by Zaria Sims for Urban Mindz
"100% black talent, black crew, and black staff!" - Nunera Amun
Nunera Amun, the groundbreaking South Side of Chicago native and filmmaker, who is shifting the lens of African American lives, aims towards visually portraying the genuine narrative of the black man’s natural ability to create, thrive, and persevere within any environment or circumstance.
With a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Bethune Cookman University, Nunera gradually veered towards the radio industry. As an intern for NPR’S Talk of the Nation, her work made national headway when she advocated on behalf of Robert Champion, a young man who attended Florida A&M and passed away during a band hazing incident.
Amun has always been about ratifying culture, activism, education, and changing the world. While building her platform as a filmmaker and director, she released a short documentary in 2017, following an African-American mental wellness advocate who was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). It was during the composition of this short film that led Amun to begin her next project, which happened to be directing and producing “What is a Black Man?”
Screening February 26th at Parkway Northwest High School in Philadelphia
The documentary introduces the world to four young, black men from Philly who are pursuing a career in conscious rap music and artistry. Along the way, their bond together only strengthens when they are faced with the harsh realities of life. Amun will introduce a short version of the film in five Philadelphia public schools, beginning on February 26th. The screening will be held at Parkway Northwest High School, located in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy neighborhood. The screening will consist of the subjects of the documentary speaking on a panel, as well as giving a live performance.
Where did it all begin?
Amun met Alex, Michael, Uriah, and Clinton at the Philadelphia School District Educational Studio, a program where students have full access to professional musical equipment.
As she was working on a personal visual project, while simultaneously teaching children how to create their own video productions, Amun would visit the studio every day, and every day she would see the same four boys working on music together. After sparking a conversation with them, Amun proceeded to ask them about their favorite artists and rappers. To her surprise, the boys gravitated towards the older hip-hop legends like Tupac, Biggie, Nas, and even gospel artists like Lecrae.
“They have been working together (making music) for the past three years. Initially, I didn’t even have their parents' permission to start filming, because we literally just recorded at the studio. I decided to follow them for a few years to create a timeline, to see what it is like to grow into a black man and where their career takes them as racially and socially conscious hip-hop artists. I see that the question is in them: how do they become something that they have not really seen modeled, all while knowing that they are seen as a target in society? They are very brave and fascinating young men, and they give something that we don’t ever see in traditional film and media”
What was the monumental thing your learned about yourself while making this film?
Each one of the boys has something that I can relate to. For a lot of my life, I did not trust black men; I did not allow myself to get too close to my black male friends, and I saw how society has trained us to see them as dangerous and violent. I really value black men, and I have learned about the complexity of my relationships with black men stemming from my father’s absence; he left when I was two and I have not seen him since. But there are some incredible black men in our society who just don't get the recognition that they deserve, and I’ve forgiven my father.
“There’s always someone who doesn’t want you to talk about something. Black stories need to be told by black people, because enough of our stories have been told by people who aren’t.” - Nunera Amun
How have you used film to create opportunities and invest in our communities?
The power that this platform has given to me is the autonomy I have over who works on the project, even down to whose faces are shown in the film. There are so many black professionals with extremely high skill sets who are not getting the opportunities they deserve. I only want black voices to be in the room, in terms of developing this film, because we don’t need any more stories where white people are coming to us saying, "this is what the story is," when we lived through it.
What are some of the ways filmmaking has been rewarding to you?
In a non-tangible way, I think it is the reason why I wake up in the morning. At one point, my mom was asking me, “This is kinda hard, are you sure you wanna do this?” I told her, “If I can’t, I don’t wanna wake up in the morning. It gives me life. It makes me feel alive. It may sound cliché, but when I’m in the midst of it, nothing else matters. It’s really added so much energy back into my life. As kids, we have so much energy and vibration, and for many years in my adulthood, that energy got sucked out of me.