There is connective tissue between actress and filmmaker Leslie Black and the many black mothers who experience the searing, unbearable pain of losing their children to police violence.
Black can empathize with their oppressive and unrelenting grief, having lost her own mother when she was 10 and her father at 14 and then burying her older sister six months ago.
Black was able to channel her own personal bereavement into a very provocative and enthralling thriller, “Mommas.”
This is an unapologetic and in-your-face film that is centered around four grieving mothers who have reached their breaking point with cops killing their kids unaccountedly.
The mothers in “Mommas” are taken over the edge when the white district attorney refuses to prosecute the wayward officers for causing their heartbreaking losses, so they conspire to take matters into their own hands.
The results will make you sit up straight up in your chair.
“I am no stranger to grief, so watching those mothers’ pain play out, day in and day out on the news, it ignited something in me to want to use my talents to help tell their story,” said Black who wrote, executive produced and starred in the film short. “I have a passion for telling stories and telling them my way.”
“Mommas” is a jolting piece that cast a glaring spotlight on the inexplicable and often indefensible spate of police shootings against Black and brown citizens across the country.
All too often the power structure and mainstream society have acted as apologists for police officers’ decision to deploy for maximum force to subdue, and often neutralize, unarmed black citizens.
The fact that the common denominators are almost always a white cop and a black victim is not lost on the actress.
While a tidal wave of humanity flooded the streets of America — and around the world — following the public execution of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020 by Derek Chauvin, demanding redress for a murder captured on film, Black decided to fight back from her producer’s chair.
“I think (the film ideal) originated from just watching the pain of mothers, ya know? I try to put myself in their shoes. If I was to lose one of my children, to what extent would I go?” Black said.
“Because I feel like we’ve been doing so much — the marching, the protesting and we’ve been tearing down buildings, just to get somebody to listen,” said Black exasperatedly.
There is a pregnant pause while she sighs heavily.
“And, in some ways, we haven’t really been getting the answer. So, I just wanted Mommas to paint a proper picture of what it feels like for a mother to take action into her own hands. Because at this point, we’re not getting a lot done.”
The four matriarchs in the “Mommas” film decide they are going to get something done. If the prosecutor refuses to provide justice, the mothers are going to take it.
They break into the district attorney’s home and hold him at gunpoint and force him to answer to their despair and desperation.
It is not as if Black does not have a vestige of sympathy for what law enforcement officers go through on a daily basis. Black has played a cop on television.
But when a rogue cop of the likes of Derek Chauvin acts like a judge and executioner on the streets of America, there is some semblance of satisfaction when they are finally prosecuted.
“To be completely honest with you, I was very, very pleased with the Derek Chauvin verdict. I was equally shocked by the verdict,” she said, admitting she thought the decision would go the way of the Rodney King verdict in 1992 when the white officers were exonerated.
“I think we all rejoiced to see justice come the way it did. But we still have a very big problem here. We can celebrate but not too fast.”
Black is part of a growing cadre of bodacious Black actresses and filmmakers who are taking Hollywood by storm.
They are formulating their own stories and creating their own narratives by becoming showrunners on critically-acclaimed television shows and directing award-winning movies.
Black, who has starred in Dolly Parton’s “HeartStrings” as well as “Metro,” “Murder,” “Murder Calls” and flexes her skills as a lady pirate in Sony Pictures’ original TV movie, “Party Boat,” not only wants to tell our stories, but she also wants to use her artistic craft as a sort of healing balm to help quell today’s racially toxic environment.
She has seen and experienced racial harmony as a daughter of an armed forces father and knows it can be manifested again.
“Being a military brat enabled me to be very cultural and very, very diverse. I did not see color,” Black said.
“When I moved to the United States was the first time that I saw that as an issue. Growing up in the Philippines, my best friend was Caucasian. It makes me want to fight for peace because I know what it looks like. To see us divided as a nation, it makes me want to fight for peace.”