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Michelle Denise Parkerson
(1953 - living) U.S.A.

Michelle Parkerson

Filmmaker, writer, and activist

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Michelle Parkerson was born in Washington, D.C., to William and Marie Parkerson. She studied filmmaking at Temple University, Philadelphia, earning her B.A. in Communication in 1974. While an undergraduate at Temple, Parkerson won a "Student Oscar" from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for her movie Sojourn.

After graduating from Temple, Parkerson's next filmmaking success came through writing, directing, and producing documentaries that were shown on public television. Her major filmography began in 1980 with But Then, She's Betty Carter, a portrait of the jazz vocalist. Next came Gotta Make This Journey, the 1983 documentary showcasing the talent and group harmony of the black women's a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey in The Rock.

Her next film, Urban Odyssey, followed a black biker's trek through urban life. In 1987, Parkerson for the first time combined themes of race, gender, and homosexuality in Stormé, The Lady of the Jewel Box. Exploring the life of an African-American male impersonator, Parkerson began to challenge existing stereotypes about gay African Americans.

Parkerson's growing interest in depicting lesbian and gay subjects remained consistent with her earlier ambition to transform the image of blacks in film. Many of her subsequent creative efforts continued to focus upon achieving a fusion of these themes.

The greatest achievement of A Litany for Survival is its illustration of the formulation of a complex modern identity. The film focused upon Lorde's successful, albeit difficult, combination of the many contradictory roles she filled throughout her life: wife, mother, accomplished poet, militant warrior against racism, outspoken lesbian, and cancer survivor.

Parkerson's newest video, Odds and Ends, is a science fiction short about black Amazon warriors fighting racial and gender annihilation in the year 2096. Aside from making films, Parkerson, currently teaching at Temple University, has served on the faculties of the University of Delaware, Howard University, and Northwestern University. She was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Film/Video Fellowship in 1992 and is a member of the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women.

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Source: Gay & Lesbian Biography. St. James Press, 1997

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