Calendar: JUNETEENTH: A Root (Route) Memory

Event Description

In celebration of “Juneteenth,” PAMM collaborates with National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to host a screening of Papa Machete and H-2 Worker. A conversation between documentary filmmaker Stephanie Black; writer, musician, and filmmaker Jason Fitzroy Jeffers; Rhea L. Combs, supervisory curator of photography and film and the director of the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA) at NMAAHC; and Joanne Hyppolite, Ph.D., Museum Curator at NMAAHC will follow the screenings, touching upon questions of identity, colorism, labor, and geography’s impact upon people across the African Diaspora.

The celebration of "Juneteenth" originated on June 19, 1865, when the enslaved people of Texas finally learned about their freedom—two years and six months after President Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation." Across the Diaspora, questions of identity, colorism, labor, and geography continue to impact people of African descent. This program offers a lens, from both an historical as well as a contemporary perspective, through which we can view how resistance, persistence, and self-determination have been the key to survival for people of African descent, and the basis for their achievements above and beyond geographical borders and external expectations. - Guest curator, Michelle Materre, Creatively Speaking Film Series on behalf of NMAACH

About the films

Papa Machete | 2014, Directed by Jonathan David Kane
Two hundred years ago, the slaves of Haiti defeated Napoleon's armies in the historic revolution of 1791-1804. One of their weapons was the very tool they used to work the land: the machete. Papa Machete explores the esoteric martial art through the practice and life of a farmer named Alfred Avril. The short film documents his proud devotion to his heritage in the face of increased globalization, and his efforts to keep this mysterious art alive.

H-2 Worker | 1990, Directed by Stephanie Black
A controversial expose of the travesty of justice that takes place around the shores of Florida's Lake Okeechobee. There, for six months a year, over 10,000 Caribbean men are brought to hand-harvest sugarcane for American corporations under a temporary "H-2" guest worker visa.

About the speakers

Stephanie Black is a documentary filmmaker whose credits include the award-winning feature documentaries: LIFE AND DEBT (2001) on the impact international organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank, and current globalization policies have on the economies of developing nations such as Jamaica, W.I.; and H-2 WORKER (1990) about the ten thousand Caribbean men brought to Florida each year to harvest sugarcane for American corporations under a temporary "H-2" guest worker visa. H-2 WORKER won both the Best Documentary and Best Cinematography awards at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival, and was the U.S. selection for the Critics Week at Cannes. AFRICA UNITE (2008) documents Bob Marley's 60th birthday celebration held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia recognizing his lifelong dream for African unity. Black's television credits include a documentary on Whitney Houston for Lifetime TV (2012) and reality show "Being Bobby Brown" (2005) for Bravo TV, in addition to over 80 segments for Sesame Street, children's shorts for Nickelodeon, PBS's Zoom, and Cartoon Network's Big Bag series. She has produced and directed numerous music videos as well as a 30-minute documentary on the making of the Bob Marley tribute album, MAKING OF CHANT DOWN BABYLON with Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, etc. Black has taught documentary filmmaking at The School of Visual Arts, New York University and Y/FVA in New York City. Learn more about Black’s films here.

Jason Fitzroy Jeffers is a writer, musician, and filmmaker from Barbados who is based in Miami. Since 2001, Fitzroy Jeffers has written about everything from crime and politics to arts and entertainment for many of South Florida's major publications including The Miami Herald and Ocean Drive. In 2013, he assembled a crew of filmmakers to travel to Haiti to document one of the few remaining practitioners of the esoteric revolutionary martial art of Haitian machete fencing. The self-produced short film Papa Machete has been met with an outpouring of major press coverage from the likes of Gawker, the Associated Press and others. In 2014, Fitzroy Jeffers and his team mounted a successful Kickstarter campaign through which they raised money to build enough a new house for Alfred Avril, the Haitian farmer and fencing master who is the subject of Papa Machete, as his tiny home was damaged in the 2010 earthquake. Papa Machete world premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. Fitzroy Jeffers's work in all of these fields is conducted through the Caribbean artist collective Third Horizon, which he recently founded to recognize the work of avant-garde Caribbean filmmakers, musicians, writers and artists who challenge popular notions of what Caribbean creativity encompasses. In 2014, Third Horizon was awarded funding by the Knight Foundation—one of the leading arts funding institutions in the United States—to stage the Third Horizon Caribbean Film Festival in Miami in 2016. For more information, please visit:

Michelle Materre, guest curator for NMAAHC, is the founder, host, and producer of the critically-acclaimed Creatively Speaking Film SeriesCreatively Speaking has been a premiere forum for presenting works by and about women and people of color for twenty-two years. Materre's professional background spans more than thirty years' experience as film producer, writer, arts administrator, distribution/marketing specialist, film programmer, and college professor. In February 2015, Creatively Speaking co-presented the unprecedented film series "Tell It Like it Is: Black Independents in NYC 1968-1986", with The Film Society of Lincoln Center, which was awarded the Film Heritage Award by the National Society of Film Critics. This year, another program she co-curated with BAMcinématek staff, One Way or Another: Black Women Filmmakers 1970-1991 received two amazing acknowledgements in the same month. First, Richard Brody, of The New Yorker Magazine, listed the program as "The Best Repertory Series of 2017" in his "Best Movies of 2017" end of year publication. In addition, the National Society of Film Critics honored us again with the "Film Heritage" Award of 2017 for this new program. She continues to hold a position as associate professor of media studies and film at The New School where she has been teaching since 2001, and is currently the Director of the Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students. Materre is a current member of the Board of Directors of Women Make Movies, and a former member of the board of New York Women in Film and Television.

Rhea L. Combs is supervisory curator of photography and film and the director of the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA) at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Combs’ exhibitions and projects at NMAAHC include, Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture; Represent: Hip Hop Photography, Everyday Beauty: Images from the permanent Photography and Film Collection; Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection of NMAAHC and Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College.  Combs’s essays have appeared in the museum’s photography book series, Double Exposure, the Public Historian, numerous anthologies, academic journals, and exhibition catalogues on topics on African American female filmmakers, popular culture, photography and visual aesthetics. Combs has delivered lectures nationally and internationally on the power of the image, the history of African American image-makers, and black cinema. 

Combs holds a PhD in American Studies with a concentration in Film History and African American Studies from Emory University; an MA from Cornell University; and a BA from Howard University. Prior to joining the museum, Combs was a photography curator at the advertising firm Weiden+Kennedy in Portland, Ore. Combs has curated film exhibitions for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the National Black Programming Consortium in New York, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, UK. She also worked as an assistant curator at Spelman Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, and as a public programs educator at the Chicago Historical Museum. She has taught courses on visual culture, film, pluralism, race and gender at Chicago State University, Lewis & Clark College, and Emory University.

Joanne Hyppolite, Ph.D. is a Museum Curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) with interests and expertise in African American and Afro-Caribbean diaspora material and expressive culture and black immigrant American communities.  She is the curator of the Cultural Expressions inaugural exhibition and co-curator of A Century in the Making: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture inaugural exhibit for the NMAAHC. She began her museum career in 2004 as the Folklife Curator at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, where she researched and presented programs and exhibitions on Miami’s multi-ethnic communities. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she was the Chief Curator at HistoryMiami Museum from 2008 to 2013, where she curated, among others, the exhibitions Black Crossroads: The African Diaspora in Miami, Haitian Community Arts, and Black Freedom in Florida.  She holds a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Miami, an M.A. in African American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a B.A. in English and Afro American Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.