NEW PROJECT – “ANNEXATION”

I am doing it!

I wrote and directed my first horror film. Talk about an exciting and nerve wrecking process.

Although the pandemic has been challenging, it has brought many blessings. Had we not been restricted from in-person meetings and events, I probably would not have known about Women of Color Filmmakers (WOCF), the Summer Film Lab or the other WOC creative groups I have joined since then.

Landi Maduro, WOCF Director, created the Summer Film Lab as a platform for women of color filmmakers to have a means of expanding our creativity. All genres are accepted and must have a maximum runtime of 15 minutes.

My film, ANNEXATION (Horror/Sci-Fi) follows the survival of a lone woman and her baby daughter as civilization has come to a halt. Or so she thinks. “You Are Not Alone”.

This was my first-time directing actors. We are an all-female crew. July 31, 2021, is the screening date of all films. I will keep you posted as we get closer to the date. In the meantime, please consider supporting this new project by making a small contribution


See A Replay of The Virtual Events

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, my events for I AM MORE THAN MY HAIR exhibition had to remain virtual. Thankfully, the events were recorded. If you were not able to attend, you can now see my exhibition Reception and Panel Discussion: Making Art Accessible on YouTube.

I also held a virtual film screening of I AM MORE THAN MY HAIR on Eventive. It sold out quickly. Unfortunately, I am not able to share the film publicly yet (as I am working on securing distribution). However, you can see the Q&A, which is also on YouTube. Several women from the film joined the Q&A hosted by fellow filmmaker Day Al-Mohamed.

Reception & Panel Discussion: Making Art Accessible

The reception for I AM MORE THAN MY HAIR takes place this Sunday, April 4, 2021 from 2-3pm. Councilmember Will Jawando will give the opening remarks, which will be followed by an interview of me at the museum and a short virtual tour. The tour will be followed by the Panel Discussion Making Art Accessible. ASL interpretation will be provided.

I am honored to be a host this amazing Panel, who include:

  • Ann Cunningham – Moderator, Tactile Artist, Author
  • Becky Emmert – Advocate, Activist, Speaker, Instructor
  • Brandy “Unique the Deaf Dancer” Mimms –Deaf Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher, Motivational Speaker
  • Cheryl Green – Multi-media Digital Artist, Captioner, Audio Describer
  • Julie Hein – Educator, Biologist, Leader in Audio Description & Interpretative Development
  • Marguerite Woods – Sculptor/Artist Teacher, President of the At-Large and Board member of the NFBMD

A closing poem will be recited by:

  • Jeanetta Price – Founder and CEO of Blind Girl Magic LLC

This is the first time I’ve ever had an exhibition reception online. Although I miss in-person interactions, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to connect online. If you are able to join me for the reception and panel discussion, RSVP.

Unable To Attend? Ask Me A Question

Given that my reception happens on Easter Sunday, Sandy Spring Museum has created a form to submit questions for those unable to attend. Submit your question

I Am More Than My Hair Screening and Q&A

During the exhibition I will host a screening of I AM MORE THAN MY HAIR to take place on Sunday, May 2, 2021 from 2-3pm. It is open and free to the public. The screening will be followed by a Q&A.

RSVP for the screening.

My First Accessible Exhibition

Thanks to the continued support of those who’ve contributed… I did it!

A little over a year I ago I attended a meeting a with National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Maryland. Marguerite Woods, a kindred spirit and participant of I Am More Than My Hair, invited me to join her for the Baltimore Chapter Meeting.

It was shocking to learn about the lack of accessibility in the arts and how blind and low vision audiences aren’t considered. I left the meeting feeling inspired enough to make it mandatory that any venue, gallery, or museum that requests my work, must agree that it will be made accessible for audiences with low vision and hearing.

I wanted to find a way to make my visual art accessible in new formats, that would open the experience of the art to people often barred from it.

The first museum to give me the OK for an accessible exhibition was Sandy Spring Museum in Sandy Spring Maryland. My exhibition takes place March 19 – May 28, 2021.

Here’s what I came up with:

Each photograph will be accompanied by a lithophane replica of the portrait. This image shows the lithophane print in production as I type. A lithophane is a three-dimensional image that can be explored by touch. When a light is placed beneath, it creates a unique visual experience.

Braille embossing will accompany written descriptions. Audio description of the images will be provided for visitors who have low vision. Interpreters in ASL (American Sign Language) will facilitate my artist talk. The screening of my film, I Am More Than My Hair, will include closed captioning and audio description for both hearing and vision accessibility. I also organized the panel discussion Making Art Accessible (date TBD).

Given the pandemic, there will also be a virtual component as well as the opportunity to experience it in-person during the Museum’s open hours. The reception and film screening (TBA) will take place online. When you RSVP you will receive updates on the scheduled events. 

