Why I Bravely Tell Stories That Aren’t Mine to Tell

I have always considered myself a human rights activist. While making documentaries in my school’s Film Studies program, I learned a great deal about the oppression of people from marginalized communities. It is because of my passion for justice that I nominate myself to bravely tell their stories, even though they aren’t mine to tell.

 

Voter suppression, model minorities, ableism… I have a basic understanding of these topics and have a few friends who have experienced them. That is why I want to use my power in the world of film to bring attention to these stories, but from my own vantage point. It is a weighty task, but I know that I need to use my privilege to pull those up who need a lift, and also to make artistic decisions about what parts of their lives I like and make sense to me.

 

I’ve always been trying to be on the right side of history. For instance, I was there right when #noDAPL started, documenting residents of Standing Rock peacefully protesting. I considered interviewing them about the issue, but realized that I have so many thoughts of my own! That’s why I wrote a short art piece about it for Vice, and now I get freelance work from them—awesome! And guess what? I’d make that sacrifice again. It made me feel so good to tell the people of Standing Rock’s story as only I would tell their story. And I hope everyone there is okay!

 

And did I mention I recently got a short film accepted into an Indian-American Film Festival? Sure, I’m not an Indian-American but I found amazing Indian actors to bring life to a script I wrote about skin lightening creams. Can you believe people use that stuff? For me it’s truly incomprehensible, and that is why I decided, “I should write about it.” There’s that old saying: “Write what you know.” But also? Maybe write what you don’t know.

 

Sometimes I wonder if people will say, “You tell stories about marginalized people. Are you afraid you’ll get a smaller audience?” No. I never worry about that. Interestingly, I feel that my championing of marginalized people has brought me more accolades and more of an audience. I’m telling you, POC friends, I’m living proof: doing what they in the biz call “the work” of making a few videos and writing Facebook posts can get you acclaim—a lot of it! Makes you really wonder why marginalized people keep so quiet about their stories. Huh.

 

 

But it isn’t all sunshine and roses. There are times when I seriously reckon with myself and ask myself the question I feel is on the tip of everyone’s tongue: “Shouldn’t you use privilege to amplify the underrepresented, instead of taking over the mic yourself?” But thankfully no one has asked this, as far as I know! I don’t really read comments or reviews, and I don’t appreciate feedback.

 

So when it comes to my love of storytelling, I’ve found that I have to reach outside myself. Because guess what? I’ve had it pretty easy. Do you even know what it’s like to be marginalized person day to day? Seriously, do you? I’m looking for inspiration!

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