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Picking Tribes
1988, 7 minutes, Color, 16mm/DVD
Order No. W99345
“In a heartfelt, and often hilarious, attempt to be more than ‘ordinary,’ a girl growing up in the 1940s tries to choose between her African-American and Native-American heritages. As a child, she is inspired to ‘lay claim to my one-quarter Indian blood’ because of the track record of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, and the ‘bad PR Negroes were suffering’. She puts feathers in her hair, pretends her name means Gentle Starlight, and dreams of becoming the first Native-American drum majorette.

When she becomes a young woman, she is surrounded by images of the civil rights movement and African pride. Suddenly, ‘Indians are out and Mother Africa is in!’ She grows her hair, takes African dance classes and sports tribal dress. When a teacher tells her what tribe he believes she’s from, she runs right to the library to make sure it really exists. ‘Finally," she says, ‘I belong!’ It is only when her beloved grandfather dies that she is able to reconcile the power of both her heritages and realizes her own uniqueness.

Producer Saundra Sharp uses vintage photographs and Carlos Spivey’s lovely watercolor animation to create a fine, spirited portrait of a girl’s search for identity.”
- Moving Pictures Bulletin

Also available in French.

Now with Bonus Short Film: BACK INSIDE HERSELF 2009 Remix by S. Pearl Sharp (4min 45secs)
Originally released in 1984, this lyrical visual poem featuring Barbara-O urges black women to both discover and invent their own identities. The 2009 remix includes updated audio with vocals by Sharp and Dwight Trible.


  • Newark Black Film Festival, Robeson Award
  • Black American Cinema Society, First Place

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    "A delightful, provocative film invoking a universal response to the search for identity."
    Newark Black Film Festival

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    S. Pearl Sharp's Website
    Visit the filmmaker's official website for more informations on her films, current projects and radio links.

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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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