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A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone
A New Color is a joy-filled, heart-rending story about community, art and lives that matter. Bay Area artist and civil rights activist Edythe “Edy” Boone is a sprightly septuagenarian who seems only to gain energy over the years. Since she was a girl, this celebrated muralist (San Francisco Women’s Building) has aspired “to develop a new color no one has seen in life.” Edy paints walls to build bridges toward unity when the chokehold death of her nephew Eric Garner and his final words - “I Can’t Breathe” - ignite a national outcry for racial justice.
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A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone

Running Time
57 minutes

A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone

Long before Black Lives Matter became a rallying cry, Edythe Boone embodied that truth as an activist, an educator, a great-grandmother, and foremost an artist. When a deeply personal tragedy ignites a national outcry, everything that Edy has worked so tirelessly for comes into question.

From humble Harlem beginnings herself, the indefatigable “Edy” has for decades introduced underserved youth and seniors to the transformative power of art. Having helped her students use mural making to grapple with the disproportional shootings of young black men, the issue hits home when her nephew Eric Garner dies in police custody, his last words: “I can’t breathe.” The tragedy evokes the powerful and deep questions that many artists and activists face: has her nearly eight decades of social justice work meant something? Has it been worth the sacrifice? Can building multicultural bridges through art bring about positive change?

Edy’s reaction shows the depth of her clear-eyed, compassionate commitment to building a just and peaceful community. A New Color illuminates the social issues of our time and shows how the work of one woman reverberates throughout a community to inspire a powerful chorus: “Our lives matter and we will not be disempowered by those who judge us for our age, gender, or the color of their skin.”

Filmmaker Notes:

This is not the film I set out to make.  I was going to tell a simple story to support restoring art programs in schools and Edythe Boone was to be my guide. The mural project she was beginning at West Oakland Middle School, an underserved Bay Area community, provided a perfect dramatic arc for observational storytelling.

I met and fell in love with Edy when she taught my girls art at a Berkeley, California elementary school. Tough and compassionate, wise and funny, she lived through segregation and Jim Crow maintaining her faith in humanity. I began developing A New Color seeking to capture on film what I’d witnessed repeatedly in the classroom—Edy’s creative example sparking students to imagine new possibilities, challenge stereotypes and become agents of change.

What happened next changed the course of the film.

On our first production day at West Oakland Middle School, the students were reeling after a weekend shooting incident had caught a 13 year-old classmate in the crossfire. Edy’s loving response that day revealed her incredible ability to channel anger and fear in creative and positive directions.

Following Edy over the next four years, community violence and police brutality were inescapable. After Trayvon Martin’s murder, Edy guided young children in North Richmond’s housing project in painting mural imagery of kids wearing “hoodies” while clutching teddy bears. Soon, Michael Brown’s death would fuel a national conversation and the rallying cry #BlackLivesMatter.

Edy was tested on December 5, 2014 when the Staten Island grand jury refused to indict the police officer who killed an unarmed Eric Garner.  Eric Garner was Edy’s nephew. The impact on Edy was profound. We had completed a rough cut, but felt compelled to resume filming.

What I ended up with was a portrait of somebody extraordinary—yet at the same time, America’s everywoman. Edythe Boone’s story ultimately shows not what it is to be Black or to lose a loved one, but what it is to be human.

A New Color will foster dialogue, open hearts and inspire young people and elders to believe in themselves and participate actively in building stronger, more peaceful communities. At the same time, the film seamlessly addresses such critical issues as gender equality, race, and  economic disparity—all through the voice of a 77 year old African American artist and activist.  Hers is a voice we need to hear more of in mainstream media and in classrooms around the world.

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2016
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