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A Hot Minute with Angela Harvey

The award-winning filmmaker will screen her documentary Black Rainbow Love this Thursday at 8 PM at New Life MCC in Norfolk.

Editor’s note: this interview with filmmaker Angela Harvey was originally conducted by Wirt Confroy of the Virginia Tourism Corporation and is reprinted here with permission. Angela will be in Norfolk this Thursday, April 11 for an 8:00 pm screening of her film Black Rainbow Love followed by a conversation and Q&A presented by the Virginia Queer Film Festival Series and the New Life Metropolitan Community Church.

It’s an understatement that the Queer community is not a monolith. The intersection of so many people of different origins, geographies, identities and cultures makes it challenging to really know all the members of what many in the LGBTQAI+ community consider ‘our family.’ Depending on one’s daily life, work and social circles, it’s a natural occurrence to not really understand and adequately support each other. We are stronger together the more one makes an effort to STOP, and on purpose, meet new people different than ourselves, LISTEN to their stories and SUPPORT one another as best we can.

Towards this end, it was a pleasure to share a conversation with writer, director and producer Angela Harvey, focused on authentic storytelling and amplifying marginalized voices. She is a compassionate and visionary artist, driven by a deep sense of purpose and a commitment to using her art to make a difference in the world.

As awareness for her work has grown, it has continued to garner awards, most notably from the Virginia Queer Film Festival, Florence Film Festival, A&E International Film Festival, WRPN Women’s International Film Festival, OutSouth Queer Film Festival, Worldwide Women’s Film Festival, Atlanta Black Pride Film Festival, just to name a few.

Angela, please tell us a little bit about your own history, where you grew up and your life’s early work.

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and spent my childhood through early adulthood there, eventually graduating from high school in Streetsboro, Ohio,  then earning degrees from Cleveland State and Case Western Reserve University. I left Ohio in 1998 and moved to Las Vegas, where I worked as a therapist and social worker for nearly 20 years.

It was in Las Vegas that I was introduced to my life’s assignment ─ to help GROWN folks GROW up. The moment I was clear about what that meant I was ready and focused. In 2002 I founded Let’s T.A.L.K. (Together Acquire Lasting Knowledge). I didn’t know it then, but I would soon become an acronym Queen, known for the word GROW, and a notable and well-respected educator, advocate, activist, and sometime agitator in the Black LGBTQ+ community.

Through Let’s TALK I facilitated knowledge via workshops, keynotes, and presentation.  I’ve hosted retreats and boot camps and in the last 20+ years have proudly helped resuscitate spirits, resurrect relationships and revived hope in thousands of individuals. All of that prepared me for God’s latest joke and my latest assignment ─ unmuting Black LGBTQ+ voices via Black Rainbow Love.

We first met at the 2023 Virginia Queer film festival. After the screening and interview, we had a great conversation about overcoming life’s challenges and embracing life’s joys, gifts and opportunities. l left so inspired, I felt like I’d been on an episode of “Angela, Fix My Life.” 🙂 What about you and your life’s experiences makes you so good at connecting and sharing with people?

Engagement and transparency are my superpowers. My years as a therapist helped me perfect getting folks to open up, share, chew on the GROWTH. The outcome is intentional or accidental GROWTH, healing and transformation. I often joke that God teaches me through on the job training. That is where I’ve been able to gain the most respect and make the most connections; my willingness to be honest and transparent. There literally isn’t anything that most folks don’t know about my personal GROWTH journey.

Transparency also sheds shame, so I don’t have any hesitations about connecting and sharing things with others. I’ve always shared my personal experiences with depression, isolation, suicide attempts and desires, ADD, co-dependency (I’m recovering now so don’t try me,) and my challenging relationships. It has been more valuable than gold and makes me happier than any pair of shoes ever could. Bottom line, I’m blessed enough to have been given an amazing assignment, a crazy life, an incredible journey, and a way to use it all to do what I LOVE to do; help GROWN folks GROW up.  I know that my gift was mine to open, but it isn’t mine to keep. I want to spread the news, that if it feels this good being used, ya’ll just keep on using me,  until you use me up!

