Then she offers her take on the differences between Gen Xers like herself and (old) millennials like me: “I think we are over-describing ourselves. The older I get, the less important it becomes to be understood.”
Hampton’s wisdom is well earned. She is a multihyphenate’s multihyphenate: a writer who got her start in The Source, chronicling some of the hitmakers of 1990s hip hop while also studying film at NYU and community organizing, among many other things.
Her work as an organizer often led to opportunities to make films that spotlighted the work of other organizers. The most well-known of these is Surviving R. Kelly, the Peabody award–winning television series that built upon the work of the #MuteRKelly campaign created by two Black women in Chicago (Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye) and debuted on Lifetime in 2019. Hampton’s feature-length documentary It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It—co-directed with a group of incarcerated men—landed on HBO that same year, along with her BET series Finding Justice.
Fast-forward to 2022: hampton is releasing two new short films, both with nonlinear narratives that put Black girls at the center. In March, for the Los Angeles Opera’s digital shorts series, she directed a film set to a composition from Tamar-kali called We Hold These Truths. It features a pair of Black girls existing in a serene, natural world of their own conjuring.
And in April, hampton released Freshwater as an installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. It was made with her own money and a small crew of close collaborators, as she wanted to heal from the trauma of making some of her past projects. She also wanted to bring attention to the catastrophic increase in flooding in Detroit caused by climate change.
Both of these films, in their gentle ethereality, feel like something we haven’t seen before from hampton. These intimate works are a departure from her previous films, which often deliver bold, necessary calls to political and social action (for example, Treasure: From Tragedy to Trans Justice, Mapping a Detroit Story , We Demand Justice for Renisha McBride , and Black August ). In Freshwater, hampton narrates stories about her family in Detroit. She makes poignant use of black-and-white family photos submerged in the water of flooded basements. And although she may not feel the need to “over-describe” herself, after a few decades of telling stories in print and on film, hampton is allowing us to see where it all began.