Black Lenses and Voices

Amplifying the voices and perspectives of Black storytellers in our community and around the world.

Black Lenses and Voices

On this page, find links to the live streamers documenting this time in Seattle history, Seattle-based arts organizations who feature Black storytellers through cinema and other art forms, and recommended films to watch that present the Black experience across multiple points of the spectrum.

Queer Films

On the eve of what would be Seattle's Pride celebration weekend, I encourage you to visit (or re-visit) some of my favorite queer films from Black filmmakers and/or centering on Black stories. As we as a country think about what freedom means—and the people who have fought for generations to assure that here in 2020, we would be able to stand up for human rights—we owe a huge debt of gratitude and respect to the Black transwomen and drag queens who stoodat Stonewall in 1969 and said "no more." Learn about their fights and so much more with theseincredible films. Happy Pride!

—Beth Barrett, SIFF Artistic Director
June 25, 2020


Dee Rees's 2011 breakthrough study of a teenage African American lesbian coming out in the face of her mother's vicious prejudice is not just a milestone in the coming-of-age genre, it is a genuinely emotional experience on every level. Rees also directed the HBO biopic Bessie, starring Queen Latifah as the legendary queer blues singer Bessie Smith, a woman who lived on the edge and changed the face of the Blues in the 1920s and '30s.

Tongues Untied

Tongues Untied
The seminal documentary on Black gay life, Emmy Award-winning director Marlon T. Riggs' 1989 Tongues Untied uses poetry, personal testimony, rap and performance (featuring poet Essex Hemphill and others), to describe the homophobia and racism that confront Black gay men.


Barry Jenkins' masterpiece of nuance and longing, a film that will be taught in film classes for years traces the coming of age of a young Southern Black gay man from childhood to adulthood. Every frame is a revelation, and rightfully was a big Oscar winner in 2016.

The Watermelon Woman

The Watermelon Woman
Directed by Cheryl Dunye, the film holds a place in cinema history as the first feature film from an out Black lesbian about Black lesbians (in 1996...). This freewheeling romantic comedy which serves as both introspective self-portraiture (Dunye also stars) and a pointed lesson in Black film history, is funny and caustic in turns in all the right ways.

Paris is Burning

Paris is Burning
Before there was "Pose" (also a do-not-miss on my list, streaming on Netflix now) there was Paris is Burning, the classic documentary showcasing the incredible ballroom culture of the 1980s in all its diverse glory.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
The trans icon we should all know about, Marsha P. Johnson was a legendary fixture in NYC and a tireless voice for LGBTQIA voices since the days of Stonewall. Tragically, we lost her in 1992 to apparent suicide, but this doc from David France suggests we don't know all the details. A stunning look at one of our great queer elders.


Shot on an iPhone, and starring trans actresses Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, this odyssey tale of two trans sex workers in LA on Christmas Eve just trying to take care of a few things is cinema at its most brash and brave. Watch this film via Northwest Film Forum, screening virtually through July 31. Throughout the month of June, all proceeds from NWFF's June screenings go to organizations that empower the Black community.


On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Union army general Gordon Granger read the federal orders proclaiming all slaves in Texas were now free, the last state to “officially” be notified of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been passed more than two years prior. Here are a few local resources on how to honor the Juneteenth holiday.
Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
Northwest African American Museum
The Stranger's Guide to Juneteenth

Live Streamers

These are just a few of the many storytellers who are livestreaming from the front lines of Seattle. Please follow and support them as they document the events of our time and assure that BIPOC voices are heard.

Do you know Black, Indigenous, or people of color who are documenting or live streaming the protests, marches, or specific events across our Puget Sound community? SIFF would love to learn more about them, their invaluable work, and how they may be supported more by the community. Let us know in the comments on our Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter or email us at

The following descriptions are from their websites/social presence in their own words:

Chai Adera (@future_crystals)
A young BIPOC 24 year old artist, he's on the streets documenting and live streaming these important events of our time. 
Donate: Live Streaming for the People (GoFundMe)
Instagram: @future_crystals

Omari Salisbury (Converge Media)
Converge Media is a leading producer of culturally relevant video and audio content in the Pacific Northwest. We create video and podcast content produced and curated specifically for an urban audience.
Facebook: /WWConverge

Anthony Tackett
Facebook: /tackett206
For those looking to donate to the cause, send your money to Africatown and to Creative Justice:
Wyking Garrett and Africatown Support:
Nikkita Oliver supporters:
Follow up these moments of chaos with action that literally can solve this. Let the people drive and trust us, so this will never happen again.

Local Organizations

There are many Seattle-based arts organizations who feature Black storytellers through cinema and other art forms—these are six that SIFF holds in high regard. We urge you, the SIFF audience, to become familiar with their missions, join their newsletters and social media for updates on their programming, experience the deep stories and conversations they present, support them financially, and create a space in your hearts for sustained interest in Black storytelling.

The following organizational descriptions are from their websites in their own words.

Recommended Viewing

Here's but a small selection of vital moving image works, both contemporary and historical, that present the Black experience across multiple points of the spectrum. This is by no means meant to be regarded as a comprehensive list, merely a starting point for anyone wanting to contemplate the rich perspectives of Black America as expressed through the medium that we at SIFF champion 365 days a year.

Losing Ground (1982)
Moonlight (2016)
I Am Not Your Negro (2017)
13th (2016)
Daughters of the Dust (1991)
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)
The Learning Tree (1969)
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)
Mudbound (2017)
Get Out (2017)
The Watermelon Woman (1996)