Panelists

LEO CHIANG

S. Leo Chiang (Producer) is an Emmy Award-nominated documentarian. His film, A Village Called Versailles, about the rebuilding and transformation of the Vietnamese American community in post-Katrina New Orleans, picked up eight film festival awards and aired on PBS’ Independent Lens series. His most recent documentary, Mr. Cao Goes to Washington, won the Inspiration Award at the 2012 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. His other films include To You Sweetheart, Aloha (PBS broadcast 2006), One + One (CINE Golden Eagle Award 2002), and Safe Journey. Leo also collaborates with fellow filmmakers as an editor (True-Hearted Vixens, POV 2001; Recalling Orange County) and a cameraman (Ask Not, Independent Lens 2009). Born in Taiwan and based in San Francisco, Leo received an MFA in film production from University of Southern California. He is a Sundance Documentary Film Program fellow and the co-chair of New Day Films, the social-issue documentary distribution co-op. Visit his website, sleochiang.com, for more info.

 

LUISA DANTAS

Brazilian-American filmmaker Luisa Dantas has worked on a wide array of documentary and narrative projects at the intersection of storytelling and social justice. Her most recent project, Land of Opportunity, chronicles the reconstruction of New Orleans through the eyes of those on the frontlines and asks the question: what kinds of cities do we want to (re)build in the 21st century? The transmedia project includes an award-winning feature film and groundbreaking interactive web platform produced in conjunction with a spectrum of national and local partners in six cities.

Luisa also co-produced the acclaimed documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, and directed and produced the web-series Voices From the Gulf for ColorofChange. Luisa’s first fiction film, Bolo, was produced in Brazil and screened in several international festivals. She has also written for the animated series Go, Diego, Go! for Nickelodeon Television. She received a screenwriting fellowship from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and Disney/ABC. She teaches screenwriting and documentary filmmaking at Tulane University. Luisa received her B.A. in English and Latin American studies from Brown University and an M.F.A in Film from Columbia University.

LOLIS ELIE

Lolis Eric Elie is a New Orleans born, Los Angeles based writer and filmmaker. He has written from HBO's "Treme," AMC's "Hell on Wheels," and WGN's "Underground." Working with the award-winning director Dawn Logsdon, he co- produced and wrote the PBS documentary, Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans. His essay, “America’s Greatest Hits,” is included in Best African American Essays: 2009.

A former columnist for The Times-Picayune, he is the author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country and co-producer and writer of Smokestack Lightning: A Day in the Life of Barbecue, the documentary based on that book. He is editor of Cornbread Nation 2: The Best of Southern Food Writing.

A contributing writer to The Oxford American, his work has appeared in The Bitter Southerner, Gourmet, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Downbeat and The San Francisco Chronicle.

JORDAN FLAHERTY

Jordan Flaherty is an award-winning journalist, producer, and author. He has produced television documentaries and news reports for Democracy Now, Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera English, teleSUR, and The Laura Flanders Show, as well as award-winning fiction films, documentaries, and music videos. His reporting and analysis has been published in several anthologies, including the South End Press books Live From Palestine and What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race and the State of the Nation, and in dozens of publications, from the New York Times and Washington Post to ColorLines and the Village Voice. He has appeared as an actor in HBO’s television seriesTreme, playing himself. As a white southerner who speaks honestly about race, Jordan has been regularly published in Black progressive forums such as BlackCommentator.org and Black Agenda Report, and is a regular guest on Black radio stations and programs such as Keep Hope Alive With Reverend Jesse Jackson and News and Notes on NPR. He has also appeared on CNN Morning, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Headline News, and the Alan Colmes Show on Fox. He is the author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance From Katrina to the Jena Six. You can find more of his work online at jordanflaherty.org.

CHERICE HARRISON-NELSON

Cherice Harrison-Nelson is steeped in authentic African American Carnival masking  tradition, a culture practiced only in New Orleans. She is the third of five generations in her family to participate in ceremonial masquerading ritual handed down from her late father, Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. Her dress style is in homage to traditions of West Africa. Harrison-Nelson is a female in a male-dominated culture, but she doesn’t take any shortcuts – creating striking ritual attire, sewing each bead by hand, creating distinctive patterns in vibrant colors. Her original creations are held in the collections of Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), Nobel Prize winning author Wole Soyinka, David Simon creator of the HBO series, Tremé, and National Urban League President Marc Morial.

