Light in the Shadows Q+A with Dr. Intisar Shareef
Last week, we posted an interview with Light in the Shadows participant Penny Rosenwasser. Today, we share our interview with Dr. Intisfar Shareef, another woman who sat at the film’s roundtable and discussed race and its impact. If you’re not familiar with Light in the Shadows, watch this trailer.
The women featured in the film were social justice advocates from varied racial and professional backgrounds. Shareef, an African American woman, says she became politically aware of herself in relationship to institutions through early experiences in the Nation of Islam. Intisar had already participated in World Trust’s first film, The Way Home: Women Talk About Race in America before arriving on the set of Light in the Shadows. Here, she reflects on her time on set and the long path our society has taken to be able to discuss these issues more openly.
What was on your mind when filming began?
My thoughts have always been the same in that I would like to have authentic conversations. I wanted to have a conversation with a white woman that made sense to me. I wanted to say the things that were on my mind, rather than just listening to somebody tell me about the interpretation of my thoughts.
Were you comfortable discussing race?
I’m never, ever comfortable. But once I enter the conversation and something meaningful is being expressed, I forget about that discomfort. I’m expressing my thoughts and not trying to filter them. For that, I have been criticized for being aggressive.
What moments stood out for you during filming?
I remember a moment where I unleashed some of my feelings on Penny [one of the white women in the film]. In a way, I felt bad about that but on another level, she said things that triggered me, that made me want to counteract, or at least add another perspective. It wasn’t premeditated. I know that I was not at my most composed. African Americans can see that and not interpret it as being over the top, but white folks see that and often think that something is wrong with you. I didn’t feel anything was wrong with me.
When the movie was released in 2003, most white viewers felt protective of Penny and dismissed the women of color. Were you surprised by that response?
I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew that folks didn’t want to hear what was being said. But now that World Trust is reissuing it and showing it, they’re getting more positive responses.
What do you think has contributed to that?
I want to give credit to the advocacy that is pushing the agenda forward. Without those efforts, we wouldn’t be where we are now. With social media, people see the disparities of the number of black men that have been shot by the police. People better understand the prison industrial complex and how people are being targeted for their race and gender. That is more common knowledge today than it was 15 years ago. Some of today’s viewers can see the disparity and injustice. They don’t necessarily know what to do about that injustice, but they see it needs to change.
How did you feel after the taping?
I felt a little uneasy. It’s one thing to have a conversation in the room when that’s where it begins and ends. But it’s another thing when that conversation is on tape and you don’t have control over people’s understanding of the context.
What do you hope new viewers take away?
I always want people to be heard thoroughly, without interruption. If you can hear someone regardless of their story, that’s a doorway into understanding your own humanity. I want to set judgments aside and let people and their thoughts progress naturally. If we can give each other more space to be human, to not always have the right answers, we might make it easier to communicate.
More about Dr. Intisar Shareef:
Dr. Intisar Shareef is the Co-Chair of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Department at Contra Costa College. Dr. Shareef received a doctorate degree in early childhood education from Nova University and has experience teaching at all levels from preschool through college. She co-authored two articles with Janet Gonzalez-Mena, about their experience of doing PITC training for Exchange magazine and one about cultural perspectives on discipline for the NAEYC journal Young Children. In addition, she co-authored the publication Practice on Building Bridge, a companion resource to Diversity in Early Care and Education, 5th Ed.
Dr. Shareef has taught Child Development classes at Contra Costa College for over 30 years. Along with teaching, she has been an Independent ECE consultant for 30 years. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Shareef has worked as a Faculty Member for the Program for Infant and Toddler Care (PITC). She has presented numerous times for Head Start Programs throughout the Country. She works as a consultant for The Whole Child International, which is a program that works to improve the quality of orphanages around the world. She has presented trainings for The Whole Child International in Nicaragua and El Salvador educating center administrators, caregiving staff and government officials. Dr. Shareef was trained in the Pikler Method of Infant Care and currently serves as a Board Member at the Pikler Institute in the United States.
Most recently Dr. Shareef traveled to the Midwest with Dr. Chelsea Bailey who is the Anji Play representative in the United States. The pair traveled to China in April to learn more about Anji Play in hopes of developing a demonstration model in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Shareef is a passionate mother, professor, author, and prominent leader in the ECE community. Out of all of her accomplishments and contributions to the community, her most rewarding experience is witnessing the accomplishments of her students. This makes her feel like her work in the world truly makes a difference.