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Farewell To My Mama

After my grandfather transitioned this past June, my grandmother was devastated. She didn’t have to say that she was, because it was evident in her reaction. I saw Mama, my maternal grandmother, cry for the first time in the 41 years that I’ve known her. To see her in pain was foreign to me because she was so strong and had the biggest carefree attitude.

Mama and Grandfather’s wedding picture day, 1951.

After 69 years of marriage to Grandfather (we actually called him Grandfather) how could she not be basked in pain?

Mama and Grandfather in Bahamas, September 2012.

As much as I love Mama, I didn’t truly appreciate her until I was a mother and saw her relationship as a great-grandmother to my children. It was necessary for me to warn them of her ‘hot mouth’ and temperament. For anyone that doesn’t know her or is naturally sensitive, can be easily scorned by her words. She was a product of her environment as a child and once I accepted that (which took years) I grew to love her even more. 

Mama and great-grans at Brevard Zoo.

Mama transitioned to the spirit world this past Monday December 14, 2020 after losing a week- long battle with COVID-19. Although I wasn’t pleased about how she contracted it, oddly enough I wasn’t sad when she passed. I felt comfort in knowing she joined my Grandfather. She grieved his departure and pleaded to be with him on the other side since June.

She felt so much heart ache immediately after his death that she fell sick and ended up in the hospital. She actually missed his funeral, but was content with it because she did not want to see him bury. Her tending to him during his last few months alive, and seeing her body decline and tire was heartbreaking.

Mama and Grandfather during my visit with them in January 2020.

So knowing she’s reunited with him is comforting and I’m grateful to have gained another ancestor. 

Mama and Grandfather at hospital with Aunty Sybil, October 2009.

Thankfully I was able to spend quality time with her and tell how much I appreciated her way before she transitioned and during the last time I was with her on September 28, 2020. We enjoyed roti and curry, cooked by her lovely friend, Ms. Chingie and Grey Goose (for me) and Crown Royal (for her and my mom) mixed with cranberry. And she visited me in my dream the morning she transitioned. She was sarcastic but I know she was telling me her farewell. That’s Mama 😊

Mama and Mom enjoying roti and curry potato and channa, September 28, 2020.
Mama and Mom, September 28, 2020.

Tonight I took a toast for my grandparents. Thank you for the lessons you’ve taught me. The conversations you had with my children during the many years of summer spent with you. Thank you for bailing me out when I needed it (Grandfather understands this one). Thank you for your patience, time, and dedication. Thank you for sticking together and showing true love. As a married woman I understand there’s no way in hell it was easy. Thank you for your resilience. And Mama, thank you for your fearlessness. That’s where my mom gets it from, which is how I got it. Thank you for the jokes and ‘fresh talk’ that got me through tough times. Thank you for being great-parents to my children, nieces, and nephew. 

Mama and Grandfather, 1951.
Uncle Aldwin, Susie, Grandfather, my mom, Uncle Eldwin.
Mama and Grannie.
Me, my mom, Mama, at the hospital with Aunty Sybil, 2009.

We miss them but how grateful we are to have had them in our lives. During this Holiday season I reflect on them, and cherish the memories. Until we meet again…

Love,

Alyscia 

I’m teaming up with American Express for their #Amex100for100 program!

Happy Women’s Entrepreneurship Day!

Several weeks ago, I received an email from iFundWomen with the subject line, “You’re in consideration for an American Express • IFundWomen Debut Program.”

I wasn’t aware of the details or the amount, but I was so excited. I have been hard at work applying for public and private foundation grants to help cover the cost of my upcoming exhibition.

The iFundWomen of Color and American Express team organized a Zoom meeting to discuss the details, which took place in late October. After briefly talking about my goals for Her House Media (previously AC Media), I heard something like…

You are actually not in consideration. You won the “100 for 100” Program grant.

In the feeling of gratefulness, I shed tears of joy… and relief. I thought to myself…

I can really do this.

My grand idea…

I had an idea to make my exhibition in March 2021, accessible for visitors with visual and hearing disabilities. The largest expense being the conversion of 2D photographs into 3D and adding audio description of my portraits from I Am More Than My Hair book. It’s a $35,000+ expense, as compared to $3,000 to $5,000.

Yes, you read that right!

It cost over $35,000 to create an accessible exhibition. And that’s the lower end of the scale. But it all worth it, to make my exhibition accessible for all to feel included.

To give some background…

American Express created “ 100 for 100 ” in partnership with IFundWomen of Color , the leading platform for women of color to raise capital, to support Black women entrepreneurs as they work to jump start and grow their business ventures. The program will provide each of the 100 women with grants of $25,000 and 100 days of business resources, including business education, mentorship, marketing, virtual networking, WorkSpaces by Hilton hotel reservation credits and more. The initiative is part of American Express’ recently announced $1 billion action plan to enhance diverse representation and promote equal opportunities for its colleagues, customers and communities.

