by Leah Jackson
Tracey Renee’ Davis, director, and Danielle Apugo, executive producer, graduates of Northwestern State University and founders of Policing Joy, a film organization focused on social justice through storytelling, won a Facebook SEEN and Blackhouse Foundation Filmmaking Grant Competition to shoot a documentary film about hair bias in schools.
“Policing Joy: Black Hair Bias in K-12 Schools” is a 21-minute documentary short film that aims to stimulate a global conversation around Black girls across generations reflecting on memories around their hair styling and grooming practices in anticipation of the first day of school. The film dives into recent media coverage regarding Black girls’ experiences with hair bias in U.S. schools. In this segment of the documentary, scholars and experts offer conceptual insights into how schools often perpetuate harm that can lead to emotional distress. The turning point of “Policing Joy” comes when documentary interviewees reclaim their hair with a call to action demanding the protection of Black girls against all forms of school violence.
“Earning funds towards making this film was an opportunity to elevate the voices and untold stories of Black women’s educational experiences and founding the film organization Policing Joy LLC will be an opportunity for us to continue telling these types of stories,” Davis said.
Apugo sees the documentary filmmaking process as an extension of her research interests.
“As a tenure-track professor in education, it’s important to find new and innovative ways to disseminate academic research to communities outside of the academy. Using film to communicate pressing issues to society is important,” she said.
Policing Joy LLC is a genesis organization that focuses a filmmaking lens on social change and justice through storytelling. Information is available at https://thepolicingjoydoc.com.
In addition to winning the 2021 Facebook Seen’s Future Filmmakers Grant, the film was also selected to screen at the upcoming 5th LA Black Film Festival. The film’s first talkback will be held at the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C., at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 6.
Davis received her B.S. in theatre with a concentration in performance and directing from NSU in 2015 and is a teacher in Los Angeles. She received her MFA in film from Howard University in 2019. Apugo received her B.A. in secondary education from NSU in 2009. She went on to pursue her Ph.D. in urban education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is assistant professor of Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University. Both ladies crossed Delta Sigma Theta Inc. at NSU, Iota Mu chapter.