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.
3 min read
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist