Michelle Parkerson

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Michelle Parkerson
Michelle parkerson 4192053.JPG
Michelle Parkerson reading at a tribute to Essex Hemphill, Mt. Pleasant Library, Washington D.C., 2014
Washington, DC, US
OccupationFilmmaker and academic

Michelle Parkerson is an American filmmaker and academic. She is an assistant professor in Film and Media Arts at Temple University and has been an independent film/video maker since the 1980s, focusing particularly on feminist, LGBT and political activism and issues.

Early life[edit]

Michelle Parkerson was born and raised in Washington, DC.[1] In the early 1980s, Parkerson and Essex Hemphill, a poet, activist, and friend of Parkerson's, would often perform spoken word poetry in D.C. coffeehouses and theaters.[2] They received a grant from the Washington Project for the Arts in 1983 to produce an "experimental dramatization" of their poetry entitled Murder on Glass.[2]


She is an alumna of the American Film Institute (AFI) Workshop for Women Directors, Class of 1989-91, where her classmates included Rita Mae Brown and Lyn Goldfarb.[3]

Parkerson currently heads her own DC-based production company, Eye of the Storm Productions.[4][5]

Parkerson has received grants from the Independent Television Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the AFI as well as a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. She was awarded the Prix du Public at the Festival International de Créteil Films de Femmes and the Audience and Best Biography Awards at the San Francisco International Film Festival.[6] Her films are distributed by Women Make Movies and Third World Newsreel.

She is assistant professor in Film and Media Arts at Temple University.[7]

She published a volume of poetry, Waiting Rooms, in 1983.[8]


Gibson describes Parkerson as "a visionary risk taker".[9] Gibson describes Parkerson's films as being identity-related: "highlight[ing] the identities of black women as performers and social activists… serv[ing] as a major contributor to the development of a black documentary style that seeks a holistic approach to African-American life".[10]

Her documentaries feature major African-American figures: jazz musician Betty Carter, musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Stonewall riots activist Stormé DeLarverie and writer Audre Lorde, with a particular focus on sexuality and LGBTQ activism in the latter two. Her fiction short Odds and Ends is a lesbian Afrofuturist science fiction story.[11]

Parkerson's "love note never sent" to Lorde in The Feminist Wire reflects the activist motivation of her own filmmaking:

The zen of Audre Lorde is in vogue. But the tangible impact of your activism will keep surfacing internationally and for generations to come as long as communities of color are still under siege, as long as a woman remains voiceless and abused, as long as the lesbian love that dared "speak its name" is threatened with sequester.[12]


  • Sojourn (1973, with Jimi Lyons)
  • ..But Then She's Betty Carter (1980)
  • I Remember Betty (1987)
  • Urban Odyssey (1991)[13]
  • Storme: Lady of the Jewel Box (1991)[14]
  • Odds and Ends (1993)
  • Gotta Make This Journey: Sweet Honey in the Rock (1983) (producer)[15]
  • A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde (1995, with Ada Gay Griffin)[16]


  • —— (1983). Waiting Rooms. Common Ground Press.


  1. ^ Gwendolyn Audrey Foster (1 May 1997). Women Filmmakers of the African & Asian Diaspora: Decolonizing the Gaze, Locating Subjectivity. SIU Press. pp. 128–. ISBN 978-0-8093-2120-9.
  2. ^ a b Duberman, Martin (2014). Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill and the Battlefield of AIDS. New York: The New Press. pp. 36-38. ISBN 978-1-59558-945-3.
  3. ^ American Film Institute. "AFI Directing Workshop for Women". afi.com. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
  4. ^ Diane Waldman; Janet Walker (1999). Feminism and Documentary. University of Minnesota Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-8166-3007-3.
  5. ^ "Eye of the Storm: The Films of Michelle Parkerson | Scribe Video Center". scribe.org. Archived from the original on 2014-08-08. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
  6. ^ "SCT : FMA : Temple University". templefma.org. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
  7. ^ "SCT : FMA : TEMPLE UNIVERSITY". templefma.org. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  8. ^ Bobo, Jacqueline (2013-09-13). Black Women Film and Video Artists. Routledge. p. 179. ISBN 9781135225421. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  9. ^ Jacqueline Bobo (1998). Black Women Film and Video Artists. Psychology Press. pp. 177–88. ISBN 978-0-415-92041-4.
  10. ^ Waldman; Walker (1999). Feminism and Documentary. p. 157.
  11. ^ Odds and Ends
  12. ^ "Postscript: a love note – The Feminist Wire | The Feminist Wire". thefeministwire.com. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
  13. ^ Prakash, Snigdha; Prakash, Snigdha (1991-02-24). "'URBAN ODYSSEY'". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-06-28.
  14. ^ "WOMEN MAKE MOVIES | Storme The Lady of the Jewel Box". www.wmm.com. Retrieved 2017-06-28.
  15. ^ Harrington, Richard; Harrington, Richard (1983-02-23). "New Struggles In Sweet Harmony". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-06-28.
  16. ^ POV (1996-01-23). "Film Description | A Litany For Survival | POV | PBS". POV | American Documentary Inc. Retrieved 2017-06-28.

External links[edit]