Filmmaker dream hampton to discuss storytelling and social change


Photo courtesy of dream hampton

Brynna Mitchner | @BrynnaOfficiald, Contributing Writer

This Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., award-winning filmmaker and writer dream hampton, who stylizes her name in a lowercase reminiscent of feminist thinker bell hooks, will discuss the significance of narratives and the power of storytelling for social change at the Rose Gladney Lecture for Justice and Social Change.

Award-winning filmmaker and writer dream hampton will be on campus this week for the 2019 Rose Gladney Lecture for Justice and Social Change. In conversation with Kristen Warner, hampton will be discussing how films can inspire real change.

“I hope that the dialogue that we engage in extends to the students,” hampton said. “I hope that they engage me in dialogue, also. I am excited to learn about what’s going on on campus, what students are thinking about, you know, in terms of some of the conversations that I’ve been able to raise in popular culture.”

The Rose Gladney Lecture for Justice and Social Change is organized by the Department of American Studies and co-sponsored by the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Sciences and the departments of Journalism and Creative Media, English, History, Gender and Race Studies, and Religious Studies. 

Mairin Odle of the Department of American Studies explained that dream hampton, with her experience as a filmmaker, writer, community organizer and activist, will bring a unique perspective that can provide inspiration to individuals with a broad range of interests.

“We’ve had a number of different people over the years who have been our speakers,” Odle said. “We’ve had a lot of scholars, we’ve had a lot of activists, we’ve had artists, and we’re really excited this year that dream hampton is kind of all of the above.”

Hampton’s works have had far-reaching impacts. Through her films, she has portrayed a variety of narratives, such as those of the incarcerated men in “It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It,”  an HBO documentary that followed 13 men incarcerated at Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility as they learned about filmmaking and analyzed what led to their sentences. Hampton’s work has also delved into injustices, like in “Finding Justice,” a BET docuseries that examines systemic racism in the American justice system.

“I know how important narrative is,” hampton said. “I have seen narrative used against me my whole life. I’m from Detroit, and there was a narrative constructed about my city my entire life. Some of it was very explicit and racist. Detroit is a black city, and a lot of the stories around failure were tied to myths of black incompetency, so I really understood what narrative could do.”

Another one of hampton’s works that had an important impact is “Surviving R. Kelly,” a Lifetime docuseries surrounding the sexual abuse allegations against singer R. Kelly. “Surviving R. Kelly,” which was released in January 2019, led to Kelly’s indictment on ten felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Before that, Kelly’s record label dropped him, and multiple musicians who had worked with Kelly took their collaborations with him off streaming platforms.

“When I am trying to do work that I hope to see change happening because of it,” hampton said.  “I want to connect it to people who are working on that change all the time.”

Kaitlyn Scorza, a freshman majoring in creative media, looks forward to hearing dream hampton speak because she aspires to have a career in the film industry. Scorza believes filmmakers and storytellers like dream hampton play an important role in inspiring change.

“So, if you find a story that means something to you, it can inspire change or inspire you to go out and inspire other people,” Scorza said.

Hampton has been recognized in numerous ways for her works and their impacts. This year, she was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

“I just think that narrative is everything,” hampton said. “I think that as human beings, we’re hardwired for story and that if we’re not using narratives to create change, if we’re being passive, then trust me, someone else is using that narrative for other reasons.”

The 2019 Rose Gladney Lecture for Justice and Social Change is free and open to the public. It will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, October 23, in the Gordon Palmer Auditorium.