Anne Lloyd: 212 865-2982,
Publicist: Kosi Harris, 917-749-1797,


Reel Sisters Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Tribute to Powerhouse Actresses Tamara Tunie, Nicole Beharie and Vinie Burrows

Awards Ceremony Held at Historic Billie Holiday Theatre on Oct. 7!


September 8, 2017 (Harlem, USA) – On Saturday, Oct. 7, 6:30 pm, Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series will present the Reel Sisters Hattie McDaniel Award to legendary actress Vinie Burrows (“Walk Together Children”) and the Reel Sisters Trailblazer Award to Tamara Tunie (Law & Order: SVU) and Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow). Award-winning filmmaker Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) and LaZette McCants, founder of Volunteer Divas & Divos, Plus, are among the many luminaries paying tribute to honorees. Join us for an exciting evening of dance, poetry and film. Toni Yates (ABC News NJ Correspondent) will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies.

The event will open with poetic contributions by Spoken Word artist D. Cross and a performance of Urban Bush Women’s 1987 signature solo Bitter Tongue, a dance of resistance, by Love Muwwakkil. Reel Sisters will premiere That’s Why They Calls Us Colored, a short directed by Malika Franklin, featuring honoree Vinie Burrows as the lead actress.

The celebration will be held at the newly renovated Billie Holiday Theatre, 1368 Fulton Street, in Brooklyn. Tickets: $45 ($35 – Bring a Pal Discount for 2+ tickets) For tickets visit: or call 347-534-3304/212-865-2982.

The awards ceremony kicks off the Reel Sisters film festival, which will be held in Brooklyn at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on October 21, 2017 and in Harlem at AMC Magic Johnson 9 on Oct. 21-22, 2017.

“We’re very proud to have Tamara Tunie, Vinie Burrows and Nicole Beharie as our distinguished honorees for our Hattie McDaniel and Trailblazer Awards. Our honorees are exemplary of the generations of Black Women Magic that keep our communities and families whole — they are artistic geniuses who have paved paths for us to follow,” said Reel Sisters founder Carolyn A. Butts. “Thank you for being the artists, mothers, grandmothers and sisters we can depend on for leadership and inspiration. Congratulations on embodying the spirit of our 2017 Reel Sisters Awards!”

Council member Jumaane Williams, a long term Reel Sisters Ambassador, praised the festival for its commitment to serving women of color in the film industry.

“The Reel Sisters Film Festival has become a cultural landmark over the past two decades. Film and activism has always been two passions of mine, and this festival brings the two together while elevating the often overlooked contributions to the field by African-American women. I’m proud to support this year’s dedicated filmmakers, actresses, and activism, and excited to celebrate them in the festival’s 20th year.”

The festival established the Reel Sisters Hattie McDaniel Award to honor women who are pioneers in the fields of theater, film and media. Ms. Daniel excelled as an actress and performer in all areas of media including radio and television. The Reel Sisters Trailblazer Award recognizes honorees in the film and television industry for their outstanding accomplishments and professional integrity in opening doors for other women of color.

In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American woman to receive an Oscar. Her stellar performance in the role of Mammy in Gone With the Wind earned her an Academy Award for supporting actress. Black audiences harshly criticized Hattie for portraying menial and stereotypical characters in films. McDaniel’s ability to add her own flair to her characters caused her to stand out when hired in the limited roles—in number and scope—that were available in Hollywood. Born Joanna Rose, Hattie was a talented singer-songwriter and comedienne who continued working in television and theater after her Oscar win, procuring her legacy.

Previous Reel Sisters award winners include Cathy Hughes, Naturi Naughton, Issa Rae, Ebony Jo-Ann, Jessica Williams, Margot B., Neema Barnette, Julie Dash, Michelle Materre, Pearl Bowser, Shola Lynch, Lonette McKee, Mahen Bonetti, Mable Haddock, Moikgantsi Kgama, Irene Cara and Kojo Ade.


About Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series

A Brooklyn-based film festival founded by African Voices magazine and LIU Brooklyn Campus, Reel Sisters was founded to support women of color in the film industry. Since 1997, Reel Sisters has showcased over 1500 films produced, directed and written by women filmmakers in every genre. Reel Sisters attracts more than 1,200 film lovers from across the nation and globe including California, Chicago, Florida to as far away as Britain, Germany, Africa and India. The festival screens over 25 films each year. Reel Sisters also provides scholarships to emerging women filmmakers and offers other resources for women filmmakers.

The Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival is supported, in part, by Council members Laurie Cumbo (35 C.D.) and Jumaane Williams (45 C.D.), New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Brooklyn Arts Council and ALOFT Hotel.


Honorees, Performers and Mistress of Ceremonies bios:

The legendary Vinie Burrows made her Broadway debut with Helen Hayes and Ossie Davis. Six Broadway shows followed in rapid succession. Frustrated by the available roles for persons of color, Vinie created and produced her first solo show WALK TOGETHER CHILDREN about the Black experience. Called “a magnificent performer” by the New York Times and now hailed as “a living legend,” the veteran actor has performed over 6,000 times on four continents with eight different solo productions. Her work as artist, scholar and activist has earned her many civic and academic honors.

