BCH Summer Intern: Chelsea Williams

Hey, name is Chelsea and I’m the Black Cinema House (BCH) intern this summer for the Rebuild Foundation. Before my time at Rebuild, though I had been by the Bank and was familiar with the organization, I, like other people, wasn’t fully acclimated with the Rebuild model yet.

But in the first couple weeks of my time here, there are several things I have learned as a Rebuild intern.  I see how focused this organization is on the art that is central to our mission, but we know that in that we also need to focus on other aspects of black life. The screenings at BCH give it its name and purpose, but the discussions held afterward are where thoughts and perspectives come together.

This past week Black Cinema House has hosted screenings for Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and several Gordon Parks documentaries. The themes of these works include highlighting poverty, inequality, and the lack of respect from authority. They also focus on resilience, ingenuity, and persistence for justice in the community.

At the Gordon Parks’ screening questions arose around the way poverty affects quality of life. Do institutions like church that are suppose to help, present more obstacles for a struggling family? What can we do to address mental health and wellness when quality hospitals and grocery stores are miles from our communities? What can be done when we’re overcharged for the food items and services that we need? There are concerns for our access to education, and our openness to different practices like yoga or therapy. What do we change first our own culture or legislation?

In ‘Do the Right Thing’ the hottest day of the year for the Bed-Stuy community where racial tensions were already at an all time high, the characters go about their day, trying to find relief where they can, while facing the death of a beloved member of the community in a face off with police.

There was conflict in the discussions that preceded both films, but one thing that was clear from the audience was, no matter their take, no conflict was too great that they couldn’t agree on some issues.  The people present had an invested interest in seeing a black future and having their questions answered.

Films like these are familiar in the wake of the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN. These events have rocked the community. But they come as no surprise.

Things in the city are happening in response to these incidents such as the Black Lives Matter protest in Millennium Park and at the Taste of Chicago. We are trying to do our part. Amidst tragedy, I think Rebuild and BCH is giving this community a forum, platform and safe space to voice their insights. At Rebuild we know Black life matters, and with it we emphasize that Black thought matters, Black anguish matters, Black triumph matters, and Black art matters. Whether it’s in our Coffee, Tea + Chat, Hour Flow Yoga, an impromptu peace circle held at the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, or a screening where we confront what has happened in the past and how it relates to our present.

When the blaring voices on Fox News and the misunderstandings become too much, we know the truth. Come see that we are here to converge and heal.

What can we do? Well, what would you like to see? Join us on Twitter @BlkCinemaHouse and let us know what you think about what is happening today and how Rebuild and Black Cinema House can be involved.


By Chelsea Williams