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Don’t Touch My Hair


When I decided to take the Social Justice Documentary Filmmaking class at Antioch I had a big responsibility to my chosen subject. My goal was to create a honest and compelling film. I wanted to explore the African-American community (or lack thereof) in Santa Barbara. Why does Santa Barbara have such a small population of Black people? Also what is it like for the small number of Black people who live here? Do they feel a part of the community or do they live outside of it? To my surprise, my film turned out differently than my original idea.

I wanted to talk to Santa Barbara Historians, Black Studies Professors and get the point of views of African-American’s in Santa Barbara. I started by interviewing Tinelle Matlock, a dancer and UCSB student. I asked her about her experiences as a Black woman living in Santa Barbara and this led to her telling me stories about how a lot of people in this city comment on her hair. Tinelle wears her hair naturally in twists that people assume are dreadlocks. People say positive things about her hair and some people try and touch it. She told me how this makes her feel like a foreign object, even the compliments make her feel like an outsider. Having this thing about her being pointed out everyday just reinforces for her how there are not many people like her in this community.

Tinelle and I talked for almost an hour and after I knew I wanted to focus my film on her. By focusing on a single Black person’s experience I believe the audience will become aware of the lack of a Black community in Santa Barbara. I would like the audience to walk away from my film having somewhat of an understanding of what it’s like to be someone who stands out around town because of the way they look. And ultimately, what I want the audience to come away with after hearing Tinelle’s story and her experiences as a Black woman living in Santa Barbara is to please not touch her hair.

Lia Durham was a student in Stan Roden’s Winter 2017 Social Documentary Film class at Antioch University, Santa Barbara. In nine weeks, her task was to master critical skills and create a visually compelling short video with one or more social justice themes. Lia started with little or no photography, video or video editing training, and borrowed her father’s DSLR. With a blend of curiosity, empathy, drive to succeed and critical thinking skills she produced and directed, “Don’t Touch My Hair.”



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