Exquisite Women: Ada Babineaux
I sat down and had a candid discussion with Ada Babineaux. She is the founder behind the Nommo Speaker’s Bureau. Nommo , an African word from Mali that means the “ magic power of the word” launched it’s website on February 11, 2014. Nommo was created out of the BlackFilmmakers.net. a website Ms. Babineaux founded in 2000 to give Black independent filmmakers a way to make extra money to assist with their films and distribution of their films. Her interest in film began when she left dance school at the California School of the Arts in 1981 and came to DC to study television production. She discovered independent cinema, a world she knew nothing about. After she graduated in 1986, she began working with film professor Haile Gerima on his award winning film SANKOFA. This underground film became a big hit across the country, and so did Gerima’s popularity for speaking engagements. It became apparent that he needed representation, so he became her first client, thus Nommo was born. She started to book Gerima at various venues, such as universities and began to seek out other indie filmmakers to represent. As her circle of creative artists, historians/scholars, authors and experts in various professions grew she said, “ I felt the need to expand beyond filmmakers to experts in other disciplines. I’m honored that I am able to hand pick Nommo’s repertoire and pull many speakers and referrals who already have the knowledge and expertise in their chosen profession. “
Ms. Babineaux commented that that many of her speakers already come from scholarly backgrounds and are accustomed to lecturing to students in their field of expertise, yet they were in need of representation. Many of her clients have their own websites and have cited Nommo as their representative. Ms. Babineaux is a woman who knows what she wants, “ I know their expertise and I like people who are down to earth”. Outreach venues for her clients include social marketing, postcards. cold calls postings on sites and referrals.
Ms. Babineaux is also an award winning documentary filmmaker. She was educated at the prestigious Howard University where she earned a Communications degree in Broadcast Production. After working in the business for twenty years, she decided to go back to school to obtain a Master of Arts degree in Video/Film Production from American University. During her undergraduate studies, she was exposed to the Black Independent Filmmakers and received on the job training in production while interning at WHUT, Howard University’s PBS station. “ As an intern I was a camera person and a senior producer of the show SPOTLIGHT ;it taught me how to be a media professional.” After Ms. Babineaux left Howard, she started working as a production coordinator with her professor and now client Haile Gerima through a DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities(DCCAH) Grant. She was able to learn casting, budgeting, grant writing, scout location, production management and many different aspects of filmmaking. She credits Haile Gerima as her mentor. “Working on SANKOFA was a life changing experience.This low budget period piece on slavery, gave me the opportunity to shoot in Jamaica and Ghana for production, and travel to Germany as well as other cities across the country for exhibition and self distribution.”Working with Gerima , taught me that I could do my own stuff”.
Another creation that Ms. Babineaux founded was Jezebel Film Works(www.jezebelfilmworks.com) , an independent production service company that she saw as a vehicle to give voice to the voiceless. Her first production that she wrote, produced and directed began with a $5,000 grant from the DCCAH, that she shot with volunteer crews and talent in three days. The hair docu-drama was entitled “ Middle Passage-N-Roots”(http:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=2 –z052A73E) . When asked why she named her production company Jezebel Film Works, her response was :” I wanted to go against the stereotype that comes to people’s minds when they hear the name Jezebel ; Jezebel was Hannibal’s mother.”
Her latest documentary titled “ I Don Been Through The Snake’s Skin and Come Out Clean” can be seen on youtube. It focuses on her Louisiana grandparents. She feels it is important to document family history, and hopes it encourages others to do the same. It was shown and well received at the at African American Film Independent Film Festival in New York last November.” I was really pleased that people connected with my grandmother’s life and wisdom. “I am seeking other venues across the country to hold screenings and have dialogue on the value of elders in documenting family history.
When asked what filmmakers does she most admire, she replied,” My Nommo speakers such as Euzhan Palcy, Charles Burnett, Raoul Peck and of course Haile Gerima. I also like the works of Debbie Allen(a fellow Howard graduate)”. When asked if she thought Black women were making strides in the film industry, this was her reply,” This business is a constant struggle, however I do feel our success comes in waves, ups and downs. We are still not getting our just reward and recognition in the industry which is why indie filmmaking is so important. It gives us an alternative to make our own images relevant and our own stories told in our own voice. It is nice to see some quality projects pop up out of the blue, like the indie film BELLE which was directed by a woman of African descent.” I also like the new BET series Being Mary Jane; the acting , the story-lines and directing are fresh , daring and solid” When asked if she has any plans to produce a feature length film, she replied, “ I like documentaries, but I do have an idea for a series that I think would be compelling.”
This is not the last that you will hear from Ada Babineaux; she has great things ahead. Nommo has some very impressive speakers such as Authors Kemba Smith (Poster Child), Nathan Mc Call (Makes Me Wanna Holler), Egyptologist, Anthony Browder, Success Coach/Psychologist, Dr. Nicole Cutts, Golf Expert Rose Harper, Filmmakers Haile Gerima and Charles Burnett, the first Black Woman Director of a major Hollywood film, Euzhan Palcy ( a Dry White Season, Ruby Bridges) and renowned numerologist Lloyd Strayhorn(Numbers and You) just to name a few. There are presently thirty-four speakers with Nommo and the list continues to grow. You can find Nommo Speaker’s Bureau on Facebook and Twitter. For bookings go to www.nommospeakersbureau.com or info@nommospeaker’sbureau.com
About the Author: La Juana Green is a native of Washington, D.C. and has an English Degree from The University of the District of Columbia. She is a screenwriter, and her screenplay “ Through the Looking Glass “won an Honorable Mention in the 78th Writer’s Digest Writer’s Competition. Her name can be found in the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Collection published by Outskirts Press. Most recently, she was the finalist in the Fresh Pitch Contest for her screenplay” ROE “ about an African-American numbers runner during the Capone era, based on a true story. Ms. Green makes her home in Harlem, and is currently working on a two screenplays, titled “ Sisters” and “Slang Book”.