The ESSENCE Fest Woke Woman honorees believe in the resilience of Black folk during difficult times.
Hope can sometimes appear fleeting in these social and political times.
But for director Ava DuVernay and Black Lives Matter co-founder and activist Patrisse Cullors, the Black community is a constant reminder that hope does exist and will continue to exist. Both women emphasized Black resilience when they were recognized as ESSENCE Fest’s Woke Women honorees on Saturday.
“What gives me hope, it’s us,” said Duvernay to the crowd of Black people.
When editing 13th, her Oscar nominated documentary about mass incarceration, DuVernay changed the ending of the film because it allowed the viewer to avoid taking accountability in bringing change. Instead, she wanted to show that the stakes were high by including images of Black joy “to just talk about the resilience of us.”
“Because that’s really the thing that’s going to get us through any scourge — mass incarceration, Trump whatever it maybe,” she said. “Our unity and our survival emanates from […]fighting for each other, our joy, our life.”
Cullors had similar sentiments, saying that watching Black people in their element fulfilled her: “There’s something about watching us be in our joy that gives me hope.”
What gives you hope in today’s world?
I decided. Something inside me decided that I needed to figure out the way to dismantle the type of systems that Literally destroy, decimate and eventually kill our people. So I was young, I was 16 years old and deeply impacted by the community that I was being raised in in Los Angeles. LAPD was circling the block often. Helicopter policing, lots of surveillance. And when I talk about it. It seems hyperbolic but it wasn't. It was real time trauma on a daily basis. And by the time the incident happened with my brother. That sort of was the tipping point for me.>> The first time I ever, ever remember an idea that you could Do something larger. Advocate for something bigger. Was the very first time she took me to a U2 concert. Which the U2 concert was for Amnesty International. I was like what's Amnesty International? Like there's groups of people that help each other that I remember putting that together in my head, thinking like wow. And I don't really think that I Put like the NAACP, it was set in our family that I didn't really know what it was. But, there was something about the Amnesty International and the concert and the music and all of it that made me think, Wow, art and activism can come together in a powerful way. Made me feel something in that moment. So, for awhile, I thought I was gonna be a rock star. [LAUGH] That didn't work out. [LAUGH] You are a rock star. She's a rock star. [LAUGH] But, yeah, that was my first example of any kind of activism and it was linked to art, so I kind of think back as I unpack things and say maybe that was a important moment.