Experiencing Interruptions?

Oklahoma is Black

Oklahoma is Black is a portrait of Black life on the Northeast side of Oklahoma City.

  • Melinda James
  • Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
  • Emily McLean
  • Jared Fellows
    Post-Production Sound
  • Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
  • Susie Smith
    Creative Consultant
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    3 minutes 12 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 11, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    850 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • BlackStar Film Festival
    United States
    August 3, 2019
    Philadelphia Premiere
    Best Documentary Short Nomination
  • DC Black Film Festival
    Washington, D.C.
    United States
    August 9, 2019
    Washington, D.C. Premiere
    Best Documentary Short Nomination
  • BronzeLens Film Festival
    United States
    August 23, 2019
    Atlanta Premiere
    Official Selection
  • New Orleans Film Festival
    New Orleans
    United States
    Best Documentary Short Nomination
  • Indie Memphis Film Festival
    United States
    Best Documentary Short Nomination
  • Cucalorus Film Festival
    United States
    Official Selection
  • SF Urban Film Festival
    San Francisco
  • 16th Annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival
    San Francisco
    United States
Director Biography

Melinda James is a queer Black/Thai filmmaker with a primary focus in cinematography. Her style embodies a visual style that is minimal and intimate. James' personal work is centered around women and QTPOC communities and extends to other marginalized experiences. Over the years she has shaped a body of work that puts these underrepresented communities at the forefront, as keepers of their own images.

Based in Los Angeles, she's created short films, music videos, and commercials that have debuted on The Root, Essence, NPR Music, Participant Media, and has been screened at Frameline Film Festival, Outfest Fusion, Queer Women of Color Film Festival, SF Urban Film Festival and Oklahoma Contemporary.

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Director Statement

Oklahoma is Black was born out of an exhibition by visual artist, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, that shares the same name. Tatyana is an Oklahoma City native best known for her Stop Telling Women to Smile series. Not only had I never been to Oklahoma City before this project, but my knowledge about the city was extremely limited. As someone new to this community, I felt that my only responsibility was to listen and this film is born out of that listening. It is a meditation on the resilience of a community and the places in which it thrives, of its complexities and its nuances, and of its concern of what has passed and for what's to come.

I'd like to share a passage that Tatyana opened her exhibition with:

Sometimes, someone will ask, “There are black people in Oklahoma?” when I tell them where I’m from. Are there black people in Oklahoma? As if Greenwood wasn’t burned to the ground for being too black. As if our mothers and their mothers and didn’t toil this flat ground. And because white supremacy will have you believing that only white people deserve to be seen and recognized and celebrated, they don’t know that black people settled this place. And because they haven’t had a burger from Geronimo’s, or chicken from Bobo’s, “Are there black people in Oklahoma?” As if we don’t swim in lakes, and ride horses, and catch lightning bugs in glass jars. As if there were no Ada Lois Sipuel or Ralph Ellison or Clara Luper. As if this state wasn’t almost a black state. As if we don’t laugh out loud at dinner tables and hold our babies tight. As if we didn’t fall in love in the backseat of cars parked at the strip on 23rd. Running outside, no shoes on, with our play cousins. Twirling and dipping. Dodging police and thunderstorms (but not tornadoes because tornadoes don’t hit the east side). Singing and praising. In kitchens that smell like greens and pressed hair. 'Hold your ear so I don't burn it.' In board rooms, court rooms, class rooms, and pulpits. As if we weren’t singing at the top of our lungs on our way to school, on our way to Tinsel Town, on our way to the rest of our lives. As if we weren’t here sooner than Sooners. As if we disappeared. As if their attempts to kill us off were successful. As if we didn’t survive, aren’t surviving, their violence. Everyday.