Documentary Filmmaker and Community Activist Susan Robeson to Speak and Serve as Artist-In-Residence At Mount Holyoke College

For immediate release
October 18, 2000


Public Presentation Set For Wednesday, October 25, At 7 PM In Dwight Hall

SOUTH HADLEY, Massachusetts--Launching Mount Holyoke College's fall arts focus on arts and social justice, documentary filmmaker and television producer Susan Robeson will be an artist-in-residence on campus for the week of October 23 to 30 and will give a number of presentations during her time at the College. Robeson will meet with classes in the film studies, African and African American studies, religion, and theatre departments throughout the week.

Public Event:
Robeson will give a public presentation of her work Wednesday, October 25, at 7 PM, in room 202 in Dwight Hall. Screened and discussed will be clips from a variety of her films, including Teach Our Children(about the Attica prison rebellion);United for Peace(about gangs in Los Angeles); and Arrested Development in the House (about the hip-hop group Arrested Development).

Her schedule also includes other events, including a discussion of film distribution and a talk about her grandfather, Paul Robeson, an actor and political activist about whom she has written a biography.

About Susan Robeson
Susan Robeson began her career as a filmmaker and television producer in 1972, when she cofounded Third World Newsreel, a film and media arts center in New York City, and coproduced, photographed, and edited Teach Our Children,a documentary film about the 1971 prison rebellion at Attica State Prison. Robeson spent the next five years working as a cinematographer and editor for Third World Newsreel and also cofounded a small theatre for film exhibition, Higher Ground Cinema.

Robeson then joined the staff of WABC-TV and began producing the Emmy award-winning television program Like It Is,a weekly public affairs program known for its hard-hitting, controversial material and diverse style, including one-hour documentaries. Still the longest-running black-produced program on television, Like It Isbecame something of an institution in New York, not only for African Americans, but as an alternative voice in mainstream media for diverse communities. Among the many programs Robeson produced, directed and wrote are Before the White Man Came,a six-part series on Native American history and culture, and Capoeira, a short documentary film about the Brazilian martial art brought to the New World by Angolan slaves.

After leaving WABC-TV in 1985, Robeson produced and directed a series of music documentaries for national syndication by WNBC-TV, including two jazz documentaries, Ella on Ella and Mr. B,about the life and times of jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Eckstine. In 1988, she became a producer on the start-up team of The Eleventh Hour,a nightly public affairs series, for public television. In 1991, Robeson was invited to KTCA/Twin Cities Public Television to create and implement her model for community empowerment through television, involving an eclectic mix of grass-roots community organizing, training, production, and programming. This included creating and launching Kev Koom Siab,an award-winning weekly program by, for, and about the Southeast Asian Hmong communityâ€'produced (in Hmong) by an all-Hmong staff that she recruited and trained. She also created Don't Believe the Hype,an offbeat Emmy award-winning series that put all the aspects of planning and production in the hands of at-risk African American youth.

Robeson was awarded a Saint Paul Companies Leadership In Neighborhoods (LIN) grant in 1995 to spend time in South Africa training township-based video groups so they can apply for broadcast licenses to operate their own mainstream broadcast channels, now a priority in the remaking of television in a new South Africa. Robeson has also been a Bush Artist Fellow in Film/Video (Minneapolis 1994) and is a former New York Foundation for the Arts Film Fellow (1985). She was also a two-year film/video artist-in-residence at Walker Art Center (1996-1998), exploring the genre of fictionalized documentaries. Robeson is currently at work on a screenplay about a Cherokee woman of African descent and her resistance to the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation in 1838. She teaches part time at Macalester College.