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The Hilltop


Misty Copeland’s short film ‘Flower’ sheds light on Oakland, California, housing crisis

Misty Copeland and Leyla Fayyaz present their silent film to Howard students to educate them on the effects of housing insecurity and homelessness.

Misty Copeland and Leyla Fayyaz answer questions from students in the dance program before the “Flower” screening. (Taylor Swinton/The Hilltop) 

Students filed into the Ira Aldridge Theater to watch the short, silent film “Flower,” written and produced by professional ballerinas Misty Copeland and Leyla Fayyaz last Monday. The 28-minute film shares the issue of intergenerational inequity and the housing crisis in Oakland, California. 

“Flower” is an art activist film focused on relevant social issues. In Oakland, California, where the film took place, and other U.S. cities, residents are forced out of their communities because they can’t afford to live there anymore due to gentrification.

“Art is what steps in when words are not enough, and this film is a perfect example of that. We’re inspiring students to make their own art activism,” Fayyaz said about the short film.

The story follows a young girl who gives up her dreams of being a professional dancer to work and make money for her family while caring for her elderly mother. In doing so, she sees her community drastically change. Amidst the theater silence, the film consists of dance scenes, a creative choice for Copeland and Fayyaz. 

“We’re using dance and movement to tell the story. We love the art form of ballet and dance, and the idea of using it as a tool to say something and to spark change is what our hope is with this film,” Copeland said. 

Copeland wanted students to see the film to make them aware of the housing issue while allowing them to start the conversation on ending home insecurity in the future. She also wanted students to recognize that words are not the only method of storytelling. 

“There are so many elements to creativity… so many things you can do through the language of movement and dance. Then, to see the beauty of Black and Brown bodies on the screen, to look at the story, and walk away with a different perspective on what this community is going through,” Copeland said. 

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Gabriella Gordon, a freshman biology major from Queens, New York, says she came to this premiere because she saw Copeland as a role model since she grew up in the arts. She heard about the event through the Caribbean Students Association and came because she is a dancer. 

“I expect[ed] to gain good insight seeing the new film. Being with a community of dancers, even though I’m not a dance major, is a nice environment, so I wanted to experience that as well,” Gordon said.

After seeing the film and listening to the discussion panel, students were able to get a perspective on the housing crisis they had not seen before. 

“Being in D.C., we have a really bad homelessness crisis. To see this film where Misty Copeland is shedding light on people who have real lives and who have had normal lives like everybody else makes me see them in a different way now,” Aileen Pointer, a junior TV and film major from the Bronx, New York, said. 

Copy edited by Diamond Hamm

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