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Screening | The Sojourner Truth Film Festival

February 03, 202410:30 am - 5:00 pm

CART captioning provided.

About the Event

In 1976, Faith Ringgold and a group of Black feminist artists co-organized the first-ever Black women’s film festival: the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts. In celebration of the festival’s 2023 edition and Ringgold’s major retrospective, Faith Ringgold: American People, join us for an all-day screening of rarely shown films by and about Black women.

CART captioning is provided for all screenings.

This screening is co-sponsored and presented by Sisters in Cinema.

Sisters in Cinema is a Chicago-based non-profit with an inclusive mission to create a world where all Black women, girls and gender non-conforming media makers have equal opportunities to create and thrive.

Sisters in Cinema logo


10:30 am–12:30 pm

Screening One

Faith Ringgold: Tell it Like it Is + Shorts on Black Women Artists

Faith Ringgold: Tell it Like it Is is a BBC-produced 2019 documentary on Faith Ringgold as she prepares for a solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London, her first in a European institution, during that same year.

Shorts include these rarely screened films:

  • Valerie: A Woman, An Artist, A Philosophy of Life, dir. Monica Freeman (1975, 15 mins)
  • Sylvilla, They Dance to her Drum, dir. Ayoka Chenzira (1975-1979, 22 mins)
  • Dreams of Passion, dir. Aarin Burch (1989, 4 mins)
  • Spin Cycle, dir. Aarin Burch (1991, 6 mins)

Screening One Tickets

1:30–2:40 pm

Screening Two

Portraits of Place

With an in-person conversation between directors Monica Freeman—one of the founding members of the festival—and cai thomas, moderated by Yvonne Welbon.


  • A Sense of Pride–Hamilton Heights, dir. Monica Freeman (1977, 15 mins)
  • Change the Name, dir. Cai Thomas (2021, 20 mins)

An intimate portrayal of Black youth organizing on the West Side of Chicago, Change The Name follows a group of 5th graders from Village Leadership Academy as they embark on a campaign to rename Stephen A. Douglas Park after freedom fighters Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass. Over the course of the three-year grassroots campaign the students tackle bureaucratic Chicago Park District systems, underestimations of their capacity to make real change, as well as a pandemic and global uprising.

Screening Two Tickets

3–4:45 pm

Screening Three

In Our Mothers’ Gardens

Featuring a conversation with the director of the film, Shantrelle P. Lewis.

In Our Mothers’ Gardens celebrates the strength and resiliency of Black women and Black families through the complex, and often times humorous, relationship between mothers and daughters. The film pays homage to Black maternal ancestors while examining the immediate and critical importance of self-care, and the healing tools necessary for Black communities to thrive.

Screening Three Tickets

About the Filmmakers

Black-and-white portrait of a  Black woman with short hair among foliage.

cai thomas. Photo: Patrick Lentz.

cai thomas is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer based in Chicago who tells intimate stories at the intersection of location, self determination, and identity about Black youth and elders. She grew up in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood and is deeply interested in stories rooted in place. Her filmmaking exhibits how Black folks are agitating and organizing for the world they want, whether that’s a journalist investigating police misconduct, a disabled lesbian elder fighting for an accessible apartment, or young folks organizing for parks named after folks that look like them. cai’s films include Beneath The Surface (Independent Lens PBS), Change the Name (BET), and Queeniev (Criterion Channel). Her work has screened everywhere from classrooms and community centers on the West Side of Chicago to Blackstar Film Festival in Philadelphia.

Portrait of a light-skinned Black woman with her hair pulled against a gray background.

Monica Freeman. Image courtesy of the artist.

Monica Freeman is a filmmaker and programmer who earned her MFA in film from Columbia University. She began her career with Nafasi Productions in 1975. Ms Freeman’s films include: A Sense of Pride, Valerie: A Women, an Artist, A Philosophy of Life, and The Children’s Art Carnival: Learning Through the Arts.

Her work has been screened domestically and internationally at numerous venues including the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Centre Pompidou.

She has served as Program Director for the Atlanta African Film Society and The Hoyt Fuller Film Festival. In 1976 Ms Freeman was invited by Faith Ringgold to program the films for The Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts.

Portrait of a Black woman sitting in a pink room filed with plants and an old radio.

Shantrelle Lewis. Photo: Rog Walker Paper Monday.

Shantrelle P. Lewis is a multi-hyphen creative and scholar who accesses multiple disciplines to help elucidate African Diasporic history, aesthetics, culture, and spirituality. After premiering at BlackStar Film Festival, her critically acclaimed directorial debut, IN OUR MOTHERS’ GARDENS, was released on Netflix via Ava Duvernay’s ARRAY. Her book, Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style, was published by Aperture in 2017. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, LA Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, NPR, BBC, Washington Post, Slate, The New Yorker, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She cofounded SHOPPE BLACK with her husband and fellow Howard alum, Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson. As an initiated Lukumi Sango Priest, hoodooist, and New Orleans native, Lewis can be found waxing poetics about all things African spirituality online and in person at the BEAUCOUP HOODOO Shop, the annual BEAUCOUP HOODOO FEST this October, and within her community, ATRS BOOK CLUB.



Lead support for the 2023-24 season of MCA Talks is made possible by The Richard and Mary L. Gray Lecture Series through a generous gift to the Chicago Contemporary Campaign.

Generous support is provided by The Antje B. and John J. Jelinek Endowed Lecture and Symposium on Contemporary Art; the Kristina Barr Lectures, which were established through a generous gift by The Barr Fund to the Chicago Contemporary Campaign; The Gloria Brackstone Solow and Eugene A. Solow, MD, Memorial Lecture Series; and the Allen M. Turner Tribute Fund, honoring his past leadership as Chair of the Board of Trustees.


Lead support is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Zell Family Foundation, Cari and Michael Sacks, and R.H. Defares.

Major support is provided by Ellen-Blair Chube, DIOR, Susie L. Karkomi and Marvin Leavitt, Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Northern Trust, Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund, Robin Loewenberg Tebbe and Mark Tebbe, and Charlotte Cramer Wagner and Herbert S. Wagner III of the Wagner Foundation.

Generous support is provided by Katherine Mann and Mitchell Lederer, Cheryl and Eric McKissack, D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies, and Karyn and Bill Silverstein.

This exhibition is supported by the MCA’s Women Artists Initiative, a philanthropic commitment to further equity across gender lines and promote the work and ideas of women artists.

Lead support for this exhibition at the New Museum, New York, has been provided by The Henry Luce Foundation. Major support for this exhibition has been provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, Glenstone, and the Robert Lehman Foundation.

Dior logoNorthern Trust logoWagner Foundation Logo