On Feb. 13, Aerie hosted a powerful digital screening with our #AerieREAL Changemaker Sofiya Ballin, who presented her latest documentary Black History Untold: Love. Right in time for Black History Month and Valentine’s Day alike, the film shed light on unique subjects in the Black community as they shared some of their love stories and highlighted the power of Black love throughout history. Plus, viewers with a VIP ticket enjoyed a curated box of wellness products from Black-owned businesses including Golde, Base Butter, KAIKE, Rituals and Ceremony, Marsh+Mane, Melanin Haircare, and Harriet’s Bookshop.
After the screening, Sofiya and members of the Black History Untold team joined moderator Nia Groce (sr. copywriter at Aerie) for a live Q&A session. They discussed how Sofiya and the team created the work, how she finds a balance in showcasing both the beauty and challenges presented to Black individuals and more. We caught up with Sofiya further to ask about her journey in film, as well as gathered thoughts from her team members about Black love. Read more and meet the team in the behind-the-scenes video below!
Sofiya on Film:
How is it to navigate this space as a Black film producer and journalist, bringing Black stories to the forefront loudly and proudly?
I’m in love with Black people. I love the different ways we express who we are, the warmth of our love, our beauty, our humor and innovativeness. So it’s an honor to tell Black stories, always. At the same time, telling our stories loudly, proudly, with intention and on our terms can come with its challenges seeing as we still live in a world that still works to suppress our voices. Those challenges can look like lack of funding, support or even the way we’re spoken to.
I have to be secure enough in my vision and my voice because the world isn’t going to validate it. It’s something I work on consistently. Myself and my team have to be steadfast and prepared to encounter challenges based on what people believe we are or are not capable of. While also remembering it’s not supposed to be that way and making room for fun and love as we create.
How do you find that balance of illuminating the beauty of Blackness and its culture, but also retaining that raw element and the challenges that come with that in a country like America?
I find that balance the same way I find it every day as a Black woman living in America. Every day I wake up aware of the beauty, joy and love Black people possess and deserve. I’m also aware that this world is anti-Black. I kept that in mind while producing and directing this work. This shows the balance we miraculously manage to strike every day of our lives.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Future documentaries to look out for?
In five years, I truly could be a housewife raising beautiful babies with my fine partner and taking seasonal vacations. Five years ago, I didn’t expect to be called a filmmaker so the next five years may be a beautiful surprise.
I do see myself continuing to tell our stories. Sometimes behind the camera and sometimes in front. No matter what it is, I’ll be following my heart. Following my heart got me here and I won’t stop now.
Black History Untold on Black Love:
What does Black love mean to you?
“Black love means everything to me. 99% of everything I love and hold dear in my life is a product of Black Love.”Tyra Lockhart, Associate Producer, @_aijuswanasang27
In three words, how would you describe the experience of capturing Black love on-screen?
“Labor of Love”Della Orrey, Composer, @dellaorrey
“Inspired, Empowered, Unconstrained.”Akilah Grant-Sullivan, Production Assistant, @AKILAHGS
What is the importance of showcasing Black love?
“It is important to showcase Black Love because it highlights our beauty and counteracts negative stereotypes against us.”Thandeka Dube, Editorial Assistant/Social Media Manager, @africantea_
“In a world that nearly commodifies Black pain, it is so important to showcase Black love to counter this. More and more we’re seeing this idea come into popular media with movies like Slyvie’s Love garnering acclaim, but it’s so important to not only showcase stories of love but highlight the history that made this into a reality.”Debora Charmelus, Social Strategist, @deb0nair
“Typically, when Black people, our culture, and lifestyles are portrayed in films, the storyline doesn’t include Black love, and if it does it’s not always a healthy, natural, and respectful relationship. When a certain message is sent through images and video, viewers mentally digest these storylines as the ‘norm,’ which is sad because I know better.”
“With this film, we are fortunate to bear witness to what Black love really is every day. We need to talk about Black love, highlight it in our stories, and learn from those who are and have achieved what we aspire to experience in a partnership, even if that partnership is with ourselves. As a wise Angela Davis once said, ‘We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.’”Taylor Nickens, Project Coordinator, @taylornickens