Aftershock, a documentary highlighting the tragic and preventable deaths of two young mothers, and the “aftereffects” of loss and injustice on their families, hosted its premiere at the Brooklyn Museum. The film, which is directed by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis, seeks to highlight the maternal health crisis in America and specifically, the disparities in the health, treatment, and mortality of black women. The film’s collaborators shined on the red carpet and reveled in sharing on the importance of community, the film, and its message.
Hosting the premiere at the Brooklyn Museum held significance for the film’s collaborators as, Director and Producer, Paula Eiselt shared that most of the documentary was filmed in Brooklyn, with two of the subjects, Bruce McIntyre and Omari Maynard, even having their very first meeting down the block from the museum. Paula called her collaboration with Lewis, and all the film’s subjects, a “life-changing privilege” and hopes that the film “will be used by activists on the ground, and to hold the medical systems and governments accountable.”
Producer and Director, Tonya Lewis shared her hopes for the film as well, stating, “people will want to have conversations on birthing in America and how they can play a part in improving birthing outcomes for all women, especially black women in America”. Lewis also shared that her hope for women in our culture is not to fear the birthing process, but instead, for there to be “a point where you are really excited, not just about having a baby but going through the labor process.” She goes on to say, “I hope our culture can get to a place where we really embrace the hard work of birthing and really have power in that—yes, I did that!”
Omari Maynard, Film Subject and co-founder of the ARIAH Foundation, lost his partner, Shamony Makeba Gibson in 2019, two weeks after giving birth to their second child.
Omari shared that it is the community formed during the filmmaking process that keeps him motivated and strengthened when he’s at his lowest. Community holds great importance to Omari, he emphasized it’s need, saying “we really walk in this world as individuals a little bit too much…but we do need our brothers, sisters, mothers, adopted mothers, fathers…to really live a holistic life.”
Bruce McIntyre, Film subject, Founder of saveArose Foundation lost his partner, Amber Rose Isaac in 2020, while giving birth to their son. Bruce expressed that he hopes to expose the injustices within the medical system, but also shared his gratitude for the film and its process in creating solutions to the black maternal health crisis. He further hopes that the film will show “the power of brotherhood and community…and educating people on the disparities in black maternal health and what we can do.”
Shawnee Benton Gibson, Co-Founder and Co-President of Spirit of a Woman Leadership Development Institute, lost her daughter, Shamony Makeba Gibson in 2019, after giving birth to her second child. For Shawnee, being an activist for a cause she holds so dearly is both a privilege, and exhausting, but she shares “it is a privilege to be able the weight of the stories, and we’re doing whatever is necessary to save lives.”
Teresa Younger, CEO and President of the Ms. Foundation shared her belief that those who see this film will “have a greater understanding of how many children are brought into this world with love and excitement and at the same time, those who have chosen to mother and are no longer around to do that. And we as a society are missing their brilliance, their love and their light.”
Karen Pittman, Film Supporter and Actress
“This conversation is so important especially now as we are talking about reproductive justice and reproductive health—I think it’s very important to shine a light on women of color and how the health system affects us…these issues cross generations, they cross class.”
Aftershock will be available to stream on Hulu beginning July 19th.
Photo Credits: Elizabeth Samuel