UMAMA Documentary Short: Celebrating Black Motherhood


Dr. Imani M. Cheers is the Associate Professor of Digital storytelling at George Washington University – School of Media & Public Affairs. On January 31st, 2024, Dr. Cheers hosted a live screening of her documentary short entitled UMAMA: Navigating Love, Loss, and Legacy in a Transcultural Journey. The UMAMA documentary short is a beautiful celebration of black motherhood in America, shedding some light on the unique experiences of raising children in reality where our view of them and society’s view of them may be misaligned.

As this documentary portrays, a strong sense of self is so very important to instill in young people from an early age. Black mothers often have to go the extra mile in the form of self discovery in order share where we come from. Dr. Cheers invites us to join in this journey of self discovery from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. to the hills of Soweto, South Africa.

UMAMA documentary short

Love: Protect Your Heart

One of my favorite quotes about motherhood is accredited to Elizabeth Stone. “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” In the UMAMA documentary short, Dr. Cheers, gives us a view into how her mother, Darline, loved. Darline Cheers was an avid scrapbooker. We see shelves in her home with dozens of containers of photos and crafts. We see images of the young Dr. Cheers and her siblings, carefully documented in scrapbooks and videos.

Dr. Cheers, who is also a mother to 9-year-old Isaiah, shares voicemails her mother left for her and her son, highlighting the continuity of documenting love through art and expression. Dr. Cheers and Isaiah make a journey of healing to South Africa following the passing of Darline, her mother and his grandmother. The balance of protecting your heart in healing while also protecting your child’s healthy healing is so profound.

Loss: Until We Meet Again

Isaiah speaks with elders in South Africa about the cultural significance of the passing of a loved one. In their culture, a loved one is not considered lost, but rather considered to have joined the ancestors. This perspective offers so much strength to those healing from loss. Realizing you no longer have your loved one in the physical sense, it is empowering to know you will forever have them and all of your ancestors before them, in the spiritual sense. It certainly eases the pain to know that their spirit co-exists with you. What an incredible gift to know you are never alone.

Legacy: Our Ancestor’s Wildest Dreams

Darline truly believed in pouring into her African-American children a very strong understanding of where their family comes from. So much of knowing who you are comes from a connection with your ancestral roots. We see the pride of knowing the stories of the trials and triumphs of ancestors is an energizing force.

As a black mother, pouring this pride into our children is one of the most significant parts of our motherhood experience. A famous Maya Angelou quote states, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” The UMAMA documentary short is a powerful tribute to Darline, to Dr. Cheers, and to black mothers who are intentional about sharing the stories of where we have been in order to affirm our children. I’ll leave you with words I say to my own children every day: Remember who you are. Learn, grow, show what you know!


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