Posted 03/29/2021  |  Back

The Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library presents

"I Am the First and the Last": Exploring Daughters of the Dust

Monday, March 29th, 3:30-4:30pm

  • Victoria A. Smalls, National Park Ranger, Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, Beaufort County, SC
  • Dr. Rachelle Dermer, Assistant Professor, Communications Media, Fitchburg State University

Join us for this online event:

Join the Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library in this exploration of the first feature film directed by an African-American woman distributed theatrically in the United States, Julie Dash's ground breaking 1991 independent film, Daughters of the Dust

Set in 1902, Daughters of the Dust tells the story of a multigenerational family in the Gullah community, also known as Geeche, who were former enslaved West Africans and their decedents, living on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. The film focuses on the women of the Peazant family as a large number of them prepare to migrate away from the island and the only community they have ever known to move to new opportunities in the north of the mainland.

Watch the film through Kanopy here (note FSU login is required):

Daughters of the Dust is also available for a fee through a number of streaming services including Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, and AppleTV.

About the Presenters: 

Victoria A. Smalls 

As a proud Gullah Geechee native of St. Helena Island, South Carolina, Victoria serves in various capacities, as a public historian and educator, diversity leader, artist and arts advocate, and cultural preservationist.  She attributes her commitments to the exploration and promotion of history, art and culture, to the rich intercultural environment steeped in Reconstruction Era and Civil Rights Era history and Gullah Geechee culture in which she was raised and nurtured. 

Victoria currently works for the National Park Service as a National Park Ranger, Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, in Beaufort County, SC. She currently serves as a State Commissioner, SC African American Heritage Commission; as a Maven, Art of Community-Rural SC, an initiative of the SC Arts Commission; a Leo Twiggs Arts Leadership Scholar; and is also a Fellow, with the Riley Institute Diversity Leadership Initiative at Furman University.

Dr. Rachelle Dermer

Assistant Professor in the Fitchburg State University Communications Media Department, Rachelle is an award-winning artist and a scholar who works with lens-based media. Dermer earned her B.F.A. in photography from Arizona State University in 1991, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in History of Photography in the Art History Program at Boston University in 2002 and her M.F.A. in Film in 2015. She has completed a number of short films, including “I Fell,” which won an audience choice award at the Boston Bike Film Festival in 2005 and “Best Screenplay” at the 2006 NEMBA MTB Video Awards. Her short films and have been exhibited in a range of venues from film festivals to exhibitions spaces.

She completed her first documentary feature, “Commit to the Line,” in 2008. It opened at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA in a screening followed by a panel discussion. “Commit to the Line” was an Official Selection at the 2008 Rhode Island International Film Festival, receiving the First Place Providence Film Festival Award, and Big Bear Lake International Film Festival. Dermer’s work on this film won her the title of Exceptional Woman, awarded monthly on the radio program, “Exceptional Women” (WMJX, Boston) with Gay Vernon. Dermer’s second non-fiction feature film, which is an intensely personal experimental narrative. She is currently completing her second non-fiction feature film and is scheduled to begin production on a narrative web series this summer, COVID permitting.

This event was made possible by the generous funding from the Fitchburg State University Office of Student Development (OSD). Access to the film was funded by the Fitchburg State University Dean's Anti-Racism Grant.