Entertainment

Nadia Hallgren Is The Afro-Latina Talent Behind Netflix’s ‘Becoming’ Doc

Netflix’s “Becoming” is one documentary everyone is talking about. The documentary, which follows former First Lady Michelle Obama on her 34-city book tour, was directed by Afro-Latina, Puerto Rican cinematographer Nadia Hallgren. It’s the excellence we all love to see.

Nadia Hallgren is the directing powerhouse behind Netflix’s documentary “Becoming.”

View this post on Instagram

#femalefilmmakerfriday

A post shared by Nadia (@nadiahallgren) on

“Becoming” is Hallgren’s first feature-lengthed film and what a way to make a debut. The documentary follows Michelle Obama during her sold-out book tour promoting a book of the same name.

“I think the biggest thing was that it was a tremendous responsibility,” Hallgren told BlackFilm. “This is going to happen one time with Mrs. Obama. I wanted to make the thing and just whatever responsibility that was probably the thing that weighed the most on me.

Higher Ground Productions approached Hallgren to create the documentary.

“I was sitting at my kitchen table the way that I am now, and I got a call from Priya Swaminathan, who is one of the heads of Higher Ground,” Hallgren told Essence Magazine. “And she tells me that Mrs. Obama is getting ready to go out on this book tour and that they were kind of floating the idea of documenting it. Not being certain yet where that footage would live or if it would go anywhere other than her archives, but they were thinking about it. So, after a couple of phone calls, I get an email that says you have an appointment at the Office of Michelle and Barack Obama on this day.”

While filming Obama for the documentary, there was only one rule.

Hallgren says that she was given unprecedented access to the former first lady. She was backstage at every book tour stop, rode with Obama in her motorcades, and spent time at her home. The only thing Obama requested about the footage was that Hallgren not shoot footage of her and her daughters at home. Hallgren agreed because it seemed like a fair request.

However, we did still get footage of Sasha and Malia but one moment really stands out.

During the documentary, Malia comes on to the screen to congratulate her mom on another book tour stop. It was a rare and honest look into Malia and Michelle’s relationship.

“On tours, the same things happen over and over again—you travel, you do the thing, you move on,” Hallgren told Vanity Fair. “So it was pretty much any other shoot, and Mrs. Obama was signing books…And so I’m filming Mrs. Obama, and Malia—I didn’t even see her coming—must’ve walked behind me. She came around to talk to her mom, and just said this amazingly thoughtful reflection that she had in that moment.”

You can watch “Becoming” on Netflix now.

Congratulations, Nadia! What a special moment to be a part of.

READ: Malia And Sasha Obama Speak About Their Mother Michelle Obama’s Success In Netflix Doc ‘Becoming’

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

These Brooklynite Afro-Dominican Twins Are Unapologetically Reclaiming Brujería

Fierce

These Brooklynite Afro-Dominican Twins Are Unapologetically Reclaiming Brujería

brujasofbrooklyn / Instagram

Brujería is practically second nature to Ph.D ‘Social Science Brujas‘ and yoginis, Dr. Griselda Rodriguez-Solomon and Dr. Miguelina Rodriguez. For the Afro-Dominican twins raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn in the ’80s, their spirituality emerged in their youth.

The twins were raised Catholic and watched their faith parallel the private rituals their mother practiced. Surrounded by altars and religious objects common of the 21 Divisions or Dominican Vudu, brujería seemed normal.

Yet, in the public eye openly claiming such practices were shunned.

“Unfortunately, that mystery is not because the practice itself is mysterious and dark; it’s because main society and religion has made it so that we have this fear of brujas, brujería, and santería,” Miguelina told Refinery29.

Known as the Brujas of Brooklyn, the twins sought to create a space dedicated to the solace of women of African descent further dismantling the harmful ties once associated with brujería.

Launched in 2016, Griselda and Miguelina work to normalize ancestral practices and heal generational trauma.

As scholars and professors at the City University of New York, they tackle conversations around gender, religion, race, and anti-blackness in the community through meditation.

“With Brujas of Brooklyn (like so many other platforms), we really create a space for Latinx people to explore what it means to be Latinx, and to understand that who we are doesn’t exist in a box,” Griselda told Bustle.

Syncretic traditions and rituals descendant from the Yoruba faith are a source of resilient strength in the face of historical brutality within the Latin American diaspora. Out of the 11.2 million Africans that survived the transatlantic slave trade, only 450,000 arrived in the United States. The rest were dispersed in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Resistant to the cultural erasure, these spiritual practices have remained and expanded within the diaspora. Now a resurgence is evident.

Thanks to social media, spirituality and witchcraft have grown among millennials. Formerly, private practices have become mainstream as today’s brujas are working to unravel folk myths that have led to the miseducation of many.

