Seven Questions with Yolanda Morgan

In the animated documentary I Never Picked Cotton, Yolanda Morgan recalls her experiences with racism and the impact it has had on her.

1. Who are your film influencers?

My film influences are the filmmakers who have allowed me to see myself represented beautifully on screen. With that being said, my biggest influences are Debbie Allen, Quinta Brunson, Issa Rae, Aaron McGruder and Debra Martin Chase.

2. What are the toughest aspects of making a film today?

Personally, the toughest aspects of making a film have been funding. Filmmaking, (particularly animation) is extremely expensive.  The lack of resources to create and produce your own film is a struggle I’m currently dealing with.

3. Best advice you’ve received as a filmmaker?

The best advice I’ve ever received as a filmmaker would be to “tell the stories you needed when you were younger.” This piece of advice has given me the courage and motivation to create the stories that younger me would love and respect.

4. What does it mean to you to be a Black filmmaker or to create films with black stories or characters.

As a black woman, my filmmaking work is heavily centered around the black experience and the variety that this experience offers. Personally, being a black filmmaker is an honor. I take pride in telling the rich stories our culture provides. I know the impact that film and television has had on my life.  Film and television shaped who I am as a creative. I would hope to pass that powerful impact onto others through my work. My afterschool days were spent binging episodes of “A Different World”, “The Boondocks” and “Sister, Sister.” There is nothing quite like seeing yourself represented on the screen. “A Different World” made me enroll at an HBCU and gave me my first picture of college. “Sister, Sister” made me confident to rock my natural hair at my all-white school. Representation gives audiences a picture of who they can become.  As a black filmmaker, my hope is that my stories can be used to tell someone else’s story and impact a generation.

5. What does it mean to you that your film is on Aspire TV and other platforms?

It means the world to me that my film is on Aspire TV. I am so grateful that my story was able to reach others in a powerful way. When pitching this idea to my class, I never imagined it would go this far. I was simply just telling my story. This film has given me the courage to never be ashamed of using my voice. I’m so proud of everyone who worked on this film and helped me tell my story. Thank you so much Aspire TV for allowing us to share our work on a bigger platform.

6. Advice you would give the next gen following you?

If I could offer one piece of advice to the next generation it would be, “There’s power in the wait.” At twenty-four years old and a “newbie” in this industry, I’m still learning this lesson myself. Life is teaching me that you will spend many days waiting. Whether you’re waiting for the right job, opportunity or even parking spot. Life is filled with waiting.  But I’m also learning that waiting isn’t always bad. Waiting produces faith, and faith produces favor. Not every opportunity will be for you, and that is okay. Sometimes “the wait” is necessary in your journey. I would encourage anyone reading this to use your season of waiting to prepare for everything that you’ve ever wanted. In the end, when the right opportunity comes, you will be so glad you waited, and even more glad you prepared while you waited.

7. Are there any inspirational films, articles or books that you would recommend to go deeper into the topics and themes in your film?

I would recommend reading “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.