TAMARA JACKSON

Tamara Jackson is a powerful force in the cultural and social justice spheres of New Orleans. As volunteer President of the Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force, Tamara has achieved reforms on behalf of all local parading social aid and pleasure clubs. Tamara is also the President of VIP Ladies and Kids SAPC in as a victim-survivor of violence herself, Tamara joined SilenceIsViolence in 2009 as a volunteer consultant pertaining to victim services. She took over management of the SilenceIsViolence Victim Allies Project in 2010, and accepted responsibility over all SilenceIsViolence programs when the Board of Directors appointed her Executive Director in 2011.

Tamara possesses a Master’s in Business Administration, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Care Administration from the University of Phoenix.  Tamara received her national certification as a Comprehensive Victim Intervention Specialist in 2014. She is a certified law enforcement elder abuse instructor and a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team in New Orleans. Tamara has been influential in policy change in the city of New Orleans for the cultural community and victims.  She has conducted victim assistance and cultural diversity trainings for law enforcement officers. She has facilitated seminars and workshops on victim services, domestic violence, and cultural diversity at various organizations throughout New Orleans. Tamara worked for the State of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Mental Health for 17 years as a Medical Specialist. She is pursuing another Master in social work at the University of Southern California.

 

TIA LESSIN 

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Tia Lessin is the director and producer, with Carl Deal, of Trouble the Water, winner of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, the Gotham Independent Film Award and the Full Frame Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize and of Citizen Koch, shortlisted for the 2015 Oscars. She is the producer of Michael Moore’s latest film Where To Invade Next and was a co-producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, winner of the Palme d'Or, Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine, and Capitalism: A Love Story.  Tia line produced Martin Scorsese’s Emmy and Grammy winning film No Direction Home: Bob Dylan and was consulting producer of Living in the Material World: George Harrison.  Her work as producer of the series The Awful Truth earned her two Emmy nominations and a lifetime ban from Disneyland. Tia is the recipient of the L’Oréal Paris/Women in Film’s Women of Worth Vision Award and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

DAWN LOGSDON

Dawn Logsdon is an award-winning documentary director, producer and editor based in San Francisco and New Orleans. Her career has been dedicated to making films about civic issues and city life, particularly at the neighborhood level. She is currently producing and directing Free for All: Inside the Public Library, a multi-platform project about America’s public libraries. Her previous work has won Emmy, Peabody, and Sundance awards and been nominated for an Academy award.

She directed and produced Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (2008), which premiered at the Tribeca International Film Festival. It went on to win the SFIFF Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary and was a PBS Black History Month feature presentation three years in a row. Dawn co-directed and edited Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton (2013) and Lindy Boggs: Steel and Velvet (2008).  

  Photo credit: Michael Malyszko

Photo credit: Michael Malyszko

LYNNELL THOMAS

Lynnell L. Thomas is an associate professor and the chair of the American Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She received her Ph.D. from the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University. A native of New Orleans, Thomas is part of the post-Katrina diaspora, which informs her teaching and scholarship. Her research interests include African American studies, southern studies, tourism, and race in the post-civil rights era. Her articles and book chapters have been published in American Quarterly, The Black Scholar, Performance Research, Television and New Media, and Seeking Higher Ground: The Race, Public Policy, and Hurricane Katrina Reader. She is the author of Desire and Disaster in New Orleans: Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory (Duke University Press, 2014).

 

KIM VAZ

Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D. is professor of education and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her book, The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition is available from Louisiana State University Press (2013) and was the basis for a major installation, “They Call Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition” at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere unit in 2013.  She guest-curated with Ron Bechet, Department Head and Victor H. Labat Endowed Professor of Art Painting, Drawing, and Community Art at Xavier University of Louisiana, an art exhibit titled “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” in Spring, 2015 at the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art.  She is editor of a manuscript in progress, titled “The Baby Dolls of New Orleans: Contemporary Scholars and Artists Respond”. For more information visit: theycallmebabydoll.org

Brentin Mock

Brentin Mock is a journalist who writes for The Atlantic's Citylab.com. Mock currently lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Thena Robinson-Mock, a civil rights attorney and has a 12-year-old son named Justice Mock. Before joining Citylab this year, he was the justice editor for the environmental news site Grist.org, and in 2009 he helped start the New Orleans-based investigative news non-profit The Lens. His work can be found in range of publications, including The Nation, The Atlantic, Colorlines, The Root, The American Prospect, Newsweek, Vibe, XXL.com, and plenty others.

Musical Guest

DONALD HARRISON JR.