The complexities of writing, directing, and producing a film seem daunting. When did you first explore making your film, and how did it all come about?

Don’t tell anyone (Ha-ha!) but I had no desire, interest or thoughts about making a documentary. I had one lane and no blinker … until I didn’t.   Heck, I didn’t even know what a director or producer did until I looked it up, after we finished the documentary and before I could complete the credits.  My exploration didn’t come until after I had worn all the hats and needed to identify it for others.

In 2019, after watching a series on OWN about Black relationships and I simply thought to myself “Where are our (LGBTQ) stories.” That’s when I got another assignment; to help unmute Black LGBTQ+ voices.  At first, I was reluctant because I wasn’t a wanna-be-filmmaker, nor did I have any desire to be weighted down with more than what was already on my plate.

I looked up and two months later I had recorded my first three interviews. Then life started spinning; I ended a 5-year relationship, fell into an emotional well (that had been filled with my tears,) moved from and then back to the same state the I swore I would never return to, discovered I was co-dependent,  lost my baby sister to cancer and had to emotionally disconnect from most of my family and friends for a variety of reason. Then I did something that I won’t ever regret; I used all of my savings and self-funded the entire production of Black Rainbow Love.

Me and my cinematographer conducted 17 interviews, with 28 people in four days in early March, 2022.Then we worked 18, four-to-six-hour days together to complete the film. May, 2022 I was premiering the 42-minute documentary at DC’s Black Pride on the 20th Anniversary of my very first workshop. It all seemed like a surreal dream, and one I didn’t want to wake up from.

To date Black Rainbow Love has been screened in 30 film festivals, won 11 Awards including Best Documentary and Festival Favorite. I’ve been honored with a Local Legend award, and I’m bruised from pinching myself. “Ouch!! Yep, it’s real!”

After seeing your  film, and reading more about you, your work often focuses on exploring themes of identity, belonging, and resilience. Will you share a little bit more about that, and why you think it is so important?

I wish I could tell you something profound instead of sounding like a broken record but so much of what I’ve become known for, what I do well and what inspires others are words that are given to me from above. I know it may sound corny and unbelievable but how else do you explain a woman with ADD, who stutters, suffered from below ground level self-esteem, and who often wasn’t listening to her own advice being able to educate, empower, encourage, expose, elevate, and entertain the masses.  “See, I told you; it wasn’t me!”

However, I have been international, passionate, and purposeful about maintaining and enhancing my skills to keep folks going and GROWING. There are so many struggles in the Black LGBTQ+ community. I’ve been able to relate, having learned from my struggles. I know what it’s like to need hope, to feel a part and to desire to bounce back but not be able to. All of these things are standard when you feel safe. Please don’t confuse that for safe spaces. I’m seeking, through my life’s work, to create safety; the inner confidence and mental wellbeing that allow someone to go and GROW anywhere they want and be just who they think you are.

You invested so much of your time meeting new people and sharing their stories in your film. Do you have any favorite tidbits or stories to share when making the film? Perhaps challenges you overcome during production or special times during the interviews?

Great question. This is the first time anyone has asked me about challenges during production! We were blessed to only have one hiccup during production. In 2019 my cinematographer and I had a disagreement and he decided he was going to hold my footage hostage (four+ hours of three interviews) and I had to take him to court. I won and he delivered my footage. Three years later I partnered with the same cinematographer, and we did it together. I knew there wasn’t anyone else I could or wanted to share that experience with. He intimately knew my vision and purpose in life, and he believed in the project before it was a project. We stumbled upward together. Black Rainbow Love was his first documentary too. We carried and gave birth to a film that will only be further impactful when folks find out how it almost wasn’t made.


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