ActivismFilm / TV

black women’s determination is ‘always in season’

March 3, 2019

In 2014, 17-year-old Lennon Lacy was found hanging from a swing set. Although his death was ruled a suicide, Lennon’s family and community are not convinced. In her debut film, Always in Season, independent filmmaker Jacqueline Olive tells the history of lynching in America in an effort to shed light on those affected and call attention to the ongoing unacceptable issue.

With a background in journalism, Olive is factual and to the point. As a filmmaker, she is passionate and unwavering. While Ms. Olive’s debut feels like an instant success, it is a labor of love that took nearly ten years to make. The film is tough but necessary. Thank you to Ms. Olive and the entire crew that worked on Always In Season for your hard emotional, mental, and physical work. I had the honor of speaking with director Jacqueline Olive about her film.

This year our theme at AFROPUNK is “We See You.” I wanna know what We See You means to you.

We See You means a lot to me, it’s actually in line with the concept of Namaste. The God in me sees the God in you. It means that in you I see humanity, and humanity that’s in both of us.

In Always in Season, you did a fantastic job discussing racism but also layering microaggressions into it. One thing that stuck out to me was there’s a shot of the Blue Lives Matter sign followed by a voiceover of a man saying, “We all get along.” What has been your experience as a Black female filmmaker, and are there any microaggressions that you face?

I would say it’s microaggressions all the time. There is not a moment that does not feel aggressive, just as a whole. Because as I’m moving through my day, even when I’m not confronting something, on an individual basis I’m really well aware of what’s going on systemically in this country. And so that impinges on my day, my experiences, every day.

Have you been to the EJI Lynching Museum and Memorial in Alabama?

Yes, I have. I filmed with Ryan Stevenson and folks there as they collected the last soil samples in Alabama from lynching sites for the memorial. I have a lot of footage from that. When I started making this film in 2010, very few people, including Black people, really wanted to talk about lynching. There was a lot of conversation about how people thought about it as distant history. And I’ve never approached this film as a historical film, even when I look at historical lynching. It’s about how it’s impacting people today in those communities on the ground. I began filming in 2010, before Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012, before all of those police shootings and vigilante shootings that are horrific, and that have been compounded over the years. Before that, I couldn’t imagine that there would be a National Lynching Memorial. There was very little national conversation on the subject. And so to be there and see people come from all around the world to understand this history was really moving, really beautiful.

Yeah, I went this past October. We went, some of our staff. And it was so many white people at the museum and it was fully packed, really hard to get into. Which I thought was pretty great.

A good sign, right?

Everyone wanted to see it, yeah. What would you say is the question of this film?

The biggest question for me is when are we going to move towards a national movement for justice and reconciliation around lynching violence and racial terrorism in general?

About the lynching reenactment and the re-enactors…that was probably, I wouldn’t say the most shocking, but I never even thought that that’s something that happens. Did you find the interviews with the lynching re-enactors as discomforting as I felt watching them?

I actually found it very comforting. I researched the film in 2008 and 2009, for two years, before I began filming. And I began filming shortly after with the lynching re-enactors. Prior to that, like I said, no one was talking about this history. But the lynching re-enactors were actually confronting it and facing it and doing the work. And so I found many of the people I filmed with, including Claudia and Pierre, that were confronting this history, I found them really inspiring actually. And you know, people have diverse opinions on a lot of things so it’s my job as a filmmaker to listen, to take it in, and then to represent it as much as it fits into the narrative.

In speaking with Claudia and Pierre, how did you initially approach the Lacy family to make this movie?

Like I do with everyone, I called. I found a number and reached out and spoke with Pierre first because Claudia was having a really difficult time. It was just a few weeks after Lennon was found. And so Claudia was still very much dealing with her grief at the time. And so I started speaking with Pierre about what was going on. And Pierre, as you can see in the film, both of them, both Claudia and Pierre are really resonant in their integrity. Both really good people.And Pierre, from the very beginning, was leading the investigation. When there was no investigation, yet he was there trying to figure things out, he started to research the number of hangings in the area and around the country, in neighboring states and in North Carolina. He was doing that while the Bladenboro Police Department was convinced it was a suicide. He pulled together the evidence for the investigation that they ultimately were able to get opened and that the NAACP partnered with.

So same question, but with the people who had families in the KKK, how was it to initially approach them? 

Olivia Taylor, who’s a re-enactor, whose father was the head of the Klan in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Olivia came to the reenactment because she noticed that they were portraying the Klans in their attire, the costumes, inaccurately, and she wanted to just kind of help them to tweak it. And so I had mentioned that I was filming in Atlanta and in Monroe, Georgia for three years in a row around re-enactments, so I met Olivia in the second year. And I met her there at a rehearsal and talked with her. And we sat down to the interview because I thought it was really fascinating that she had this background, and then she revealed that she had actually witnessed a lynching when she was three. And everybody, everyone is complicated, everyone has layers, and it’s the case with Olivia. She genuinely sincerely was looking at how she might be able to find healing for herself in the midst of working with the re-enactors and ultimately decided to take on a role and play one of the characters and act for the first time. Which I thought is a beautiful thing. When these re-enactments started white actors were intimidated and threatened to lose their jobs. As were Black actors. And the actors had to back out.

The film was extremely heavy to watch. How was it to make and how did you take care of yourself and your crew?

There are many things going on in the film and it’s really complicated. And so on the surface you can very easily see the trauma, which is important, because lynching terrorism, and racial violence today is traumatic. We carry all of this energy in our bodies on a daily basis. And so it was important for me to make a film so that people can understand how you can confront this history and how you can face what’s going on now, and move that energy, that pain, that anger, that fear, that guilt, that shame, that moves through all of our bodies and around in the atmosphere in our communities, how you can move through that. How you can face it, confront it, and use it.

*Additional note from Jacqueline Olive:

I remembered an important point I was making about how the trauma of lynching terrorism in the film is readily apparent, and intentionally so, but another important layer to the story is the way that people like the re-enactors, Claudia and Pierre Lacy, and others show up out of love for each other and themselves to challenge us to look squarely at racial violence — despite the pain, anger, fear, guilt, and shame — so that we can take action. Their stories are not just about tragedy, but are ultimately inspiring. They inspired me through a decade of making Always in Season.