Watch black cinema under the stars every Saturday night with the Sankofa Film Society

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by Mark Van Streefkerk


Bring a lawn chair or blanket and head to El Centro de la Raza in Beacon Hill this evening around 9 p.m. for a screening of Attack the block, part of a free outdoor noir cinema series organized by the Sankofa Film Society. Every Saturday night until the end of October, Sankofa will host Black Summer Camp, a series of films based on the Black experience. Upcoming films include The last black man in San Francisco, Moonlight, Jackie Brown, and much more, ending with Blacula October 30.

“Some of these films are country-side, some of these films are silly, some of these films pack a punch, but all of these films are about the black experience,” said Karen Toering, who founded Sankofa with Jackie Moscow ago. about five years. “We just picked the movies we like. Movies that we know after – or even during – people will want to talk about. ”

Revolution Staging supplies the projector, screen and sound equipment. There’s a free popcorn machine, and people have been known to order their own takeout from nearby restaurants on Beacon Avenue, but otherwise it’s a low-key affair.

“Pull up a lawn chair or sit on a blanket and enjoy the movie,” Toering said. “It is neither more nor less than that. People need that kind of easy connection to each other and to build a community. ”

Toering comes from the media justice community and began programming films with the Seattle Black Film Festival (formerly the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival), working with former artistic director Jackie Moscow about 18 years ago. She also helped organize the Gary International Black Film Festival in her hometown of Gary, Indiana, now in its 11th year.

In June, Toering reached out to Chef Tarik Abdullah, one of the co-creators of Feed The People Plaza – and chef at the community kitchen of the same name – to set up a small film screening in remembrance of Rahwa’s birthday. Habte. Habte was a beloved community organizer, artist and activist who died during the pandemic. Abdullah immediately said yes, and on June 12, Toering and his close friends and family hosted a screening of Habte’s favorite film, The Last Dragon. “[It’s] the most rural black kung fu movie of all time. We hated that movie, but she made us watch it every year, ”Toering recalls.

During the film, the locals noticed and asked about the occasion. After Toering’s explanation, the neighbors stayed to watch the rest of the movie. “That’s when I realized that as a programmer we had something here,” she recalls.

Seeing an opportunity to create conversations and connections around cinema, Sankofa asked Abdullah if they could organize a weekly summer cinema series in the plaza. Abdullah was on board with enthusiasm. They got sponsorship from the City of Seattle and 4Culture to help block the street, promotion and licensing of movies. After the July 17 screening of The 40-year-old version however, the City canceled their permit. According to Toering, the city claimed the screen on Beacon Avenue was too much of a distraction for drivers. After moving this week’s screening to El Centro, Toering hopes to continue the rest of the black summer camp there.

“What I’ve learned is that you can get people to explore a lot of different concepts with the film as a catalyst,” Toering said. “Not everyone will go to a conference. Not everyone participates in a political debate… but you can get people to come see a movie and use it as a catalyst for deeper conversations.

While the movies are free for everyone, Toering suggests families learn a bit more about the movies before bringing the kids. Some films have sensitive language or situations that may not be suitable for children.

Saturday movies will begin at sunset, rain or shine. Bring your own seat, dress for the weather, and be a good neighbor. “Leave all your -isms at home,” Toering said. “Just leave them at home so we can all have a good time. “

Check out the full list of films in the summer series on Sankofa’s Facebook page and follow their Instagram for more.


Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based freelance journalist and writer living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. He often writes on specialty coffee, LGBTQ + topics, and more. Visit his website at markvanstreefkerk.com and follow him on Instagram at @markthewriter.

📸 Featured image via Shutterstock.

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