A Conversation with Alfre Woodard
17 Feb 2017
This year, the Pan African Film Festival honored Alfre Woodard with the Lifetime Achievement award. On Sunday, February 12, 2017, Woodard educated and entertained an intimate audience during PAFF’s Conversation with Alfre Woodard.
Woodard spoke about her childhood and being raised by a of educators that pushed education. She has made many contributions as part of a national educational task force under President Obama. However, Woodard resigned from this task force two days before Trump’s inauguration. Turn Around Arts is the program that she helped to spearhead and this program which teaches core curriculum subjects through the arts is now in sixty-eight schools. One of the programs she spoke about was Long Division Boogaloo. In this program, the dance teacher works along with the math teacher to help kids learn and enjoy math.
” We need to make sure that education is a priority. I also think it’s a national security issue,” Woodard said.
Woodard also spoke about liberation theology in regard to the church being part of the struggle for freedom during this event.
She joked about the sweeping statements on Wikipedia that exaggerate her humble beginnings in the arts. She also spoke about artists seeking training so you can turn whatever gifts or talents you have into a skill. Woodard’s conversation with the audience flowed very smoothly and her responses we spiced with funny statements about her past. “Back then we thought if you didn’t go to college you will just fall into a crevice and that would just be that.”
Throughout the conversation, Woodard gave the audience advice on dealing with life under the new POTUS. She recommended that we join and become active in different groups because we feel most alive when giving back. “Especially when the forces of evil seem to be coming down upon the village. Shutting ourselves off doesn’t work either because they still have the power. We should be thinking progressively all the time and doing those things that moves everybody forward. Not even the simplest of things get accomplished by themselves.”
Woodard articulated the differences between the African American reaction to Trump’s victory as opposed to the mainstream’s reaction.
“I love it how there’s some people on social media like ‘I’m getting tired of all the talk about…'”
“Oh you are obviously not colored people if you’re getting tired already! That’s who we are, that’s the joy of being who we are. Cause we know how to struggle. We don’t lay down and feel bad about ourselves when we struggle. We make songs about it, we march about it and we cook food and have everybody come. That’s who we are. That’s who human beings are. We have had the unfortunate and the good fortune to have been in the position to have had to demonstrate that to ourselves throughout the centuries.”
When the moderator asked, if she would sit down and talk with Donald Trump and if yes, what would she say, Woodard was speaking to crowd who’s ears perked up immediately.
“Can you imagine what a shitty life it must be being inside his brain and inside his heart? That man can’t sleep. It’s so American that people were seduced into thinking he was on top of the hill and that somehow all the billions were going to roll into their little tiny slop jar. And there he is he is just so… he needs a spirit detox. But, he’s gotta live with himself. What we’ve gotta do though is just really stay on point to make sure this child does not get close to the codes. Does not do damage that it will take Taaj’s kids to undo. And he’s one person, of course he’s got the Sith devil l with him, Bannon. He’s got all those people. Education. Lord have mercy. Betsy Devos. I have nothing against conservatism. I’m a stone cold progressive,” Woodard explains.
“If he was mentally stable and if he really did run his own companies, he would have brought is conservative thinkers. Conservatism isn’t a disease, it’s just a point of view, but you’ve got to have thinker behind it no matter what it is.”
“Woodard also had a positive message about Trump’s presidency. People are beginning to come out of their dens and being shameless now and showing their cards. Now we know where the boil is, we can lance it and keep moving.”
Woodard enlightened the audience about the process in which the academy nominates films every year and what she thinks played a part more films with people of color being nominated this year.