Vinie recently starred in the Public Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the SOHO REP’s production of SAMARA. She also stars in That’s Why They Calls Us Colored, a short film directed by Malika Franklin and written by j.e. franklin. The film will premiere in Reel Sisters on Oct. 21 at Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem.
Born in Harlem Hospital and now a long time resident of the East Village, Dr. Burrows calls herself “a cultural worker” and a citizen of the world. Mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, Vinie now in her 93rd year, continues her work as actor and activist.


Nicole Beharie is best known for her lead role in FOX’s hit series, SLEEPY HOLLOW.  She is also an established film actress, debuting in an award-winning role in the 2008 film AMERICAN VIOLET, opposite Alfre Woodard and Will Patton.  She then starred in Steve McQueen’s SHAME opposite Michael Fassbender and as the female lead in the Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, opposite Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman.

She will next be seen in JACOB’S LADDER, opposite Jesse Williams & Michael Ealy. Nicole is a graduate of Juilliard Drama School and currently resides in NYC.

Tamara Tunie (Law & Order: SVU) is known for delivering enthralling, charismatic and passionate performances. Her background spans film, television and stage. Tunie’s versatility has earned her the respect and admiration of her peers and a global fan base that have come to recognize her as the industry’s quiet, graceful leading lady.
Most recently, the veteran actress starred in Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan’s BUILDING THE WALL at New World Stages, directed by Ari Edelstein. The two-person political suspense thriller featured Tunie alongside James Badge Dale in a 90-minute theatrical event set in the near future and deals with one of the most talked about topics of this past election. In a time when campaign rhetoric turns into real policies, Building the Wall reveals the power of theater to question who we are and where we might be going.

Tunie starred in two seasons of the Sundance TV original series The Red Road. Her portrayal of Marie Van Der Veen, the matriarch and the “moral fiber” of a Native American tribe, brought her much acclaim. Other memorable television roles include her portrayal of Medical Examiner Melinda Warner on the NBC drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and “mean Alberta Green” in the Fox hit series 24 Season One, as well as attorney Jessica Griffin on the CBS daytime drama As the World Turns, for which she received two NAACP Image Award nominations.

In film, the Pittsburgh native has worked with some of the top directors in Hollywood, including Robert Zemekis, Taylor Hackford, Brian De Palma, Mimi Leder, Harold Becker and Oliver Stone. She also worked with the legendary Al Pacino in her portrayal of Jackie Heath, the possessed wife of a partner in his law firm in the box office topper The Devil’s Advocate, and as Pacino’s press secretary in City Hall. Among Tunie’s most unforgettable performances was her co-starring role as Margaret Thomason in the Oscar-nominated film Flight, which starred Denzel Washington. Tunie narrated Eve’s Bayou, directed by Kasi Lemmons and later worked again with her on The Caveman’s Valentine, opposite Samuel L. Jackson, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award.


Derick Cross (aka D. Cross) is a multidimensional visual and performance artist who creates imagery in order to reach deep inside the viewer of his artwork. His work is part of the collections of Erykah Badu (Grammy Award-winning Singer-Songwriter), Ed Lewis (Founder of Essence Communications), Ruby Dee (legendary actress), Judith Jamaison (Alvin Ailey director & legendary dancer/choreographer) and Bashiri Johnson (world renowned percussionist & music producer), among others. He is the Art Director of African Voices. As a performance artist he combines the art of Spoken Word, Vocal Percussion (beatboxing) and Hip-Hop (emceeing/rap), making music to ears of listeners everywhere. D. Cross has been featured on Nickelodean, TV Land BET’s 106’s and Park and the Electric Company.

Malika Franklin, the director of That’s Why They Calls Us Colored, is a Graduate of the New York Conservatory of the Dramatic Arts and Morgan State University’s Vocal Department. She has performed on stage at New Federal Theater, The National Black Theater, and Lincoln Center. Her most recent stage credits include NEC’s “Rosalee Pritchett” “Laundry”, written by David Bellantoni, and “Freedom Rider”, written by award winning playwright Ms. J. e Franklin. Her most recent onscreen projects include Marvel’s “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage,” the Amazon pilot “The Good Girls Revolt,” and the short film by Ashton Pina, “The Brother’s Texas,” which ran in the 2014 Oktober Film Festival. She is a member of SAG/AFTRA and AEA. Colored is Malika’s directorial debut.

Love Muwwakkil started her relationship with Urban Bush Women shortly after earning her BFA in Dance from UNC Greensboro.  After two seasons of touring with Urban Bush Women, Love went on to perform in HairSpray on the largest cruise ship in the world, as well as performing in several off-Broadway productions and as a member of contemporary pole dance company The Pulse Project. Love is thankful to maintain her relationship with UBW through performing and teaching! Bitter Tongue (1987) is “a dance of resistance.”

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