2nd Rotation—Things We Do in the Dark: Cinematic Experiments in Kinship

June 2, 5:30 - 8:00pm
Express Newark, 54 Halsey St. 2nd Floor
Newark, NJ 07102
Register here

The second rotation of Things We Do in the Dark moves toward a speculative and experimental viewing experience that asks audience members to venture into a space of not knowing. Emboldened by the communal process and a collective sensibility, the films envision new worlds and ways of being—for both Black and Indigenous communities.

Still from movie

Things We Do in the Dark: Cinematic Experiments in Kinship showcases over twenty video-based works by Black and Indigenous artists who engage experimental, collaborative, and political approaches to contemporary filmmaking. Curated by scholar, activist, and cultural worker Farrah Rahaman of the acclaimed BlackStar Film Festival, these works explore such critical themes as racial solidarity, Black radical protest, and communal healing. The works were created in what Rahaman describes as “cinematic ensembles” and by community-oriented artists, collectives, and groups that foreground practices of collective care and kinship.

Often situated within community media and learning settings, these ensembles invoke poetry, music, and intergenerational storytelling as a creative practice that expands independent forms of cinema into collective imaginings of liberation and resistance. Taking its title from poet June Jordan’s lyrical “These Poems,” this exhibition reimagines Express Newark as a series of micro-cinemas in which audiences are encouraged to slip into our “darker spaces” in order to reflect and find respite.


For the 2nd opening, Express Newark will host filmmakers Stefani Saintonge and Shirley Bruno in conversation with curator, Farrah Rahaman and the Community Media Center Director, Yvonne Shirley. A performance of Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma by Topaz Jones will follow. The event is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be served.

Shirley Bruno, An Excavation of Us, 2018, 11 minutes

The shadows of Napoleon's army fall upon a boat traveling through the mysterious cave named after her legend Marie Jeanne, a female soldier who fought in the Haitian Revolution. It is this battle inside her cave that will become the most successful slave revolution in history.

Stefani Saintonge, Fucked Like a Star, 2018, 8 minutes

"Macro-lensing of Black women from Haiti and New Orleans doing skillful work – braiding hair, crushing spices, threading fabric – is superimposed onto the work of soldier ants to visually manifest in four stanzas the mythology of their queen. Saintonge and Obi use repetition – braid, grind, sew, braid, grind sew – to move their audience beyond just a dismissive glance at the mundane. Amidst specks of light, the cameras (generally used to capture the macroscopic details of a flower, an ant) allow for an intense intimacy with these women. We are able to see what the eye normally cannot, the texture of a collective, concerted, coordinated grind. This new sight compels us not just to look, but to really feel the focus and the majestic will, way and work of a sacrifice complete."

Topaz Jones will be performing a 40-minute set of Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma. The Black ABCs were once taught across the United States. Created in 1970 by two Chicago teachers and the Society for Visual Education, the cards and posters linked the 26 letters of the alphabet with language and imagery that reflected the lives of Black children. This forward-thinking educational tool was designed to empower Black youth, who would finally see their community reflected in teaching materials, which had historically been dominated by white faces.

For musician Topaz Jones, the Black ABCs served as an inspiration to explore his own coming of age in Montclair, N.J. In the Sundance Film Festival winner "Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma," Jones and rubberband. take viewers on a visual and musical journey through Jones's education on his own Black identity. Jones’s personal update to each letter of the alphabet continues the tradition of documenting Black life as valuable.