The Trailblazer: Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye is a filmmaker, artist, and activist. The political and personal converge in her 1996 film, “The Watermelon Woman,” the first feature directed by a black lesbian. Dunye stars as a fictive Cheryl, who begins dating a white woman while researching the history of an early film “mammy” character, credited only as The Watermelon Woman.

Being first would terrify some, but not Cheryl, who grew up in Philadelphia, and came up in the era of ACT UP among artists, writers, and filmmakers like Marlon Riggs, Essex Hemphill and Joe Beam.

Recently, Cheryl directed a short film, “Black is Blue,” a story of gender transition set in Oakland. She is developing it into a feature for likely 2020 release.

Tongues Untied (1991) by Marlon Riggs

Essex Hemphill at Poetry Foundation

Joe Beam at WHYY, editor of In the Life: a Black Gay Anthology

The Watermelon Woman (1996) on FilmStruck and DVD

Black is Blue



Gina Delvac