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BHERCs foray into film production


Every now and then someone submits a story to me that I feel compelled to share with the Our Weekly readership. This particular story involves the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) and filmmaker Julie Dash.

Dash and BHERC have obtained the rights to “One Woman’s Army,” a book, that tells the little-known story of Major Charity Adams, World War II’s highest-ranking African-American woman. Adams headed the 6888th Postal Battalion’s nearly 1,000 women, who moved mountains of mail for millions of American service members and civilians in Europe during the war.

This venture marks BHERC’s first foray into film production. Since 1996, the organization has annually honored Black filmmakers–hosting four major short film festivals; Sistas Doin’ For Themselves, Reel Black Men, Festival at Sea and The African-American Film Marketplace and S.E. Manly Short Film Showcase.

Dash will direct and produce the “One Woman’s Army” project in association with producers Kimberly Ogletree and BHERC’s John Forbes. They plan to make an eight-hour mini series, which is inspired by Adams’ book with a teleplay by Dash.

The story will follow three women, who boarded the war ship in New York Harbor and made the dangerous crossing over the Atlantic Ocean during the height of WWII. Arriving in Birmingham, England, in the dead of winter, they found letters sent to American troops stacked to the ceiling in a frigid railroad station and an even colder military warehouse. Much of the frosty mail had been there for as long as two years waiting to be sent to soldiers in the field. While rodents and other vermin were feasting on boxes of home baked cookies, the women of the 6888th were charged with clearing, sorting and delivering the mail. To accomplish this Herculean task, they were forced to work three shifts, seven days a week.

First working in England, the 6888th later moved to Rouen, France. Although their mission was to booster the moral of American troops by delivering letters from home, their work abroad was shrouded in secrecy. Because they were Black, and they were women, they had to sleep in segregated barracks, and eat in segregated dining halls. Nevertheless, they made history by successfully delivering mail to more than seven million Americans stationed in Europe.

Dash first came to prominence in 1991 when her film, “Daughters of the Dust,” was selected by the Sundance Film Festival for the “From the Collection” series, and it earned the Excellence in Cinematography Award. Over the years, she has directed noted television movies, including the highly acclaimed “The Rosa Parks Story,” starring Angela Bassett, as well as “Love Song, Incognito” and “Funny Valentines,” starring Alfre Woodard, CCH Pounder and Loretta Devine.

According the organization’s executive director, John M. Forbes, BHERC decided to cross over into the filmmaking realm because Dash brought them an opportunity that was just too good to pass up.

“. . . it show(ed) a part of history that we have not seen–of African American women involved in the war and how much they did in helping the war’s success by delivering mail and bring joy to the soldiers. We’ve heard of Rosie the Riveter.”

Forbes said that the main goal of the center will continue to be to promote Black films and filmmakers, but this opportunity to actually get involved in a production may provide the revenue to help even more.