Storme -- The Lady of the Jewel Box
ain’t easy…being green” is the favorite expression of Storme
DeLarverie, a woman whose life flouted prescriptions of gender and
race. During the 1950’s and 60’s she toured the black theater
circuit as a mistress of ceremonies and the sole male impersonator
of the legendary Jewel Box Revue, America’s first integrated
female impersonation show and forerunner of La Cage aux Folles.
Parkerson finds Storme in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, now
working as a bodyguard at a women’s bar and still singing in her
deep silky voice with an “all girl” band. Through archival clips
from the past, Storme looks back on the grandeur of the Jewel Box
Revue and its celebration of pure entertainment in the face of
homophobia and segregation. Storme herself emerges as a remarkable
woman, who came up during hard times but always “kept a touch of
Parkerson . . .
For African American, lesbian, writer,
performance artist and independent filmmaker Michelle Parkerson,
there is work to be done to document the lives of those who
exist outside the margins. With camera close at hand, Parkerson
has used her feminist cinematic vision to uncover and expose the
history of African American women's lives.
Michelle Parkerson is a writer and independent
filmmaker from Washington, DC. She has served on the faculties
of the University of Delaware, Howard University, Northwestern
University, and Temple University. Her public television
specials include But Then, She's Betty Carter, Gotta
Make This Journey: Sweet Honey In The Rock, Stormé: The
Lady of the Jewel Box, and Urban Odyssey.
In 1992, she received a Rockefeller Foundation
Film/Video Fellowship. As a member of the American Film
Institute's Directing Workshop for Women (8th Cycle), she wrote
and directed Odds and Ends, a black amazon sci-fi video.
Ms. Parkerson also directed A Litany For Survival: The Life
and Work of Audre Lorde in collaboration with
producer/co-director Ada Gay Griffin.
Her acclaimed film "A Litany for Survival:
the Life and Work of Audre Lorde," celebrates the life of
one of this century's most gifted, courageous and accurate
writers: self-described black, lesbian, feminist, warrior, poet,
mother, Audre Lorde. Born in 1934, Lorde battled breast
cancer for many years before her death in 1992. Her writings
were the voice and the inspiration for a generation of activists
fighting for lesbian and gay rights, civil liberties, and equal
rights for women. While fiercely committed to the work of
liberation, Lorde's writings were also at times playful,
spiritual, and erotic. At one point in the film, Lorde tells her
viewers: "What I leave behind has a life of its own-I've said
this about poetry, I've said it about children I'm saying it
about the very artifact of who I have been."
Ada Gay Griffin
Over a period of eight years, Parkerson and
Griffin worked together with Lorde to produce A Litany for
Survival. The film combines early photographs of Lorde, film
clips of the poet's public readings of her prose and poetry,
conversations with her children, her partner Gloria Joseph, and
tributes to Lorde's work by Adrienne Rich, Sonia Sanchez,
Jewelle Gomez, Essex Hemphill and Cheryl Clarke. The
documentary premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival, aired
on the PBS series, P.O.V. and has received audience awards at
festivals in Los Angeles, Paris, and San Francisco.
In addition to being a filmmaker, Michelle
Parkerson is also a performance artist. Divas, her
critically acclaimed cabaret show with vocalist/comedienne
Brenda Files, played to standing-room crowds at Washington, DC's
Dance Place. As part of the DC Writers Residency, she
collaborated with MacArthur Fellow Guillermo Gómez-Peña and
Roberto Sifuentes in The Dangerous Bordergame. Currently, she is
touring with choreographer Kimberli Boyd and multidisciplinary
artist Kwelismith in Women of Substance, a Black women's
Parkerson's poetry and short fiction are anthologized in In
Search of Color Everywhere (edited by E. Ethelbert Miller),
Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing (edited
by Catherine McKinley and L. Joyce Delaney), The Poetry of
Sex (edited by Tee Corinne) and The Arc of Love
(edited by Clare Coss).
Michelle Parkerson lives in Washington, D.C. and has produced
documentaries on jazz singer Betty Carter, Sweet Honey in the
Rock, as well as Odds and Ends (a black amazon science
fiction short film), and Storme': the Lady of the Jewel Box
(a documentary about Storme' Delarverie, former M.C. and
male impersonator with the legendary Jewel Box Revue.) In
her book on women filmmakers of the African and Asian diaspora,
Gwendolyn Audrey Foster wrote of Parkerson's work: "Michelle
Parkerson's documentaries embody black female subjectivity at
its most basic. Here, black women speak for themselves."
Michelle Parkerson currently heads up her own
DC-based production company, Eye of the Storm Productions.
Source: Out In The Mountains:
Women Make Movies:
...But Then, She's Betty Carter
This lively film is an unforgettable portrait of legendary
vocalist Betty Carter, one of the greatest living exponents of
jazz. Uncompromised by commercialism throughout her long career,
she has forged alternative criteria for success — including
founding her own recording company and raising her two sons as a
single parent. Parkerson's special film captures Carter's
musical genius, her paradoxical relationship with the public and
her fierce dedication to personal and artistic independence.
Gotta Make This Journey
Sweet Honey in The Rock
This vibrant and engaging video profiles the a capella activist
group, Sweet Honey in the Rock. Singing to end the oppression of
Black people world wide, Sweet Honey embraces musical styles
from spirituals and blues to calypso, and concerns ranging from
feminism to ecology, peace and justice. This dynamic video
features individual portraits, powerful concert footage and
commentary by Angela Davis, Alice Walker and Holly Near.