Donald was born in New Orleans in 1960 and grew up in a home environment saturated with the city’s traditional brass bands, afro-new Orleans culture, in addition to modern jazz, r&b, funk, classical, world and dance music. His connection to New Orleans roots were deepened by his father, a Big Chief, in a new American style of African culture developed New Orleans. The culture is an offshoot culture of Congo Square, one of the only known places in North America where Africans openly participated in their culture in the 18th and 19th centuries and continues today all over New Orleans. Donald himself became the Big Chief of The Congo Square Nation Afro-New Orleans cultural group in 1999 and coined the term Afro-New Orleans. He built the first costume that merges African designs with Afro-New Orleans style cultural designs.

Donald also created “Nouveau Swing,” a style of jazz that merges it with modern dance music like R&B, Hip-Hop, Soul and Rock. Over twenty years ago Harrison combined jazz with Afro-New Orleans traditional music on his critically acclaimed and influential albums “Indian Blues” (1991) and “Spirits of Congo Square” (2000). These records deepened Harrison’s commitment to maintaining the offshoot rituals, call and response chants and drumming as well as traditional to modern jazz music alive for the next generation.

Hosts

BERNIE COOK

Dr. Bernie Cook (C’90, G’91) is Associate Dean in Georgetown College and Founding Director of the Film and Media Studies Program at Georgetown University.  He is the author of Flood of Images: Media, Memory and Hurricane Katrina (University of Texas Press, 2015) and editor of Thelma & Louise Live! The Cultural Afterlife of an American Film (University of Texas Press, 2007).  He has produced a series of short documentaries exploring social justice issues, including Changing Room (2001), Why Y’All Are Here (2008), and Both Into One: The Parent’s Circle at Georgetown University (2009).   At Georgetown, he has created and taught courses including Social Justice Documentary, American Civilization III: Documentary, Film Festival Studies, Independent American Film, New Hollywood Film, Television History, and Film Spectatorship.  He is actively engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning, authoring “Producing Audiovisual Knowledge: Documentary Video Production and Student Learning in the American Studies Classroom” (in New Media Technologies and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Randy Bass and Brett Eynon, eds. Academic Commons, January 2009).

SOYICA COLBERT

Soyica Colbert is an Associate Professor of African American Studies and Theater and Performance Studies at Georgetown University. She is the author of The African American Theatrical Body: Reception, Performance and the Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and editor of the Black Performance special issue of African American Review (2012). Colbert is currently working on a second book project entitled Black Movements: Performance and Politics  and an edited volume entitledDo You Want to Be Well: The Psychic Hold of Slavery, forthcoming from Rutgers University Press. She has published articles and reviews on James Baldwin, Alice Childress, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Lynn Nottage, Katori Hall, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Kanye West in African American Review, Theater Journal, Boundary 2, South Atlantic Quarterly, and Theater Topics and in the collections Black Performance Theory, Contemporary African American Women Playwrights, and August Wilson: Completing the Cycle. Colbert is the recipient of Woodrow Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship, Stanford Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship, Mellon Summer Research Grant, and the Robert W. Woodruff Library Fellowship. Her research primarily focuses on 20th-21st century black drama, but her interests span the 19th-21st centuries, from Harriet Tubman to Beyoncé, and from poetics to performance.

JO ANN MORAN CRUZ

Jo Ann Moran Cruz is an associate professor of history at Georgetown University and former chair of the department. She is the co-founder and former director of the Medieval Studies program at Georgetown. She has directed International Initiatives in the Provost's Office at Georgetown and worked to establish Catholic Studies at Georgetown. She has held numerous positions in the Faculty Senate and has been involved with faculty governance at Georgetown in a great variety of areas, including athletics, continuing studies, and faculty/staff benefits. She has taught in Georgetown’s SFS program in Qatar, as well as in Georgetown’s program Florence, Italy and in Alanya, Turkey. She has recently returned to the University after serving as Dean of Humanities and Natural Sciences at Loyola University, New Orleans from 2008-2012. 

ADAM ROTHMAN

Adam Rothman is Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University, where he specializes in US History from the American Revolution through the Civil War, and the history of American slavery.. He is the author of Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (Harvard 2005), and Beyond Freedom's Reach: A Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery (Harvard 2015), which tells the story of three slave children who were taken from New Orleans to Cuba during the Civil War and their mother's efforts to recover them.

 

Randall Amster

Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., is Director of the Program on Justice and Peace at Georgetown University, and is the author of books including Peace Ecology (2014). Informed by experiences in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he has written on subjects such as solidarity-based movements, ‘internal displacement’, homelessness, militarization, and the impacts of climate change.