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Imagining the Indian, an upcoming documentary film currently in production at The Ciesla Foundation pinpointing the movement working to eradicate Native American names, logos and mascots in the world of sports and beyond.

Co-directed by award-winning filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who made the sports films The Spy Behind Home Plate and The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, and the historical documentary, Rosenwald, which she dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, Imagining the Indian takes a deep-dive into the issues through archival footage and interviews with those involved in the fight.

Imagining the Indian is co-directed by Native filmmaker Ben West (Cheyenne), and co-produced by filmmaker Sam Bardley (Without Bias) and Washington Post sports columnist and ESPN panelist Kevin Blackistone. The film’s executive producer is Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

“I remember walking through downtown Minneapolis to the Metrodome in 1992 to see Washington play Buffalo in the Super Bowl,” co-producer Blackistone said. “I saw a bunch of people identifying themselves as Native protesting the Washington team name as a slur against them. It was the first time I’d thought about that. But it led me to understand the need to change the name. Because what happened to Native folk on this continent over 500 years ago was the seed for the racism we as black people continue to fight today in protest against police killings of black men like George Floyd.”

“I believe that my purpose on this earth is to make films that counter negative stereotypes,” explained co-director Kempner. “I am turning my attention to the insidious use of Native Americans in mascotting and the underlying racism behind these symbols.”

“I feel a sense of both honor and obligation in highlighting the vital work Suzan Harjo and others have undertaken for decades and the activism they have inspired for the next generations,” noted co-director West.

“As Commissioner Goodell and other power brokers in the sports world are finally affirming the humanity of black people, after years of outcry and protests from black athletes and journalists, maybe it would be in their best interest to be proactive in ending Native mascotting, which many feel is dehumanizing,” added co-producer Sam Bardley.

With news that Land O’Lakes® removed Native American imagery from its packaging and that a majority of D.C. Council candidates oppose the name of Washington’s NFL team, the filmmakers believe the time to fully examine the issue of Native American mascotting is now. The time is especially ripe, coming out of Mental Health Awareness Month, due to the negative psychological effect these names, logos and mascots have on Native American people.

Recently, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that it was time for the Washington Football Team to change their name. The tweet has thus far garnered over 800,000 likes and retweets. Oscar winning director Spike Lee and Oscar nominated director Ava DuVernay have also spoken out about the need to change the team’s name.

Co-Director Aviva Kempner said: “With the news that the baseball season is about to begin, the Atlanta Braves must own up to the fact that the tomahawk chop is so insulting to Native Americans as St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley (Cherokee) told the world during the playoffs last year.”

Co-Director Ben West said: “By the time the NFL takes the field this coming season the Washington football team must have a new name.”

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Gavin Grimm Wins Big against Supreme Court in Transgender Bathroom Lawsuit



Gavin Grimm

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to address the issue of transgender bathroom rights in public schools, leaving in place a lower court’s ruling that allowed students to use the restrooms that matched their gender identity.

The Court on Monday declined the take up the case of Gavin Grimm, a former Virginia high school student who challenged his district’s bathroom policy when amid his transition several years ago.

Grimm, 22, transitioned from female to male in high school. He also began using the boys’ bathroom at school but said that soon after, the school issued a policy prohibiting him from using both the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms.

While the school district did construct a single-stall unisex restroom, those facilities weren’t available on all parts of campus grounds.

In 2018, a federal judge ruled in favor of Grimm.

“However well-intentioned some external challenges may have been and however sincere worries were about possible unknown consequences arising from a new school restroom protocol, the perpetuation of harm to a child stemming from unconstitutional conduct cannot be allowed to stand,” the 2018 ruling read.

Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court keeps that ruling in place.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito noted that they wished for the court to take up the case. The high court offered no further comment.

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Sundance Institute reveals 2021 Accessible Futures Intensive Fellows



Sundance Institute has officially reintroduced the 2021 Accessible Futures Initiative as a virtual Intensive. The program was created in 2019, as part of Sundance Institute’s ongoing commitment to deepening outreach and support of artists with disabilities, including amplifying accessibility at the Sundance Film Festival through strategic partnerships with Easterseals Southern California and RespectAbility. 

The 2021 Intensive will take the shape of a cross-genre project consultation and career strategy workshop for artists of color, with disabilities, in the development or early production of fiction and nonfiction projects. The Outreach & Inclusion program is committed to bringing an intersectional lens to a group of talented disabled artists.

