by Pamela Rodi

Award-winning director Kasi Lemmons was honored by GreenLight Women during Black History Month for her upcoming feature film, Harriet, the story of abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman.  It was a perfect tie-in for the Focus Features’ project with the 2019 Black History Month theme of “Black Migrations and Social Changes”.

Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped and, during the American Civil War, led others to freedom in the northern states through a network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

The celebration was an elegant champagne brunch held on Sunday, February 17, 2019 at the London Hotel West Hollywood in Beverly Hills, California. President of GreenLight Women Ivy Kagan Bierman welcomed guests and GreenLight Women’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Group Chair Kimberly J. Ogletree, who was also producer of the event, introduced Kasi Lemmons.  

“a beacon light for us all”

The panel discussion with Lemmons was hosted by actor Vanessa Bell Calloway (What’s Love Got To Do With It) and moderated by Ogletree.  Lemmons talked about her experience making Harriet and the American experience of those with African-American descendants who migrated from the Deep South to an industrialized North.

Ogletree said,  “We are very proud to honor Kasi Lemmons. She is a leader who shines a light on our mission to uncover unconscious bias against women and women of color in today’s society. Kasi Lemmons is an inspiration and a beacon light for all.”

An actor and a director, Lemmons has appeared in such acclaimed films as Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs and Spike Lee’s School Daze. Her first feature film as a writer-director, Eve’s Bayou, became the highest grossing independent film of 1997.  It won the Independent Spirit Award for

Best First Feature and First-Time Director Award from the National Board of Review.

Eve’s Bayou induction into the Library of Congress

In December 2018, Lemmons received one of the film industry’s highest honors when Eve’s Bayou was selected among 25 American films chosen annually for induction into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. The movies are selected because of their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage.

Other titles chosen for the 30th anniversary of the Film Registry include Brokeback Mountain, Jurassic Park and My Fair Lady.

Lemmons is only the third African-American woman to be inducted into the Registry.

First full-length feature on life of Harriet Tubman

Harriet is the first full-length feature film ever made about the life of Harriet Tubman. The film stars Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at The El Royale, Widows), Janelle Monàe (Hidden Figures, Moonlight) and Joe Alwyn (The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots).  Focus is looking at a 4th quarter release date in the U.S.

A celebration of diversity

More than 70 guests enjoyed the breakfast, the panel and the positive vibes at the hotel just off the Sunset Strip. Among the guests were GreenLight Women board members actor/producer Lucy Webb, producer/manager Marion Rosenberg, AFI dean Betsy Pollock and producer Tessa Bell; attorney Nina Shaw, actors Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue, Shamless) and Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes Reborn, Claws),  directors Anne Goursaud and Rokhsareh Ghaemmahami,  producer/author Nell Scovell,  producer Effie Brown and casting director “Twinkie” Byrd.

Kagan Bierman awarded GreenLight Women’s first grant to filmmaker Tchaiko Omawale.  (See details about the grant here.)  

GreenLight Women graciously thanks the event sponsors Loeb & Loeb, Focus Features, Gersch, startTV and the Virginia Film Commission.

Members – Diversity and Inclusion Action Group

Kimberly J. Ogletree – Chair
Regina Williams
Lucy Webb
Ivy Kagan Bierman
Zane Buzby
Zatella Beatty

Photo credit:  Tasia Wells

Kasi Lemmons

Ivy Kagan Bierman, Kasi Lemmons, Kimberly J. Ogletree

Rokhsareh Ghaemmahami, Lucy Webb, Nell Scovell,  Marion Rosenberg

Jimmy Jean-Louis, Helene Shaw, Effie Brown

Nina Shaw

Zane Busby, Kim J. Ogletree

Diversity: The art of thinking independently together