Seen, But Not Heard: AIDS and The Untold War against Black Women

A documentary by Cyrille Phipps

“The marker of success in the Black community is the success of the Black woman.”-W.E.B DuBois

Seen, But Not Heard is a short documentary based on the up and coming feature length documentary of the same name. This project will explore the historical antecedents, current trends, and emerging activism concerning HIV/AIDS and women of African decent. Through raw and revealing personal accounts and comprehensive investigative journalism, Seen, But Not Heard seeks to challenge, inform, and inspire viewers to look past the daunting HIV/AIDS statistics – to see and hear the real stories of women of color whose lives are affected by HIV/AIDS.

Moving beyond a traditional documentary, this project becomes a haunting political drama as these women tell their stories in an electoral climate indifferent to women of color and HIV. Despite the increase of awareness from the Vice Presidential debate of 2004 between John Edwards and Dick Cheney, the recent 2008 presidential debates has only introduced the discussion and brought little improvement to bringing AIDS in the Black community to the national forefront as it was in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Seen, But Not Heard dramatizes the political debate or lack of within the framework of women living with AIDS. At the recent Democratic Presidential debate at Howard University, many of the candidates offered quick sound bites but very few solutions to an ever – growing problem. Senator Clinton, said that “if HIV/AIDS were the “leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.”

The overall goal of this project is to examine the issues, start a dialogue, and create a framework for the solutions we need to address these problems. Such a video will help health care providers, community organizations, faith-based institutions, family members and friends explore their anxieties, fears and concerns about AIDS and related issues.

Where are you in your project’s production process?
In the Fall of 2005, Seen, But Not Heard was awarded a grant from the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, which was largely used to produce this short. With these funds, production began in New York City during the summer of 2006, at the height of the 25th anniversary of AIDS disease. Interviews focused on a number of activists, advocates and individuals that are known for their HIV/AIDS activism and/or status as a PWA (people with HIV/AIDS). We currently have approximately 20 hours of footage already shot including first person interviews, B-roll, press conferences and events. All interviews have been transcribed and logged. In the summer of 2007, the trailer was completed. The completed short will be used to seek additional funds from foundations, other public television funding rounds and individual donors as well as assist in securing additional interview subjects.

Currently, the short has been submitted to women, Black and documentary film festivals around the country in an effort to promote the project and bring awareness to the issue of AIDS in the black community, specifically as it relates to African American women. In addition, the short will be available for screenings and discussion series with community based organizations. You can rent or purchase a copy of the short version of Seen, But Not Heard from Third World Newsreel. It will also be used to provide needed feedback, potential interviews and develop community ties to local community based groups for the feature length documentary. In addition, the short will serve as a pilot project for a long-term outreach strategy. The social value in creating this project will be in providing one-on-one discussions, community dialogues, and an outreach tool for HIV/AIDS prevention programs.