Titan Tonya

Among those included in a 2016 Huffington Post feature, “21 Couples Who Exemplify The Beauty of Black Love,” think Martin and Coretta, Barack and Michelle, Ossie and Ruby Dee, Denzel and Pauletta, are Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee.

While many of us first became acquainted with Tonya’s iconic filmmaker husband, Spike, during the mid-80s’ savvy and avant-garde Black film renaissance, it’s his stunning wife Tonya, who’s now rippling filmmaking waters. Her groundbreaking works transcend entertainment and disrupt the status quo, and her Sundance Film Festival and Peabody Award-winning documentary Aftershock, detailing the Black maternal morbidity crisis, does just that.

Aftershock powerfully chronicles the shattered lives of two Black men, Omari Maynard and Bruce McIntyre, and their families, as they together traverse the horror of losing the women they loved. Both suffered losing their wives to fatal post-birth conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say Black women are three times more likely to die from maternal complications compared to White women.

At a recent interview with the New York Association of Black Journalists, Lee candidly shared the impetus behind her Black health crisis film’s focus and the rippling effect that happens when a Black woman dies of childbirth complications. “I was just coming off another film I produced,” Lee began, “and there were a couple of articles that came out about what was happening with Black women dying from maternal complications. And I said to myself, ‘people really need to know what’s going on.’ We’re hearingabout statistics, but the statistics are not really human beings, and so I really wanted to humanize the issue of maternal death. I wanted people to understand that families are left behind; that when a woman dies from childbearing complications, there is a real loss to not only her family, but her community.”

She continued, “I wanted to explore what the solutions could be to fix this situation, to talk about it, raise awareness about it, and then figure out how we, as a community, make for better outcomes.”

Lee’s work does more than simply draw attention to a deadly health crisis facing Black women, she does so through an evocative and intentional character-driven narrative that contextualizes the historical lack of value of Black women, their reproductive systems, and their health. The film visibly widens and centers stakeholders who were previously on the periphery: Black men, Congress, constituents, and doulas— revivified and centuries-old midwifery practicioners who can benefit Black women.

The filmmaker, wife, mother, and former attorney says her esteem for and knowledge of great Black men, especially the men who helped raise her, served as inspiration to humanize and chronicle the lives of widowed Omari Maynard and Bruce McIntyre. They are compassionate fathers, human beings, and leaders “who help tell the full story” of this seismic cultural crisis.

Regarding her film’s protagonists, Maynard and McIntyre, Lee says, “When I watch them in the film, I mean, even now I get emotional, because they are beautiful men. You can see the love of the women [Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac] through these men. I just think they’re phenomenal, because not only did they love these women, but they also love their community. They turn their pain into action so that other people, hopefully, will not go through the same thing.”

Lee added, “It’s great to see, quite frankly, the Black women in Congress who’ve been doing this work and carrying the ball for us. I hold them up and appreciate the work of Lauren Underwood and others in our Congress who are doing the work.”

Tonya Lewis Lee’s impact on film and culture— uniquely alongside the body of work of her famous filmmaking counterpart—is titan, too. She’s the other filmmaker “Lee” whose work is helping to make things “mo’ better.”

Titan Tonya

Among those included in a 2016 Huffington Post feature, “21 Couples Who Exemplify The Beauty of Black Love,” think Martin and Coretta, Barack and Michelle, Ossie and Ruby Dee, Denzel and Pauletta, are Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee.

While many of us first became acquainted with Tonya’s iconic filmmaker husband, Spike, during the mid-80s’ savvy and avant-garde Black film renaissance, it’s his stunning wife Tonya, who’s now rippling filmmaking waters. Her groundbreaking works transcend entertainment and disrupt the status quo, and her Sundance Film Festival and Peabody Award-winning documentary Aftershock, detailing the Black maternal morbidity crisis, does just that.

Aftershock powerfully chronicles the shattered lives of two Black men, Omari Maynard and Bruce McIntyre, and their families, as they together traverse the horror of losing the women they loved. Both suffered losing their wives to fatal post-birth conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say Black women are three times more likely to die from maternal complications compared to White women.

At a recent interview with the New York Association of Black Journalists, Lee candidly shared the impetus behind her Black health crisis film’s focus and the rippling effect that happens when a Black woman dies of childbirth complications. “I was just coming off another film I produced,” Lee began, “and there were a couple of articles that came out about what was happening with Black women dying from maternal complications. And I said to myself, ‘people really need to know what’s going on.’ We’re hearingabout statistics, but the statistics are not really human beings, and so I really wanted to humanize the issue of maternal death. I wanted people to understand that families are left behind; that when a woman dies from childbearing complications, there is a real loss to not only her family, but her community.”

She continued, “I wanted to explore what the solutions could be to fix this situation, to talk about it, raise awareness about it, and then figure out how we, as a community, make for better outcomes.”

Lee’s work does more than simply draw attention to a deadly health crisis facing Black women, she does so through an evocative and intentional character-driven narrative that contextualizes the historical lack of value of Black women, their reproductive systems, and their health. The film visibly widens and centers stakeholders who were previously on the periphery: Black men, Congress, constituents, and doulas— revivified and centuries-old midwifery practicioners who can benefit Black women.

The filmmaker, wife, mother, and former attorney says her esteem for and knowledge of great Black men, especially the men who helped raise her, served as inspiration to humanize and chronicle the lives of widowed Omari Maynard and Bruce McIntyre. They are compassionate fathers, human beings, and leaders “who help tell the full story” of this seismic cultural crisis.

Regarding her film’s protagonists, Maynard and McIntyre, Lee says, “When I watch them in the film, I mean, even now I get emotional, because they are beautiful men. You can see the love of the women [Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac] through these men. I just think they’re phenomenal, because not only did they love these women, but they also love their community. They turn their pain into action so that other people, hopefully, will not go through the same thing.”

Lee added, “It’s great to see, quite frankly, the Black women in Congress who’ve been doing this work and carrying the ball for us. I hold them up and appreciate the work of Lauren Underwood and others in our Congress who are doing the work.”

Tonya Lewis Lee’s impact on film and culture— uniquely alongside the body of work of her famous filmmaking counterpart—is titan, too. She’s the other filmmaker “Lee” whose work is helping to make things “mo’ better.”

Should You Focus On Exercise When You Want to Lose Weight?

Exercise may not be the best way to lose weight. A quick Google search on...

Holy Name Announces New Leadership Appointments

Holy Name, the region’s leading independent health system, appointed Cynthia Ziegler as Vice President of...

You Can Live Well

As a fitness expert, I often encourage clients to care for themselves first. It seems...

Season’s Greetings

Stay Safe and Enjoy this Wonderful Time of the Year The upcoming holiday season is...

Powerful Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors

WORLD’s Stories from the Stage: The Podcast Kicks Off New Season Stories from the Stage: The...

They are Fit to be First Responders

By Barry Carter In a spirited competition among first responders, Newark and Essex County police...

Donald Payne: A Friend Indeed

There is no question that Essex County and Newark lost a great leader with the unfortunate passing of U.S. Representative...
Read More

Newark Congressman Donald Payne Jr. dead, weeks after suffering heart attack

Rep. Donald Payne Jr., who followed his father into politics and represented Newark in Congress for more than a decade...
Read More

Newark Boys Chorus School

The Positive Community’s annual Great American Emancipation Day Awards Banquet, celebrates excellence, service, freedom and the genius of Black music...
Read More

Rev. Al Sharpton

The media referred to him as a “controversial figure,” “race baiter,” “charlatan,” and more since the 1980s. When he began...
Read More

The Truth about “The Star-Spangled Banner”

It was September of 1814. The British had sacked Washington and torched the White House. The conflict became known as...
Read More

Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes at the Newark Museum of Art

NJPAC celebrated Max Roach’s centennial with a screening of the new documentary Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes at the Newark Museum of Art. Afterwards, a panel discussion was held include Max’s son...
Read More

BAM hosts 38th Annual Brooklyn tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On January 15, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) proudly hosted the 38th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a deeply cherished event honoring the legacy of...
Read More

Activist Viola Plummer dies at age 86

Activist and Chairperson of the December 12th Movement Viola Plummer has died. Her passing was announced on Monday. She was...
Read More

 Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz Art Collection at Brooklyn Museum

Call it an embarrassment of riches: The musician Alicia Keys and her husband Kasseem Dean, the producer and D.J. known...
Read More

BERKELEY COLLEGE CELEBRATES ‘REMARKABLE RESILIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE’

Photo Caption: Berkeley College celebrates the perseverance and achievements of more than 1,000 graduates during a Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May...

BERKELEY COLLEGE NEWARK NETWORKING BREAKFAST

HIGHLIGHTS NEW INITIATIVES AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS Business partners, community leaders, and alumni focused on collaboration and education during Berkeley College’s second annual Newark...

Kean and Howard Universities ForgeHistoric Dual Degree Agreement

Kean University students now have a faster path to earning a doctoral degree in pharmacy under a new dual degree...

Essex County Commissioner A’Dorian Murray-Thomas Incredibly Accomplished and Just Getting Started

Simply catching up with A’dorian Murray-Thomas feels like a grand accomplishment. The newly-elected county commissioner is also CEO of the...

Community Education Forum w/Alfred Bundy: Ruth Ware, Dr. Leigh Bello & student athlete Zoey Tapsoba

In this episode of Essex County College’s Community Education Forum, host Alfred Bundy speaks with guests Professor Ruth Ware (of...

Community Education Forum with Alfred Bundy and guests Melba Moore, Samirah Scantling & Talia Young

In this episode of Essex County College’s Community Education Forum, host Alfred Bundy speaks with guests Melba Moore (Tony Award...

Rev. Dr. Valerie Oliver-Durrah & Brooke Durrah

Mother & Daughter Building a Legacy of Black Excellence in Brooklyn Known throughout Brooklyn as...

This Mom Is Fighting Hunger by Starting a Company That Reduces Food Waste

Atlanta mom Jasmine Crowe-Houston launched Goodr, a company that keeps food out of landfills while...

Aisha Glover Helps Audible Make an Impact in Cities Around the World

Aisha Glover joined Audible as VP, Urban Innovation in 2020, when Audible’s Founder Don Katz...

New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency Celebrates 40 Years of Service

On January 17, 2024, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) celebrates its...

Consider it Pure Joy | Jennifer Jones Austin

When Jennifer Jones Austin, wife, mother, lawyer and child advocate, and the picture of good...

NJHMFA Board Meeting Delivers Key Housing Policy Advancements in Tax Credits and Multifamily Programs

 New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) approved two new programs, the Urban Preservation...