People 21 January 2018
Filmmaker, business owner, mom and painter, Rochelle Leanne White is no stranger to using her voice for good. She grew up in Reading, PA, a small city not far from Philadelphia, which gained national coverage in 2011, for being recognized by the New York Times as the poorest city in the country. That same year, White moved to New York City to chase her dreams of working in the entertainment industry. She wasn’t sure in what capacity, but she knew that there was more out there for her than the confines of Reading, Pennsylvania.
"I was always a dreamer. I always wanted to share and express the way the thoughts would play out in my mind so others could understand it," says White. "Just to be able to express that and have people enjoy it or at least critically think about it."
White got her start as a filmmaker filming yoga videos for her mobile yoga company, Creative Mindz Yoga. But she’s always had a passion for social justice causes too. "I knew I was always going to do something social justice oriented I just didn't know what and I didn't know how, but there's always been an underlying passion in me to fight for what's right, and not only fight for what's right but embrace what's right and progress. I don't believe in being stagnant," says White.
Inspired by filmmakers like Michael Moore, White began to take her camera with her when she would attend social justice marches in New York City. “I started to go out to these events and rallies and bring my camera. From there you have to do something with the footage, so I would process the footage and put it online. I noticed that it was getting a better response than the written content that I produced.”
One march in particular, the Millions March NYC, which took place after a grad jury deliberated not to indict the officer responsible for killing Eric Garner, turned into one of White's first documentary films. P.S. I Can't Breathe a film that found White on the frontlines, in the streets of Manhattan documenting the public's voice and frustration in what she believes is a flawed criminal justice system.
She wasn’t sure what would come of that footage, but she knew that she had to do something; she had to document the moment. P.S. I Can’t Breathe has since went on be screened at a number of film festivals including the Winter Film Awards where it received an award of recognition for the Best Shorts Competition. The film, which is accompanied by a study guide, is currently being used by universities and colleges both nationally and internationally.
As White matured (and learned that she wasn't all that good at memorizing lines), she moved away from wanting to be in front of the camera and found her niche behind it, helping to bring other people's stories to life. "My ultimate goal is for my work to create change, to create a social movement...a social impact, that people can refer to it and it actually has done something to change their lives in some way, or to change the world, that would be my ultimate goal," says White.
Her latest feature film, Middlemen aims to do just that. With P.S. I Can’t Breathe serving as the catalyst, Middlemen picks up where Ava DuVernay’s 13th left off, exploring modern day policing with a special emphasis on how current policing models affect communities of color. In the film, White attempts to tell both sides of the story, that of the general public, as well as that of those whose sole purpose is to protect and to serve.
"I see these two groups of people and I want them to just come together and merge because they're both being treated in ways that are creating this environment,” says White. “Upper management needs to change it for the betterment of the community, and for the officers that work those communities, to create an environment where there's less likelihood of people being killed, period."
White started working on Middlemen three years ago, just a year and a half after she released P.S. I Can’t Breathe, and has for the most part funded the entire film on her own with the exception of a $5,000 grant that she received from the Riverside Church Sharing Fund. She is currently in the post production phase of the film and still working hard to raise money for post production costs. The film features parents of victims of police brutality, including the mother of Eric Garner, the father of Sean Bell, the mother of Amadou Diallo, and others. In the film, White explores the idea that unknowing police officers (middle men) may be contributing to mass incarceration and racism under the CompStat policing model. White’s ultimate goal is to earn a broadcast deal for Middlemen, and to get the film out to as many people as possible.
When she’s not trying to save world as an activist filmmaker, White does yoga and meditates regularly to try and maintain some sense of work and life balance. "God is very instrumental in my life. I keep pressing forward, that is the number one thing," says White. "I just do, I don't really think twice about it. If I have something to do, I just get up and do it. I do try to focus on productivity."
Meet Lila Green, a film about a woman who overcomes domestic violence through entrepreneurship, sisterhood, and giving back is White’s next feature film, that she’s hoping will make it into the Sundance Film Festival. White is also in the process of developing two apps that will help her yoga and production companies run more efficiently.
Middlemen will be released in the fall of 2018. Follow this link to make a tax deductible contribution to post production costs.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."