I hope that everyone’s week has been productive and peaceful. Can you believe that tomorrow is the first of October? Before you know it, we’ll be seeing Christmas trees, wreaths and candy canes in the store for sale. Life sure does come at you fast.
At any rate, this week’s Millennial On A Mission is a filmmaker and journalist who is passionate about telling the stories of women of color who are often overlooked and underrepresented. Her five-part documentary, The Dinner Table , aims “to redefine the narrative for women of color in media.” By giving them a seat at the table, she is debunking the myth that black millennial women are “bottle-throwing, neck-rolling baby mamas” who can’t break bread and freely share Black Girl Magic.
I’d like for you to meet Asha Boston.
A proud native of Brooklyn, New York, Asha currently resides in Bed-Stuy and runs her own production company, Passion Fruit Vineyard Productions LLC. She attended Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, where she graduated with her degree in international relations. “It was a phenomenal experience,” Asha recalls. “I love Atlanta and had a huge desire to go to school there after watching college movies based there in the early 2000s.” Asha says that her time at Agnes Scott has helped tremendously in her journalism work post grad, including the creation of documentaries like The Dinner Table and A Time Before Kale.
MOAM: What inspired you to pursue a career in photojournalism? Who are some individuals you admire in and out of your field of work, and what challenges have you faced in creating ‘The Dinner Table’ documentary? What have you learned from them?
AB: In high school I had the opportunity to travel the world and it changed my life. Our photography teacher allowed us to use our DSLR cameras during holiday breaks and I used the opportunity to take the camera on annual school spring break trips outside of the country. While in high school, I visited Greece, Italy, Vietnam and Morocco. I was able to practice my photography in Vietnam and Morocco and by the end of my senior year, I knew I wanted to continue this kind of work. After googling a few career options I discovered photojournalism and fell in love.
My biggest dream was to create work that resembles what you see in old issues of Life Magazine. After working in journalism for a few years, I realized that the principles of photojournalism and LIFE Magazine have long passed away and everything in the field now is based around entertainment. I felt very empty after that discovery but thankfully documentary film swooped in and saved me. It’s not as still as photojournalism but it is an amazing outlet to allow people to share their authentic stories without the cheesy/click bait entertainment element. Ava DuVernay, Audrey Hepburn and Joan Ganz Cooney are just a few of the amazing women I admire in entertainment and film. Outside of my field, I absolutely adore First Lady Michelle Obama and my mother.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had with my brand is staying true to who we are, unapologetically. When you’re working on a project that presents a lot of potential, everyone is going to have an opinion about what you should do and how you should do it. Everyone wants to add a spice to the soup and it used to drive me crazy; especially when people would judge the decisions I made for my brand because it didn’t make sense to them or where they saw the brand going. However after attempting to bend, break and fold to each piece of constructive criticism we got I realized I had to stop, listen to my audience and meet their needs first. As an entrepreneur and a creative, trying to “people please” is the worst thing you can do. I began tuning those people out by focusing on people who were looking at my brand and understanding it holistically. Now that we have a strong fan-base, it has become important for me to became familiar with the content they enjoy, how they engage with it and to meet them where they are.
For Asha, what keeps her motivated as a Millennial On A Mission is keeping in mind how young some of her heroes were when they made history. “John Singleton was only 23 when he directed Boyz N the Hood, Rick Famuyiwa was 23 when he directed The Wood, and don’t even get me started on Spike Lee,” she says. Looking beyond film, she thinks about the young people who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. “I went to an event where Harry Belafonte spoke about feeling like the “grandpa” in the Civil Rights Movement because he and Dr. King were among the oldest — at the tender age of 27. How wild is that?” Her advice to her fellow millennials? Don’t waste your youth. “Your twenties are the perfect time to explore, even when you’re not sure what you want to do,” Asha says. “Chase your dreams and explore now because you have youth on your side– you’ll be happy you did 20 years from now.”