vivid descriptions of the horrors of slavery are juxtaposed with his optimism and unwavering will to live and return to his family. Finally, with the help of friends and allies, Northup was able to return to New York as a free man. He spent the rest of his life dedicated to the abolition movement and assisting with the Underground Railroad.


It’s A Wrap

Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur and July 26th Movement member Che Guevara

Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur and July 26th Movement member Che Guevara

Progressive Pupil is happy to announce that thanks to your support the feature-length documentary Black and Cuba is complete! The production team has incorporated community feedback from work-in-progress screenings over the past few months in San Juan, East Harlem, San Diego, Greenwich Village and other locations. We’re currently working on bringing Black and Cuba to a film festival near you. To keep in touch with the film’s progress, like its Facebook page, follow us on twitter and subscribe to this blog.

Remembering AfroCuban Filmmaker Sara Gomez

Sara Gomez filming on location. Image Courtesy of

Sara Gomez filming on location. Image Courtesy of

(Afro)Latino Heritage Month is an ideal time to remember and celebrate the work of a true trailblazer, Sara Gomez. During her career as a filmmaker and community advocate, Gomez captured the culture and traditions of AfroCuban life. In an industry dominated by men, Gomez’s presence was a brazen challenge to the status quo. Female directors in Cuba, especially those of African descent, were often marginalized and their films were not taken as seriously as those of male counterparts. Sara Gomez was one of the visionaries who started the movement to change this. Gomez was the first female Cuban filmmaker in the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC), and her intimate portrayals of women in Cuban society sparked an important cinematic dialogue which continues to this day.


We of the Saya


Sisa Bueno began work on her documentary of the AfroBolivian community while serving as a volunteer in Bolivia. We of the Saya (Nosotros los de la Saya) attempts to expose the systemic vulnerability of a group that, historically, has not even been recognized as an existing people by the Bolivian government. It is a state of affairs that resonates strongly with many AfroLatin@ groups throughout the Americas.

Bueno’s film follows the struggles of an AfroBolivian farmer who aspires to help her marginalized community by entering politics. The documentary provides a rare glimpse into history unfolding. In a recent article, Ms. Bueno notes the important questions surrounding identity in the Americas:  “[H]ere in the U.S., we really confine ourselves to these kinds of labels that were not created by us, but for us… ‘black’ and ‘African-American’ are the same. At least in my view, that’s not the same thing. ‘Blackness’ … is a global existence.”

You can support the efforts to garner more attention for the film by following We of the Saya on Twitter and Facebook and by visiting the film’s official website.

by Ian Morlan