You see them everywhere through astrologers, tarot readers, and holistic healers.

Brujas live their lives unapologetically and the twins are no exception.

Spirituality in Latin America is complex. Demonized by Christianity, the fear of brujería is also rooted in sexism.

“The word bruja for me, it’s very political… it has been demonized for so many years. And a lot of it, we’re starting to understand, is because women are inherently powerful people,” said Miguelina to Refinery29. “I think that when a woman taps into that power, she becomes so powerful, and the patriarchy is scared of that.”

In order to reclaim a practice, one must first decolonize the mind and spirit as well as empower the women that paved the way for witchcraft.

“The people that were considered witches in Western Europe, Africa, or Latin America, were curanderas, herbalists, midwives, doulas, astrologers. There are generations of women whose powers couldn’t manifest because those in power were afraid of us,” said Griselda for Bustle.

Like those that came before them, the twins are ‘womb-healers,’ aimed to heal the inherited intergenerational trauma, which disproportionately affects Black women.

In the United States, Black women historically have the highest maternal mortality rates. Due to health conditions and institutional racism within the healthcare system, in 2018 Black women were 2.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications.

Practicing Yoni, an ancient Sanskrit word for ‘vulva’, they tap perform an act called “woke womb work” in retreats and workshops. They also involve Kundalini yoga in their craft which involves chanting, breathing exercises, and poses meant to activate Shakti; spiritual energy located in the spine.

Both containing origins in Hinduism, the practice is tied to divine feminine energy.

With workshops serving up to 100 people, now virtually during the pandemic, the Brujas of Brooklyn having taken their practices to the public sphere. As they continue to work to revive a legacy robbed from them, in part due to anti-blackness, those that engage are discovering inner magic they never knew they had.

“Women have been reclaiming this word for generations,” Griselda shared to Bustle. “But we’re seeing it a lot more today because of social media, thank God. What better ancestor to reclaim than the witches who took no sh*t 700 years ago. We’re living through her in a new way.”

Read: More Mothers Are Hiring Doulas, But What Is A Doula? Here’s What You Need To Know

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Gabriel Fernandez’s Mother, Pearl Fernandez, Is Trying to Have Her Murder Conviction Thrown Out

Things That Matter

Gabriel Fernandez’s Mother, Pearl Fernandez, Is Trying to Have Her Murder Conviction Thrown Out

Photos: State of California, Gabriel’s Justice/Facebook

Gabriel Fernandez’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, is trying to have her murder conviction thrown out. The 37-year-old woman has been in jail since 2018 for the murder and torture of her eight-year old son.

Pearl Fernandez is petitioning the court for resentencing, hoping to have her first-degree murder and/or second-degree murder charges thrown out.

Fernandez is hoping to have her sentence vacated based off of new changes to the California state penal code. “I think that she feels that somehow maybe, you know, the special circumstance will be dismissed or maybe she’ll have a chance that the D.A. will agree with the petition,” Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami said to CBSLA.

In June 2018, a judge sentenced Pearl Fernandez to life without parole. The judge charged Pearl Fernandez with the 2013 torture and killing of her eight-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez.

On May 22, 2013, Gabriel Fernandez died after suffering a fatal beating from his mother. Pearl Fernandez was allegedly angry that he didn’t clean up his toys.

The details of Pearl and her boyfriend’s lengthy torture campaign against Gabriel Fernandez are both gruesome and numerous. Over the course of his eight-month stay with Isauro Aguirre, the couple broke his bones, burned him with cigarettes, pepper-sprayed him, and forced him to eat his own vomit as well as animal feces. And that is just a short-list of what they did.

The case came to national attention after the release of the 2020 Netflix documentary, “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez“. The documentary shone a spotlight on the insidious nature of child abuse. It also highlighted the systematic failures of the social services system that fails to protect children.

Elected officials have expressed their disgust at Pearl Fernandez for trying to escape justice by taking advantage of updated laws.

“The policies and directives from my office and these new laws created by the Legislature are emboldening murderers of children to apply to be re-sentenced,” said Deputy DA Hatami to City News Service. “This is completely unfair to the surviving families and their loved ones.”

He continued: “Families now have to relive all the horror that was perpetrated upon a small and helpless child. Based upon all the evidence presented at the grand jury, which was made public, and the jury trial, Pearl Fernandez was a major participant in the torture and murder of little Gabriel.”

It seems obvious by the fact that Pearl Fernandez is trying to get out of jail after torturing her son to death, that she isn’t remorseful about her actions.

Any other mother who killed her son would probably want to spend the rest of her life in jail instead of trying to find a way to get out of it.

If you believe someone you know is experiencing–or committing–child abuse, there are resources to help. Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. Staying vigilant could help save a child like Gabriel Fernandez.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com