An Interview with Ackee & Saltfish and Strolling Film-Maker Cecile Emeke
Introduction: I was able to catch up with the UK native, Cecile Emeke, an amazing film maker of the youtube series “Strolling”. In her video she gives voice to black youth in the UK to tell their stories of topics surrounding Black culture and Blackness. These stories are ones that are not often heard compared to the black experience of African Americans but it shows a new perspective from the African diaspora. Cecile has covered various topics from Colorism, Feminism, Street Harassment and more.
In this interview we chatted about the impact of her videos has had on the UK and her life personally.
Check out the interview and let me know your thoughts!
1. So since your strolling videos have gone viral, have you seen a sense of solidarity among the black youth in the UK?
C:I wouldn’t be able to speak for the whole of the black community in the UK but I hope its been something that can be part of what helps black people in the UK explore what being black and British means to them. I think the series has still yet to reach some parts of the black community here.
2. Has it sparked any mobilization?
C:I think it’s definitely inspired people and encouraged people to keep on with the mobilization that was already happening before.
3. What was the moment when you realized that your video content really had an effect on people?
C: When I started getting emails from people all over the world; From people here in London, to people in New York, to Johannesburg, to Australia and beyond. And these emails were really long, heart felt emails about how the series had helped them or affirmed them in some way. I know how much something would have to touch me for me to take time to find someone’s email and let them know how much I was moved, so those emails and messages are a really big deal for me and they really let me know the series means something to a lot of people.
4. What has been the response from African Americans to your series?
C: I think the response has been mixed, of course, because the African-American experience is so varied and nuanced, but all the responses seem to have been positive, just in different ways. For example, some African Americans have responded to the episodes with a feeling of resonation because maybe they are first generation African or Caribbean, or maybe they have black family members in Britain, and they have never seen these nuances discussed in this way so they really appreciated the types of conversations we are having. Other people have responded with shock and appreciation because they had no idea that black people in Britain had similar experiences to African-Americans and they were happy to learn more about this particular nuance of the black experience they hadn’t been exposed to before. And also a lot of people have been really excited for strolling to come to the US so they can tell their story too, which is something I’m excited to do.
5. So in another interview you stated that you want to make a “Do The Right Thing” type of movie for London? Have you started on that yet? When do you plan to?
C: What I meant by that is that I have never seen a movie with Black British people in it that resonates with me and feels authentic to our experience. I’d love to create that at some point when I have the right resources to do it properly, so that’s a future plan I have.
6. What does your family think of your strolling series? Are they supportive?
C: A lot of my family love the series and some of them want to be in the series which is also great.
7. Have anyone that you admired seen your work and reached out to you?
C: Yes! A bunch of filmmakers have reached out to me and been super supportive. The most surprising one so far has to be Ava DuVernay who saw the trailer to my short film Ackee & Saltfish and tweeted me about it. That was incredible, especially given all the amazing work she is doing with Selma, Middle to Nowhere and so forth, so it really was an honor coming from her.
8.What has your series done for the people that star in your videos?
C: I think the series has made a lot of people see the light within themselves, especially if they couldn’t see it before. A lot of people would think that they had said nothing interesting, or it was boring, or they weren’t making sense, but then when they see the thousands of people watching on Youtube, the tens of thousands of people reblogging, tweeting and liking all over social media, and people personally contacting them saying how much their words meant to them, I think, and hope, it reminds them of how them just being themselves really helped a lot of people.
9. Do you think that you are now viewed as a youth leader?
C: I don’t think so and I wouldn’t really want to be. I think that is the beauty of strolling, it reminds us all that we have the ability to lead ourselves and each other. We don’t have to wait for some messiah or leader to come and do what we can already do for ourselves and one another.
10. What can we expect from you this upcoming year?
C: You can expect to see Strolling to get bigger and spread internationally, also you can expect to see Ackee & Saltfish the film and the web series online soon and I’m working on some other new projects which I’m excited to share as the year progresses.