Growing up in Cincinnati, I bounced between the two cultural groups, African and African Americans. To some I can never truly claim one side or the other. Sadly enough there will always be something that disqualifies me from being completely accepted. Now that I am finishing graduate school and elements of the future are at hand. I decided to ask the difficult questions that most generation of immigrants known as “New Americans” must face. When does our family’s culture end and this new one begin? Is holding on to your culture resisting what it means to be American, or in my case Black-American? Before I could move forward with these questions I needed to understand the importance of knowing who I was.
The journey started at the School of Sociology, speaking with professor Dr. Amon Emeka who focuses on race and ethnic. He introduced me to Maslow law and the human need of belonging. This rose questions about friends, family, love and community. I involved other leading researchers such as Dr. Shana Redmon and famous figures like “The Good Dr.” Todd Boyd. I continued to reach out to the surrounding communities, such as Leimert Park’s historic black neighborhood, inhabited with it’s Afrocentric and conscious Black Americans. Then I found myself at the Pan African Film Festival where I spoke to African socialites, Wamuhu Waweru and the cast of Broadway musical Fela. I attended USC’s annual African Immigration Conference, trying to understand the larger picture that both culture and ethnicity play in defining these groups within the US. Interesting enough I began to understand that there was a social and historical disconnect between African Immigrants and African Americans. Even the terminology we as members of these groups use to describe each other is deceivingly complex in itself. When I realized these same issues resonated with others outside of myself, it gave me the opportunity try to explore this subject of identity from the inside out. I felt that I would need to examine my own personal life and what defining myself meant to me in order to truly understand identity. This led to my own journey and ultimately the story that unfolds within the documentary.
It’s the familiar coming of age story of understanding who we are and how that quest will shape the future. As I navigate my way through the world around us, I realized Identity has influenced my love life, my friends, and even my career. I recently visited Ghana and came to the conclusion that I will work in both Africa and the States. I have noticed that American culture fails to support positive perceptions of Africa. As a young filmmaker, re-introducing the miss construed continent to the rest of the world, is what drives me to tell these types of stories. Deeper Than Black, has given me the opportunity to build a platform for the type of films that could help reconnect Black America to it’s African ancestry. This has been the beginning of what I hope to offer to cinema, the ability to understand and connect cultures through a universality of specificity and the uniqueness of film.
- Sean A. Addo, director of “Deeper Than Black”