InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each month ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This month ELIXHER spotlights Oakland-based founder of Sistah Sinema, Isis Asare.
ELIXHER: Tell us about yourself.
ISIS: I am a bisexual femme that is driven by technology, entrepreneurship, and economic development in Africa – both of my parents are from Ghana. I want to be 40 for the rest of my life.
ELIXHER: What is Sistah Sinema?
ISIS: Sistah Sinema is a monthly event that showcases queer women of color films in cities across the country. We currently have about ten locations, and hope to double our reach this year. We also plan to relaunch Sistah Sinema – Online in June in partnership with Indieflix.
ELIXHER: Do you feel like Sistah Sinema is filling a void in the queer community and the film industry?
ISIS: Yes, I think so. I remember I attended a screening for Bumming Cigarettes by Tiona McClodden in New York City, and one of the first questions was how can attendees find more films – films centered on the queer woman of color experience – like Bumming. My goal is that one day Sistah Sinema will be the answer – a platform were filmmakers creating movies about [queer women of color] can connect directly to that audience via screenings and online.
ELIXHER: How many cities are hosting film screenings on the Sistah Sinema network?
ISIS: Currently there are nine leads running Sistah Sinema in eight cities – Oakland (me), San Francisco (Amanda Vigil), Seattle (Angela Hughes), Columbus (Amber Dupree), Cleveland (Deidre McPherson), Portland (Kimber Hidalgo) , Bellevue (Natalie Martinez), and Kingston, JA (Geogia Love and Afifa XXX). Greensboro and Atlanta are on hiatus until we find new leads. Los Angeles, Houston, Detroit, Tacoma, and Lakewood are confirmed to launch this year.
ELIXHER: What are some of the biggest challenges you face highlighting queer women of color films? What have been some of your greatest rewards?
ISIS: Honestly, the first year, the first question I got when I told people about Sistah Sinema was is there enough content. That proved to absolutely NOT to be the case. There is a broad range of content, especially when we expanded to include shorts.
The biggest challenges have been securing venue. We are always looking for mission-driven coffee shops, bookstores, galleries and LGBT centers with audio visual resources that would serve as a home to a monthly Sistah Sinema.
Running Sistah Sinema – Seattle and then Sistah Sinema has taught me entrepreneurial skills I never learned in business school or my corporate job. I run everything from Sistah Sinema online promotions, to bookkeeping, to business development partnership. I think all the leads would say the same.
ELIXHER: What does it mean to you to be doing the work you’re doing?
ISIS: I hope we are building a mov(i)ement where we control the content, marketing, and distribution of queer women of color content in a collaborative and profitable business model.
ELIXHER: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
ISIS: I really am not a movie lover – I love building community.
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the Black queer community? What brings you the biggest frustration?
ISIS: Proud? I don’t know. But I do continue to find the ability of our community to survive, struggle, and succeed beautiful. Whether it is Zanele Muholi being proudly out in South Africa, Tina Mabry building her body of work, Yvonne Welbon leading academic scholarship, and Cheryl Dunye breaking rules, I find the effort [exquisite] and the defiance divine.
ELIXHER: So what’s next for Isis Asare?
ISIS: More cities and more movies. I am really excited about the partnership with indieFLIX. We will be community partners with the Langston Hughes Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, and Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and Queer Women of Color Media Film Festival which we have been for the last 2/3 years. We are in communication with Frameline, Outfest, and Olivia’s Sisters at Sea to launch new partnerships this year.
– Interview by Tia Williams
Tia N. Williams is the woman behind The Buddha In Me, an agency of artists, speakers, poets, and activists based in Atlanta. The Buddha In Me specializes in providing quality programs to educate, enlighten, and entertain. Tia recently received her M.Ed. from the University of Georgia in College Student Affairs Administration.
Image Source: #1 Must Have