Unapologetic (2020)

  • Documentary
  • 1h 26m

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Presented in partnership with: Color of Change, Film Fatales, Hedgebrook, Make the Road New York, Morehouse College Human Rights Film Festival housed at Morehouse College, Pen America, Vera List Center for Art and Politics

This is a profound and necessary story ripe for a countrywide, and indeed a world-wide, reckoning with racial injustice. After two Black Chicagoans, Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald, are killed by police, the Movement for Black Lives demands justice and organizes to challenge an administration complicit in violence against its residents. Unapologetic introduces Janaé and Bella, two fierce activist leaders whose upbringing and experiences have shaped their view of what liberation could and should look like, as they urge an expansive view of public safety that does not depend on police. This invigorating documentary illuminates the love underpinning the anger and frustration that comes with being Black, queer women in the United States, and elevates those who are most often leading the way while being denied the spotlight.

“If Black, queer, feminist people are not free, nobody else is going to be free.” - Kush, film participant, Unapologetic

  • Thank you to everyone who joined our digital film festival screening + live Q&A on May 21. You can still watch the film at your own pace until May 27, and view the recording of the Q&A with filmmaker Ashley O’Shay and film participants Bella BAHHS & Janaé Bonsu, moderated by author and Editor-in-Chief of RaceBaitr, Hari Ziyad here on our Vimeo page

We do not want the cost of entry to be a barrier for participation in the festival. If the price of buying a ticket to this film would prevent you from participating, please email the following address (filmticket@hrw.org) + you will receive an auto-reply email with a free ticket code. We have set aside a set # of tickets per film on a first come first-served basis. Once the free tickets are no longer available, the code will no longer work. For anyone that purchases a ticket, we appreciate your support. Your ticket purchase enables us to make tickets free for those who might otherwise be unable to watch. This also allows the festival to support the filmmakers for sharing their work in our festival and for the festival to cover the cost of hosting the films online.


Ashley O’Shay





Bonus Content

58 mins
'Unapologetic' recorded Q&A

Friday, May 21: Live Q&A for Unapologetic by Ashley O’Shay.

Conversation with filmmaker Ashley O’Shay and film participants Bella BAHHS & Janaé Bonsu. Moderated by author and Editor-in-Chief of RaceBaitr, Hari Ziyad.

'Unapologetic' Filmmaker Introduction

An introductory video from ‘Unapologetic’ filmmaker Ashley O’Shay

US Congress: Hearing on Reparations Bill H.R. 40

Dreisen Heath of Human Rights Watch Among Witnesses

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing on H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, on February 17, 2021 to examine the legacy of slavery, its continuing impact on the Black community, and the path to reparative justice.

Read more here.

Young Rural Black Women’s Struggle in the Covid-19 Era

Earlier in 2020, we spoke to a 17-year-old from rural Bolivar county, Mississippi who had been planning to head to college this fall, the first in her family to attend. She had to put aside her plans when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Instead she found herself caring for her ailing grandmother and setting up a K-5 classroom at her dining room table in the family’s trailer to teach her younger siblings. She had to quit her job at Dollar General, where she was earning money for college, to protect her family’s safety. Read more in the article ‘Pandemic’s toll on young Black women’ here.

US: New York Police Planned Assault on Bronx Protesters

Trapping, Beatings in June Crackdown Reveal Abusive, Unaccountable System

New York City police planned the assault and mass arrests of peaceful protesters in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx on June 4, 2020, Human Rights Watch said in a report released September 30, 2020 ‘“Kettling” Protesters in the Bronx - Systemic Police Brutality and Its Costs in the United States’. The crackdown, led by the department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, was among the most aggressive police responses to protests across the United States following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and could cost New York City taxpayers several million dollars in misconduct complaints and lawsuits.

Read more here.

US: Devastating Impact of Jailing Mothers

Even Short Stays in Jail Can Cause Permanent Harm to Families

Mothers in jail are being torn from their families and losing contact with their children even before they have been convicted of a crime, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint report released September 26, 2018. The report, “You Miss So Much When You’re Gone”: The Lasting Harm of Jailing Mothers Before Trial in Oklahoma,” finds that jailing mothers even for short periods of time can result in overwhelming debt and loss of child custody. Based on more than 160 interviews with jailed and formerly jailed mothers, substitute caregivers, children, attorneys, service providers, child welfare employees, and advocates, this joint report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) documents the harms experienced by women with minor children jailed pretrial in Oklahoma – which incarcerates more women per capita than any other state.

Read the report here.

US: Probation, Parole Feed Mass Incarceration Crisis

Onerous Rules, Harsh Penalties Add to Jail, Prison Time

Probation and parole are promoted as alternatives to incarceration that help people get back on their feet, but instead feed bloated jail and prison populations in the United States, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a joint report released July 31, 2020.

The report, “Revoked: How Probation and Parole Feed Mass Incarceration in the United States,” finds that supervision – probation and parole – drives high numbers of people, disproportionately those who are Black and brown, right back to jail or prison, while in large part failing to help them get needed services and resources. In states examined in the report, people are often incarcerated for violating the rules of their supervision or for low-level crimes, and receive disproportionate punishment following proceedings that fail to adequately protect their fair trial rights.

Read the report here.

How Abusive, Biased Policing Destroys Lives

Abusive policing in Tulsa, Oklahoma that targets black people and poor people, diminishes the quality of life in all communities. Human Rights Watch released a video on the eve of the third anniversary of the killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. That killing led Human Rights Watch to investigate everyday police interactions in Tulsa as a window into the larger human rights problems with policing throughout the United States. Read our report from September 2019 here.