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"Am I Too African To Be American? Too American To Be African?" Asks This First-Generation Filmmaker

Nadia Sasso makes her directorial debut with 'Am I,' a documentary exploring complex identity politics of young Africans living in America.


Is there such thing as cultural limbo? According to a new documentary film, Am I: Too African to be American or Too American to be African?the short answer is yes.

Directed and produced by first-time filmmaker Nadia SassoAm I: The Film explores the complex identity formations of young African women who live in America and West Africa and identify bi-culturally. At the center of this conversation are seven womenincluding Awkward Black Girl star and creator Issa Raeall of whom share how they wrestle with concepts of race, complexion, gender, and heritage among other issues.

“I created Am I: The Film as a way to not only explore how immigrants and their offspring engage with the issue of bicultural identity politics on the American and African landscapes, but to create a dialogue between the generations," Sasso revealed in a press release. "Cultural dualism is a reality that affects everyone, from our President of the United States, Barack Obama to everyday citizens like myself.”

Sasso didn't have to go far in search of inspiration for the film, considering she was born in America to Sierra Leonean parents. However, her shared multicultural background didn't necessarily give her an "in" with the film's cast. As Sasso revealed in an email interview with Okayafrica, some women were more forthcoming than others during their initial interviews. "I definitely had to build a good rapport with each individual before diving into deep questions," she says.

A successful Kickstarter campaign launched in 2014 helped Sasso to bring Am I: The Film, her graduate school thesis at the time, to life. Moving forward, she plans on creating a curated Am I website that not only relates to the issues addressed in the film, but also centers on music, videos, texts and fashion.

Am I: The Film will be shown in the following cities through a series of pop-up screenings:

September 24 in Ithaca, New York (Cornell University)

October 1 in Lewisburg, PA (Bucknell University)

October 15 in New York City (Private Screening/ Limited public seats)

October 22 in Washington, DC (Private Screening at Foundry Lofts/ Limited public seats)

Visit the film's website for screening updates. Viewing is also available now on the website for a $10 donation. To join the conversation, check out Am I: The Film on Facebook and Twitter.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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