To add to the amazing gesture, I returned home last week to beautiful, handpicked gifts from The American Express Team. The custom gifts were all created by Black Women:

It was hard to keep this a secret, but I am beyond grateful for the impact iFundWomen and The American Express Team has created for me and the 99 other business owners in the “100 for 100” Program.

Together, we’re making history. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Just when I was about to give up…

Font graphic reads, just when I was about to give up.

“With 1 day left”, as stated in my previous newsletter, I had embarrassed the reality of not reaching my $6K goal on iFundWomen. Although I would have liked a different turnout, in all honesty I was at peace with this realization and the idea of retiring my project without the completion of the final cut.

In that moment of feeling at harmony with my decision, a few hours later… just when I was about to give up… I received an email notification from the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County notifying me of a grant award.

I received the funding needed to complete I Am More Than My Hair.

The Universe is miraculous.
 

In the spirit of transparency, I wasn’t able to raise the funds to create an accessible exhibition as I hoped for my exhibits next year. However, I will seek support from foundations in order to make this happen.

What does this mean?

I will see I Am More Than My Hair film into completion, as far as I can possibly reach. First focusing on the expenses related to accessibly (for blind and deaf audiences) and the sound mixing and color correction

Once it’s complete in the film festival circuit (December 2020) I will make it available online. I’m not sure of the platform as yet but I promise I’ll figure it out. Once I do, you’ll be the first to know.

This has been a 6 year journey.

As I wind down on the completion of, I Am More Than My Hair, I’m off working on other projects –  another documentary film and my first horror film!

I am forever grateful for the people who supported me and believed in my projects along the years. Thank you to everyone who took the time to support my campaign (it remains open in order to qualify for current grants on the iFundWomen platform). 

Please know that I appreciate you.

With gratitude,

Alyscia Cunningham
Director | Producer | Cinematographer
www.Alyscia.com

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Your Family & Friends Are Not Your Audience

Thirteen years ago, I started a new business venture into the world of Multi-Level Marketing. Three years later, I realized that MLM is not for me but I was grateful for the valuable lessons learned as an Independent Rep.

My first homework assignment was to read Your First Year In Network Marketing (anyone in MLM knows this book). It really prepared me for the world of business that I knew nothing about. The first being…

Your family and friends are not your audience.

It’s been years since I read the book so I’m explaining in paraphrase, but the author made it very clear that you will most likely…

  1. Get ignored by friends and family
  2. Not taken seriously by friends and family
  3. Lose a friend in the process

Although it was a tough reality (they really did ignore my calls) the lessons learned has been extremely helpful in my businesses after MLM. I realized…

My biggest supporters are people I don’t know.

That thought used to upset me, but I developed a good grasp at basking myself in the positive, mutual energy and support that comes from a total stranger. As crazy as it sounds, I used to play tug of war in my mind and block my blessings because I had an expectation of what support should look like –Friends and family. Now…

I welcome the village I’ve always asked for. It’s a beautiful revelation.

I must say, one of my biggest takeaways as an MLM, is the ability to be fearless (cold calls will do that to you). To cut to the chase and not care that your loved ones may not support your vision. If they aren’t living their dream how can they encompass the power of yours?

Hopefully this blog can enlighten the person it was intended for. For those who have the support, you’re blessed.

With 1 day left…

I reflect on the beautiful moments and girls/women that I met on my expedition with I Am More Than My Hair. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to grow in genuine friendship with many of the women. It’s a humbling experience to know that everyone trusted me, a complete stranger to most, to share their stories.

With 1 day left for my campaign on iFundWomen and 75% left to raise $6K, I have made peace with the fact that I will most likely not reach my funding goal. And presumably this means; it is time for me to retire my project and move on.

Black girl let's go of a balloon. She looks up at it.

What does this mean?  I will see I Am More Than My Hair film into completion, as far as I can possibly reach. First focusing on the expenses related to accessibly (for blind and deaf audiences) and possibly the sound mixing and color correction. I’m simply not able to submit I Am More Than My Hair to certain film festivals without a professionally completed final cut.

On the bright side, once it’s complete in the film festival circuit (November 2020) I will make it available online. I’m not sure of the platform as yet but I promise I’ll figure it out. Once I do, you’ll be the first to know.

This has been a 6 year journey. It is not a sad moment. In fact, for the community of supporters, we’ve won. It has been a challenging yet beautiful journey. And the gems gained… priceless.

As I wind down on, I Am More Than My Hair, I’m off working on another project. I am forever grateful for the people who supported me and believed in my projects along the years. You are appreciated.

Remember… for those interested, you can always make a tax-deductible donation via my fiscal sponsor Women in Film & Video.

