EAST ORANGE, NJ — The city of East Orange and the Recreation Department, under the supervision of Director Osner Charles, screened the critically acclaimed documentary “Searching for Shaniqua,” produced and directed by Essex County native Phil Branch, at the Cicely Tyson Performing and Fine Arts Theater on Friday, March. 10.
According to Charles, the film explores the politics of naming practices in the black community. In Essex County, where one of the candidates running for election to the Newark Public School Advisory Board is named Flohisa Johnson, the practice has some relevance. In fact, the film is the 2016 HBO winner for “Best Documentary” at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival.
The film also features East Orange’s corporation counsel, Khalifah Shabazz, and Akil Khalfani, the director of the Essex County College African Institute.
“This film explores the name bias and how it impacts our lives,” Charles said Saturday, March 11. “The city of East Orange operates in the spirit of urban excellence and celebrates black history 365 days a year. However, this is Women’s History Month and this HBO award-winning film is made F.U.B.U. — For Us By Us.”
Charles said the film has also taken on added cultural, ethnic and even political meaning, in light of the surge in feminist sentiment sparked by the recent presidential election.
“With all of the women protesting and marching across this nation, it is important that our sisters with ethnic names embrace their birth and some God-given names, despite what others may think of it,” said Charles. “This film has everything that you can ask for; it’s educational, funny, uplifting, thought-provoking and a real conversation starter. Whether you are a Shaniqua, know a Shaniqua, love a Shaniqua, or wonder why anyone would name their child Shaniqua, then you must check out this film.”