Whether locating individuals of mixed heritage, getting them to open up in front of a camera, or selecting 40 minutes from 105 hours of footage, Kitama Jackson-Seeger says he has never in his life worked so hard as he has on his Division III, a documentary video on racially mixed Americans.
He interviewed 65 people, ranging in age from six to 80 and living in different parts of the country, exploring commonalities and differences in experience across age and region. Some, he found through his own network of family, friends, and acquaintances. Others, he interviewed after they responded to a notice about the film that he posted on an Internet listserv.
The video grew out of his own experience; he is the child of a white mother and black (a term he prefers to African-American) father, with grandmothers who are also of mixed heritage, white and Japanese, and black and Chinese.
Jackson-Seeger, who grew up in Beacon, New York, as the grandson of legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, decided to make the film, in part, because “for me, being mixed has always been a great experience.” Last year, he attended a Five College conference on mixed heritage, which made him more conscious of formulating his own identity, but he wanted to tell a larger story than just his own.
“All persons of color in this country have to come to grips with what it means to be a person of color,” he said. “I am in the fortunate position that I could take a year to interview people and think about this issue and see how other people deal with it. I could learn about and express that through art, through the making of this film.
“I want people to see all these different faces and hear all these different experiences. A lot has been done about mixed marriages, but not much has been done about the products of those marriages, racially mixed people.”
Film professor Abraham Ravett chaired the Division III, with social science professor and Dean of the College Mike Ford also on the committee.
Jackson-Seeger already has a couple of PBS credits from an internship as an editing assistant on documentaries about American Roots Music last fall and on the Blues, airing this fall. This summer, he is working in the Fresh Air Fund’s Career Awareness Program at Camp Mariah, teaching children to make videos. This fall, he moves into a job as an assistant editor and production assistant with Means of Production, an independent film company in Brooklyn.
His eventual goal is to make feature films: “There are so many issues out there to be addressed, so many things I want to do films on.”