What is the impact of the division when mothers leave their children behind in the Caribbean to seek opportunities for their families in Canada and other parts of the world?
Award-winning playwright, Trey Anthony, is exploring the effect of the temporary split in her debut documentary, When Black Mothers Don’t Say I Love You.
She said the documentary was inspired by the separation of her mother, who was left behind in Jamaica and her grandmother, who migrated to England.
“It lasted six years and I saw the effect of it,” said Anthony, who was born in England. “When my grandmother became terminally ill last year, I sat down and, for the first time, asked her about that experience. I took out my iPhone and started to interview her about what it was like to leave her children behind and the decision-making that went into the process. As I started to talk to other people, they had similar experiences and wanted to share it.”
The interviewees include Ordena Stephens-Thompson, who plays Novelette in Anthony’s prized play, Da Kink in My Hair, which made its full-length dramatic debut at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2001, boasting the highest ticket sales that year.
Stephens-Thompson and her mother, who migrated to Canada from Jamaica, were apart for four years.
Anthony, a 2009 Harry Jerome Award winner, said she also made another fascinating discovery while conducting interviews for the documentary.
“The subject of how often Black mothers tell their children they love them came up,” she said. “The mothers I interviewed said their children should know they love them even though they don’t say it every day. What they told me was that when you are a mother, you automatically love your children. This was very interesting because my mother, on the other hand, said she always felt her mother didn’t love her.”
With half the interviews completed, Anthony has started a fundraising campaign to help finance the documentary’s finishing touches. The first fundraiser, a creative writing workshop titled, “Write With a Secret”, took place last week.
“That was about memory and how we use it,” said Anthony, who co-wrote the hit plays I Am Not a Dinner Mint and The Crap Women Swallow to Stay in a Relationship.
“One of the things I have seen while doing the interviews for the documentary is how much memory differs in mother and children relationships. One of them said her mom never told her she loved her while the mom declared she tells her children she loves them all the time. My mother said my grandmother never went back to Jamaica to look for her while my granny said she went back on three occasions. I think we are talking here about the perception of how people remember things.”
The first Black Canadian woman to write and produce a television show – Da Kink in My Hair – for a major prime time Canadian station, Anthony – who splits time between Toronto and Atlanta – is relishing her new role.
“I never thought I would go into the world of film even though I have always loved documentaries and theatre,” she said. “Now that I am behind the camera and am seeing the effects of what film can do and how it reaches a bigger audience, I feel as if this is my new passion.”
Da Kink in My Hair, which won four National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People’s (NAACP) Theatre awards and was nominated for four Toronto Theatre Dora awards, ran for a week in October 2010 at New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts.
Global TV, which adapted the sitcom as a television series, cancelled the show after the second season. Anthony then ran a wellness centre for women in downtown Toronto for two years before relocating to Atlanta in 2010 to pursue creative opportunities.