Before there was Hillary Clinton… before there was Barack Obama… there was Shirley Chisholm…
On Thursday, May 12, 8-10 PM, Joy of Resistance will feature, as part of the WBAI Spring Fund Drive, the award winning DVD: Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed, by Sola Lynch. Well discuss the film with Denise Oliver-Velez, a former member of both the Young Lords and Black Panther Parties , who, now, as a professor at SUNY, has taught and written about Chisholm’s life and times. Also commenting will be Barbara Winslow, founder and director of The Shirley Chisolm Project of Brooklyn Women’s Activism from 1945 to the Present.
Recalling a watershed event in US politics–Chisholm’s historic 1972 run for the U.S. presidency, as the first Black and the first woman to run a serious campaign for the nation’s highest office–this compelling documentary takes an in-depth look at the campaign and reactions to it at the time and now–and documents Chisholm’s life story.
We see Chisholm announcing her run; giving interviews, the political maneuvering within the Democratic Party and we hear/see commentary of many involved at that time, including Amiri Baraka, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Octavia Butler, Rep. Barbara Lee, Ron Dellums and others.
Though many backed her run with great enthusiasm, she was shunned by the Democratic political establishment, including the all-male Congressional Black Caucus (with the exception of Ron Dellums) as well as the media; she asked for support from people of color, women, gays, and young people newly empowered to vote at age 18. Chisholm’s bid for an equal place on the presidential dais generated strong, racist and sexist opposition. Yet her challenge to the status quo and her message about exercising the right to vote struck many as progressive and positive.
She was born in NYC but spent much of her childhood in Barbados. Her father was a Garveyite and her family was political. She became a professional educator in NYC and in 1968, she became the first African American woman elected to the United States Congress, and represented New York’s 12th Congressional District–the very poor district of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn– for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. As the first Black woman in the U.S. Congress, she was sometimes treated with disrespect by other Congress members–particularly southern white men.
The men in the Black Congressional Caucus did not support her bid for President and she famously said that she had run into more political obstacles because she was a woman than because she was Black. Some feminists did support her, but did not follow through. Ron Dellums supported her but ultimately gave his support to George McGovern, the eventual Democratic party nominee. Jesse Jackson ignored her. She didn’t play by either Democratic succession or ethnic turf rules.
“Nobody was “ready” for me”, she said. “But somebody has to be the first. After me, they’ll be more “ready”. In an interview at the end of the film that took place late in her life, Chisholm says “I want to be remembered as someone who was a catalyst for change.” And so she was.
In the second part of the show, we’ll offer the book: “Who is Hillary Clinton?” featuring two decades of writing from the Left on the woman who may very well be our next president. Authors include Erica Jong, Barbara Ehrenreich and Doug Henwood, with an introduction by Katha Pollitt of The Nation. 350 pages. For a pledge to WBAI of $75.
This segment will also feature a discussion with Amanda Marcotte, Peg Rapp and Fran Luck on the sexism directed at Clinton so far in the campaign–sexism that would be directed at any woman getting really close to power. We’ll be asking the questions: where you draw the line between legitimate political criticism and sexism?–and what are the different manifestations of sexism by men on the right and men on the left?
Chisholm ’72 – Unbought and Unbossed
A film by Shola Lynch
Available for a pledge to WBAI for $75.
Chisolm ’72 and “Who is Hillary Clinton?” available, both together, for a pledge of $125.
US, 2004, 77 minutes, Color, DVD,
AWARDS, FESTIVALS, & SCREENINGS
Sundance Film Festival
International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA)
Los Angeles Film Festival
San Francisco International Film Festival
London Film Festival
South By Southwest Film Festival
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Saratoga Springs Film Festival
Dallas Video Festival
Northern Lights Film Festival
Tallgrass Film Festival
Black Harvest Film Festival
American Black Film Festival
Lake Placid Film Festival
Nantucket Film Festival
Women With Vision Film Festival