USA Media Panel for 2007

Thomas Allen Harris

Producer, Director, Writer, and USA Rockefeller Fellow 2006, New York, NY

Susan Braine

Chief Operating Officer (National), Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, Albuquerque, NM

Hampton Fancher

Writer and Director, New York, NY

Michael Renov

Professor of Critical Studies and Associate Dean, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

Elvis Mitchell (Chair)

Film Critic, New York, NY

Statement by Thomas Allen Harris

Oh, blessed Mother, please forgive them, for they know not what they do.

We, your children, toil in the forgotten places, among the memories of a time before they came. We are the keepers of the ancestral fire; we stoke the hearths that once gave succor to those voices whose stories still whisper in our hearts and flow with the blood in our veins. We are the truths that will not be silenced and the testament to all that mankind does in your name, for good and for ill. We rise with the brilliance of a thousand stars in the dark night and burn with the steadfastness of Ra in pursuit of a destiny that is of our own making, blessed with your patrimony, honored to carry your flame.

A USA Fellow is the consummate outsider. Outside of convention, outside of mainstream culture, outside of the convenient boundaries that mark the hallowed ground of popular acceptance, Hollywood success, steady paychecks, and stultifying homogenization that also equates to spiritual death. We are driven by the necessity to speak from a reality that is based in its very “otherness,” in the fact that we have been marginalized and overlooked after having been enslaved, used, consumed, and then discarded. Once they have moved on, we are left to pick up the pieces and make sense of who we are now, who we once were, and how we have come to be in this place, at this time. We cannot go backward, so we have no choice but to push onward, we who are given the task of telling the stories that help to heal our people and inform those who thought they knew us. We must use all the skills at our disposal: our voices, our bodies, our spirits, even our blood, to create the vehicles that will carry our words, our dreams, our imagined places into the consciousness of the world, often against great odds and at great peril to all we hold dear.

But through it all we persevere. For as outsiders we have developed incalculable strength of will and power of conviction to surmount every challenge that confronts us. And because we have been tested by fire, the work we make is of a singular nature: vital, compelling, alive, daring, complex, yes, even tortured, yet also filled with a lightness of spirit, absolution, and grace. We forgive through our art, yet we do not forget. And it is the remembrance of who we are, who we have been, and who we are meant to be that teases our art into the realms of the universal and allows all who view it to share in the celebration of the simple act of being human in an inhumane age.

We artists stand at the crossroads, prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice so that those who come after us will be able to partake of a divine sacrament, united by that which is most enduring within our hearts, our unflinching love and devotion to Truth.