Twenty Pearls is an emotion-filled film that embodies the voices of Black women and a powerful history of sisterhood. Director Deborah Riley Draper digs deep into the history of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first African-American sorority, and the impact this organization has had on society in its 114 years of existence. The film highlights the creation and meaning of AKA’s colors and hymns, and uncovers the overall meaning of their motto “To be supreme in service to all mankind.”
“I wanted to capture it in the most delicate way possible, but tell the trajectory from nine women to 325,000 women in just 114 years and all of the things in American history that were shifted and transformed because of the presence of this sisterhood.” Draper said at a screening of Twenty Pearls during the inaugural film festival held during this year’s ESSENCE Festival of Culture. “Innovation is a part of who we are and I wanted to show that.”
Cast members Figo Reilly and Dr. Yolanda Page also shared their personal experiences being a part of the documentary and how beneficial this story is for both current and prospective sorority members to understand the legacy behind the organization.
“I have seen this film five times and I have had tears in my eyes every single time,” said Reilly. “It really boils down to the legacy and the impact because we are the legacy, we are the impact.”
“I think this film is an amazing representation of our sorority, but also the HBCU experience.” said Dr. Page. “This will give students the experience of leadership and connecting with other students which will help them grow and blossom.”
The presence of Twenty Pearls during the annual fest instilled a palpable sense of pride in ESSENCE Film Festival attendees who showed up to the screening wearing various combinations of the organization’s traditional pink and green colors. Viewers were also inspired by the courage of the women featured in the film and the many barriers they broke for generations of Black women and men to come.