The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College presents 3 of Sophia Nahli Allison’s short films—Dreaming Gave Us Wings, A Love Song for Latasha, and Portrait of my Mother—and an extended excerpt from one of her features—Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground. Film program to to be followed by a conversation between Allison and curator of Transmissions, or these histories lest we not forget Jheanelle Brown in the galleries at 7 pm.
Sophia Nahli Allison’s work visualizes liberation. Her photographs, films, and multimedia projects render freedom as something within grasp, a birthright. Allison’s films range from experimental non-fiction films to moving image works that re-imagine history and conjure memories that have been previously buried. No matter the form, Allison eleveates bearing witness and shepherding important truths to a care praxis, transcending transactional filmmaking. This program presents 3 of Allison’s short films and an extended excerpt from one of her features. Program to to be followed by a conversation between Allison and curator Jheanelle Brown.
Sophia Nahli Allison
is a Black lesbian myth
she is a self-portrait photographer
academy award nominated filmmaker
and artist from South Central LA
About the Films
Dreaming Gave Us Wings (2019, 6 mins) A video essay based on the artist's self-portrait series, Dreaming Gave Us Wings revisits the legend of flying Africans - a story, existing on the edge of dream and memory, about enslaved Africans who could lift up and fly home.
Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground (2021, 20 min excerpt) This documentary special honors Henry Hampton’s masterpiece Eyes on the Prize (1987-1990) and conjures ancestral memories, activates the radical imagination and explores the profound journey for Black liberation through the voices of the movement. A portal through time, Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground is a mystical and lyrical reimagining of the past, present, and future.
Portrait of my Mother (2016, 2 mins) Portrait of my Mother is an ethereal and stylized short documentary about the inner strength my mother found to continue moving forward in life despite certain hardships. Inspired by portraiture photography and reminiscent of Rembrandt paintings, Portrait of my Mother uses diptychs to create a poetic and intimate story.
A Love Song for Latasha (2019, 19 mins)
When I was 4 years old, I recall the fires from the 1992 L.A. riots being so monstrous that the roof of a house on my block appeared to be ablaze. A thick dark smoke began filling the air in the distance. Weaving bits and pieces of 1992 back into my subconscious, this is my most vivid memory.
Trust the unseen. Memories that contort around the body, however uncomfortable they may be, breathe into them. This is how we heal, remember, reimagine, release.
I rely on the spirit of memory, the vibration of collective consciousness, and the secret languages among Black women that have transferred to one another throughout centuries and generations. These stories birth our archive, a living breathing continuum of the spirit.
A Love Song for Latasha carefully conjures memories shared by Latasha’s best friend Ty and cousin Shinese to document a more nuanced narrative of Latasha Harlins beyond her trauma. By reclaiming and re-envisioning these archives, we are challenging a system that has historically prevented Black women and girls from having agency over their narrative and public image. By activating this space, we are interrogating new ways to reimagine and engage with Black history that has been erased and left void. These memories serve as evidence of our existence and the resistance of Black women and girls.
When I think of Latasha’s story, I cannot ignore the unjust adultification of Black girls and the corrupt systems that have unfairly punished, violated, and erased our stories. Although her death was a catalyst for the L.A. riots, this film is about life. She is remembered beyond the trauma of a Black body, beyond a statistic, a newspaper headline, or an inaccurate Wikipedia page (multiple outlets since her death have incorrectly reported her date of birth as July 14, 1975). Latasha was 15 years old, a freshman at Westchester High School, and her birthday was January 1, 1976.
Deeply inspired by the methodology and conjured stories of Black women writers such as Saidiya Hartman, Sonya Sanchez, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker, A Love Song for Latasha explores the spiritual process of constructing a story when no tangible elements exist beyond the memories. There is a pulsating and vibrant energy that cannot be seen but felt. The film challenges the restrictions and constraints of conventional documentaries by visually articulating both the public and private spaces that Black women and girls must navigate and coexist in. As a native of South Central Los Angeles, I created A Love Song for Latasha as a spiritual archive for the community. The film is for every Black girl who has been erased, silenced, or discredited. We will always see you and fight for you. This is for Ty, Shinese, and Tasha.