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Nov 15, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Let the Church Say Amen!

With Jon Goff, Rev. Alisha Gordon, Sam Pollard & Josslyn Luckett

NOTE: This event is not taking place at UnionDocs, but at NYU’s Tisch School of Arts at 721 Broadway, Room 006.

Co-presented with The Flaherty Film Seminar, Icarus Films, and the NYU Departments of Cinema Studies and Religious Studies, UnionDocs invites you to join us for a special screening of St. Claire Bourne’s 1974 documentary Let the Church Say Amen!. This screening is tied to a forthcoming article in our journal World Records that examines black liberation theology.

Following the screening, there will be a discussion featuring Jon Goff (The Flaherty), Rev. Alisha Gordon (The Riverside Church), and Sam Pollard (Film & TV, NYU), moderated by Josslyn Luckett (Cinema Studies, NYU).


Let the Church Say Amen!

60 min., 1974

In the seminal film LET THE CHURCH SAY AMEN!, filmmaker St. Clair Bourne follows an African-American minister in training as he travels through the South. Filmed in Atlanta, the Mississippi delta, and Chicago, this narrative documentary looks at the Black church from within, and how it affects African-American life in both urban and rural America.

Hudson “Dusty” Barksdale is studying for the ministry in an Atlanta seminary and as part of his training, he journeys to different churches to evaluate which setting best appeals to him. In the rural Mississippi church, he meets an old country preacher whose sermons inspire the worshippers to “get the spirit” so they can endure the next week’s labors. In Chicago, he observes a sophisticated minister and his frustrated congregation trying to cope with street kids from the surrounding housing projects and their activist-oriented leader. Finally, Dusty returns to Atlanta only to discover that the Black Muslims are challenging the validity of Christianity, claiming that the religion was used to enslave Africans in America.

60 min

St. Clair C. Bourne (1943–2007) was an American documentary filmmaker who focused on African-American social issues and themes. He also developed projects that explored African-American cultural figures, such as Langston Hughes and Paul Robeson. Not only was Bourne a towering figure in the documentary film world but also an activist, teacher, and organizer. Born in Harlem, New York, he moved to Brooklyn when he was two years old. He completed two years at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service before joining the Peace Corps. In 1965, the Peace Corps sent Bourne to Peru where he helped publish a Spanish newspaper, El Comeno, in Comas, a settlement adjacent to Lima. The November 1965 issue of Ebony magazine featured an article about Bourne’s efforts in Comas. Bourne graduated from Syracuse University in 1967 with a dual degree in journalism and political science. In 1988, a retrospective of his films was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In a 36-year career in which he made more than 40 films, either producing or directing or doing both, Bourne’s works were seen on public television, commercial networks, and at film festivals around the country. His collection can be found at the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Jon Goff is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, and arts administrator. He believes cinema has the power to explore the intersection of race, power, identity, gender and the environment by unearthing the visceral representational value and authenticity behind the images propelled across varying diasporas. With over 15 years experience in media and film production, Jon has offered his lens to a variety of projects spanning many genres including the recently released and award-winning documentaries, including Out in the Night (POV, Logo 2015) and Evolution of a Criminal (Independent Lens 2015), among several other projects. Prior to coming to the Flaherty, Jon served as the first Museum Specialist for Film at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture where he was responsible for developing the museum’s public film program. Jon has served on juries for International Film Festival Rotterdam, Black Star Film Festival, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (DCEFF), and CinemAfrica Film Festival (Stockholm, Sweden). He has a MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University.

Rev. Alisha L. Gordon, M.Div. is a well sought-after writer, teacher, scholar activist, and public theologian utilizing the many intersections of her life as an entry point to engage in ministry around the world. A native of Decatur, Georgia, Alisha attended Spelman College where she earned a Bachelor of English and Candler School of Theology at Emory University where she earned her Master of Divinity.

Alisha’s published work has been featured in national publications, including The Huffington Post, WGN’s groundbreaking television show, Underground, Emory University, the General Commission on Religion and Race, and the United Methodist Church. In 2016, she received a Presidential Commendation from Dr. Elmira Mangum, president of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida for her contributions to the university as convocation speaker. In 2015, she was the winner of the Candler School of Theology Community Service Award, and a founding member of award-winning CORE, the Candler Centennial Coalition on Racial Equality.

Sam Pollard’s professional accomplishments as a feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director span almost thirty years. He recentlyserved as Executive Producer on the documentary Brother Outsider, Official Selection 2003 Sundance Film Festival. His first assignment as a documentary producer came in 1989 for Henry Hampton’s Blackside production Eyes On The Prize II: America at the Racial Crosswords. For one of his episodes in this series, he received an Emmy. Eight years later, he returned to Blackside as Co-Executive Producer/Producer of Hampton’s last documentary series I’ll Make Me A World: Stories of African-American Artists and Community. For the series, Mr. Pollard received The George Peabody Award. Between 1990 and 2000, Mr. Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee’s films: Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers, Bamboozled. As well, Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lee co-produced a couple of documentary productions for the small and big screen: Spike Lee Presents Mike Tyson, a biographical sketch for HBO for which Mr. Pollard received an Emmy, and Four Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1965 Birmingham church bombings which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Mr. Pollard began this journey in 1972 as an apprentice in a WNET-sponsored film-training workshop. Under the tutelage of a number of veterans in independent filmmaking, he spent the remainder of the 1970s polishing his editing skills on everything from celebrity profiles to Dateline: Israel, a film series about the history of Jerusalem. His feature experience as an editor started in the mid- 1970s with films like Just Crazy About Horses, Body and Soul, Private Resort and Style Wars. In between films, throughout the 1980s, he edited for the highly acclaimed children’s programs NBC’s Vegetable Soup and The Children’s Television Workshop’s 3-2-1-Contact for which he received two Emmys. In the early 1990s, there was Fires In The Mirror, a performance art film directed by George Wolfe, starring Anna Deveare Smith. In 1993, he produced for The American Experience a documentary called, Goin’ Back to T-Town, about life in a black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma during legal segregation. From time to time, he serves on advisory committees for the National Endowment for the Humanities; National Endowment for the Arts; or the Independent Television Service (ITVS).

Josslyn Jeanine Luckett is Assistant Professor in the Department of Cinema Studies. She holds a PhD in Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA inDramatic Writing from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts. She also has an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School, and she received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Her research interests include and combine media studies, jazz and improvisation studies, and comparative and relational Ethnic Studies, with special attention to the intersection of race, media, and social justice and to representations of Afrodiasporic spiritual practices in film and television. Her current book project examines the pre-history of the filmmakers known as the “L.A. Rebellion,” by engaging the
multiracial media “insurgents” of UCLA’s Ethno-Communications Program, whose activist filmwork changed the face of independent media across Black, Chicana/o, Asian American and Native American communities in Los Angeles and beyond. She is also a screenwriter, playwright, former Executive Story Editor for the WB comedy, The Steve Harvey Show, and she wrote the teleplay for the MTV Original Movie, Love Song, directed by Julie Dash.

A 2017 Ford Dissertation Fellow and recent participant in the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism, her writing has appeared in Film QuarterlyPublic BooksThe Harvard Divinity Bulletin, and the Los Angeles Times. A past fellow of the screenwriters and playwrights labs at the Sundance Institute and the directing lab at Film Independent, she was featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2002 and has been a member of the Writers Guild of America since 1998.

Presented With

Flaherty Film Seminar

Icarus Films

Religious & Cinema Studies


Nov 15, 2019
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

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