For #GivingTuesdayNow, Your Donation Can Support Two Causes

#GivingTuesdayNow is a new global day of giving and unity that will take place on May 5, 2020 – in addition to the regularly scheduled Dec 1, 2020 #GivingTuesday – as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.

Alyscia Cunningham

Due to COVID-19 the promising family foundation grants, totaling $15,000, have been relocated to organizations in need of emergency supplies. Although I understand the necessity for realistically reallocating the grant funds I also understand the importance of coming together as a community and supporting small businesses.

That said, today is the official public launch of my iFundWomen crowdfunding campaign. Your donation can support two causes:

1. The final cut of my film, exhibition, and screening presentations.
2. Making it accessible for people with visual and hearing disabilities. I’ve made it mandatory that the venues requesting my art for exhibition, include accessibility as a part of the program.

Here’s a how you can offer your support: 

1Support my campaign on iFundWomen – Your monetary contribution allows me the opportunity to complete the final cut of my film, and make it accessible for audiences with visual and hearing disabilities, with closed captioning and audio description. Here’s the link – https://ifundwomen.com/projects/i-am-more-my-hair-short-film

support-ifundwomen

2. Prefer a tax-deduction? Donate via my fiscal sponsor, Docs In Progress.

tax-deductible-donation

3. Not able to make a monetary contribution? Not a problem! Please share my campaign with YOUR community. Need words of inspiration? Feel free to use the wording below when you share.

Director, Alyscia Cunningham, is raising funds for the final cut of her documentary film “I Am More Than My Hair” and making it accessible for viewers with visual and hearing disabilities. Please consider supporting this independent filmmaker on IFundWomen, a startup funding platform for women business owners – https://ifundwomen.com/projects/i-am-more-my-hair-short-film  #GivingTuesdayNow #SupportWomen #SupportWomenInFilm #SupportWomenArtists #WomenFilmmakers #Accessibility #FemaleDirector #SupportIndieFilm #IndieFilmmaker #IndieFemaleFilmmaker #Support #donate #Crowdfunding #iFundWomen #IAmMoreThanMyHair #AlysciaCunningham

4. Interested in hosting a private screening… social distancing style? Let’s make it happen — ONLINE! I only ask that your guests commit to making a monetary contribution via iFundWomen or Docs In ProgressContact me for more info on how to set up a online screening.

Thank you for your continued support!

“I Am More Than My Hair” wins Best Documentary Short at Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival 2020!

What a beautifully challenging journey this has been (all bottled in one). I Am More Than my Hair is my first film. Although it still needs a few finishing touches, I am beyond proud of myself, my film editor Tiffany Lewis (who weaved the stories together so beautifully) and the courageous little girl and women who trusted me to share their stories.

I am thankful for Through Women’s Eyes (TWE) International Film Festival committee, judges and volunteers, for the powerful selection of film, assuring the festival went smoothly, and the audience votes which determined the awards.

TWE2020-award

The response from the audience was undeniably positive and the topic of alopecia is evidently moving from taboo to an openly relatable conversation. The number of viewers that spoke with me about their personal story, a “sister”, “friend” or “mom” was a pleasant surprise.

Overall, seeing a weekend full of films directed by women, was an empowering experience. We laughed, we cried, we were outraged. In the end, we all discovered something new though the lens of these filmmakers. If I could share the dynamic impact of these films with you I would. It was so powerful on multiple levels.

Here’s a few of my personal favorites…
Medicating Normal – by Directors Lynn Cunningham and Wendy Ractliffe
#Female Pleasure – by Director Barbara Miller
SEMA – by Director Macherie Ekwa
LUZ– by Director Jon Banana

TWE2020-filmmakers_Alyscia-Cunningham

Unfortunately, I missed a handful of films but you can take a look at TWE 2020 Film Lineup.

Alyscia-Cunningham_Lurline_TWE2020

I am also very grateful for my homestay host, Lurline, a local resident of Sarasota that opened her home to me as a guest. TWE couldn’t have paired me with a better host. I love how the Universe aligns so that I cross paths with genuine people. Our similarities are amazing.


I think back to me as a little girl…

staying up late at night (while my family was asleep) to watch documentary films on television. I gained an enormous amount of knowledge, often unheard of by my peers, and always spoke about something interesting that I learned (my thoughts on the direction of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Mission Mars, and the New World Order didn’t sit so well with my classmates, and I quickly learned that it’s best to keep some topics to myself – LOL). Regardless it’s rewarding to see that I’ve created what I’ve always loved.

At this point, I’m awaiting the “yay” or “nay” response from ten other film festivals. Actually, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival recently responded, “nay”, so… I have nine more to go.

And my journey continues…

Image of Alyscia Cunningham with the sunset in the background.

Author, Entrepreneur, Filmmaker, Photographer