The Sundance Institute has collaborated with Allied Organizations with deep relationships within the disability community to nominate applicants to function as advisors. Additionally, Sundance staff, artist alumni, and field-leading partners will conduct creative and professional development sessions to support the advancement of the selected participants’ projects and careers. 

Through the multi-day virtual Intensive, the institute seeks to assist participating artists in honing their creative voice and craft, finding a cohort, and building support for them to help surmount critical barriers in the field that has systematically excluded artists with disabilities.

This year’s advisors include Day Al-Mohamed, Rodney Evans, Josh Feldman, Tatiana Lee, Monika Navarro, and Nic Novicki. The Intensive is also excited to collaborate with Sins Invalid and Firelight Media, who will lead community building and documentary workshops for the artists, respectively. 

Check out the 2021 fellows below:

Nasreen Alkhateeb (Director)

Award-winning filmmaker, Nasreen Alkhateeb’s ability to motivate audiences is a result of being 1st gen, multi-heritage, Disabled, and a survivor. Cinematographer for Kamala Harris and Oprah’s OWN Network, Nasreen has directed content for NASA, the United Nations, and the Women’s March. Alumna of the Tribeca Film Festival, The Disruptors Fellowship, the RespectAbility Fellowship, given the Wild Card award by NASA peers and Cinematographer of the Year for her work in the Arctic, Forbes described her as “breaking barriers.”

Touching Fire

In an age when a Muslim feminist icon can have their entire life’s work undone by the click of a tweet, a daughter dives deep into her mother’s legacy to set the record straight.

Virtic Emil Brown (Writer, Director)

Virtic Emil Brown attended New York University’s TISCH School of the Arts. She is a writer, actress, and filmmaker. Some of her films are Will UnpluggedMission In Kosovo, and Hindsight. Virtic’s directorial debut was the documentary short On Tour which screened at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. She’s appeared on shows like Without A Trace and The Shield. She is a member of the Classical Theatre Lab and EST/LA. Virtic is in WGA (CBW, DWC, CWW).


In the final six days of their child’s life, the Brady’s must confront their past. This is not the life God wanted for them when He gave their souls a body.

Shaina Ghuraya (Writer, Director)

Shaina jokes that she is a triple threat – she’s a wheelchair-user, Punjabi, and a woman. She is a writer/director for quirky and bold comedies that embrace diversity and explore intersectionality. A graduate of USC’s Film and Television production program, Shaina’s films have gone on to screen at ReelAbilities, Hollyshorts, and Slamdance. Currently, she is a writing apprentice on the Netflix Animation show Boons and Curses.

Agg – A conservative (psychotic) Indian family decides to trick a man into an arranged marriage by hiding their daughter’s disability. However, the daughter, Agg, decides the wedding is the perfect time to enact violent (yet still tasteful) revenge against her abusive family.

Cashmere Jasmine (Writer, Director)

Cashmere Jasmine is an award-winning first-generation disabled Afro-Caribbean writer and director from South Florida, who creates queer disability-inclusive dramas accented by dark humor and surrealist imagery in between jaunts of loudly drinking cocktails in dark LA bars with her ever faithful sidekick Greyfriars Bobby the Little (always pictured).


After losing custody of her little sister, a homeless dialysis patient climbs the social and financial ladder by manipulating the L.A. underground party scene in this hour-long Breaking Bad meets Ally McBeal dramedy.

Luna X Moya (Director, Editor, DP)

Luna X Moya (They/She) is a documentary filmmaker with over 10 years of experience, primarily as a Director and Editor, in the film and television industry. Their work screened at A+E Networks, MoMA, The Shed, BAMcinemaFest, and AFI SilverDocs. Luna is a formerly undocumented, queer, and chronically ill filmmaker. She focuses on documentary films about immigration, racial injustice, estranged family dynamics, and desire.

What The Pier Gave Us

A five-part poetic and experimental film about immigrants who fish at a pier in New York and the immigrant experience. What The Pier Gave Us lyrically captures the life of a pier through the seasons in a year.

Jennifer Msumba (Writer)

Jennifer Msumba, is a filmmaker and musician who is best known for her award winning film The Fish Don’t Care When It Rains. She also has several albums distributed on Spotify, Apple Music etc. Being an autistic artist, Jennifer believes her unique experiences have helped her creativity. She lives in Florida with her dog, Lemonade, where she enjoys fishing and playing keys for her church’s worship team. Jennifer is also a member of American Mensa.

Girl’s School

Amelia longs to escape the Westwood Behavioral School for Girls. When a blizzard causes the staff members to abandon their responsibilities, rising chaos ensues. And Amelia must choose between saving herself, or saving her friends.

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