*Domestic violence against women of color, specifically Black women, has been a dilemma that has plagued the Black community for decades, perhaps centuries. According to The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) a non-partisan, non-profit research think tank, as of 2017, more than four in ten Black women experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes.
Additionally, according to IWPR, Black women also experience significantly higher rates of psychological abuse- including humiliation, insults, name-calling and coercive control- than all women overall. Sexual violence also affects Black women at high rates- more than 20 percent of Black women are raped during their lifetimes- a higher share than among all women overall. A 2015 Violence Policy Center study finds, according to IWPR, that Black women face a particularly high risk of being killed at the hands of a man- two and a half times more likely to be murdered by men than their White counterparts. And the most disturbing fact about the study- more than nine in ten Black female victims knew their killers.
BET’s original film,”The Hotline,” premiere focuses on domestic violence. One of the 20 minute vignettes, Her Lyfeline, which stars 3-time Grammy nominee Raheem DeVaughn and mega singer/actress Keri Hilson, addresses the plight of domestic violence against Black women, a scourge in the Black community.
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“When the opportunity came along for the film, with Keri, it was perfect, because of the message and what they wanted to talk about and what they wanted to shed light on,” said Raheem DeVaughn. “Anything that’s positive and uplifting or supportive of women, Black women and women in general, I try to make myself part of that.”
Produced by Tressa Azarel Smallwood of MegaMind Media, and directed by Caralene Robinson, “Her Lyfeline“ premieres on BET Her, Saturday, October 23, 2021, (10PM/9PMCT), the 2nd premiere evening of the special Women’s Mental Health Initiative on the network this month. BET Her, in partnership with Tressa, will release three female-centric original short films, directed by prominent African American women, starring diversely talented performers rarely seen in pivotal roles.
“Even though I’ve licensed films to BET previously, being chosen for the second year in a row to produce these crucial initiatives and expand the series with all African-American women in front of and behind the camera exclusively for BET Her is such an honor,” said Tressa Azarel Smallwood in a statement released to the media.
Raheem, who has worked with Tressa previously was honored to be included in the project.
“This is one of many projects I’ve been part of,” said Raheem. “I do title tracks for their projects. I’m no stranger to her team and to her work ethic and it’s an honor to work with Tressa and her camp. I look forward to doing more work with them.”
Shot in Maryland’s Prince George County, The Hotline series, Her Lyfeline, follows London (Grammy nominated Keri Hilson), a popular singer who is trapped in a high-profile, abusive relationship with her producer-boyfriend, King Sire played by Brian Mikhale (A Rich Christmas). London reaches out to a domestic violence hotline under a pseudonym to protect her image as she fights to leave her abuser and maintain their celebrity while keeping it out of the public eye. She ultimately relies on music artist, her former frequent collaborator, ‘Cava,’ portrayed by Raheem DeVaughn, for unconditional support so her character can ultimately find solace.
Raheem DeVaughn was surprised to hear that in Prince George, where he lived, that violence against women was prevalent. He started a foundation, Love Life Foundation, that addresses violence against women, particularly women of color.
“Living in PG County, at the time I started my foundation, it was brought to my attention at that time that we had the highest rate of phone calls for domestic violence in the entire country at the time, right in my backyard,” he said. Unfortunately, domestic violence is prevalent among several communities and Raheem decided to get involved.
“I started seeing a reoccurring theme with the emerging growth of social media and often seeing teenagers getting out of school and young men putting their hands on young girls and teenage girls and vice versa, and it was my way of speaking out and making a difference,” he explained.
He recently recorded a 2021 version of a song featured on his “The Love & War MasterPeace” album “Black and Blue,” that addresses violence against women.
“We speak about domestic violence in particular,” he said. “I wanted to use it as an opportunity to speak against domestic violence. I started the foundation around that time.” His foundation, Love Life Foundation, has special events, specifically for women that have suffered from domestic abuse. “It turned into an event I would do I would call ‘Queen For A Day Spa Takeovers,’” said Raheem. “We’d take over a spa and pamper women who are getting out of severe domestic violence situations.”
DeVaughn, born in Orange, New Jersey, has 9 albums out, including “The Love Experience,” ”A Place Called LoveLand,” and “The Love & War MasterPeace” among others.
“If you like conscious music, that’s probably my most conscious album,” said Raheem DeVaughn. “It has Dr. Cornel West on it. It’s a lot of great music.”
His themes about love, respect for women and romance have always been woven in his music.
“I’ve kind of made a musical pact with the Creator to just never have a record where I call a woman out of their name and that type of thing,” he said. “When I work with hip hop artists and features, I’m very finnicky about what I get on and what I put my voice on and what the message is about. I always stepped out as an artist that marches to the beat of a different drum and represented something that was conscious- that didn’t tear women down, but lift them up.”
Two weeks ago “The Waiting Room” (breast cancer series) featured two 20-minute short films with one directed by Yvette Nicole Brown and the other by Ta’Rhonda Jones bringing light to the compelling issue with heart, grace and humanity while highlighting the disproportionate challenges Black women face when it comes to health care and domestic violence support. All three films are Tressa Azarel Smallwood produces; Shateka “SJ” Johnson, Patrese McClain, Lynette J. Blackwell, Dr. Missy Johnson, Lori Conway Ray, Deshawn Plair & Sade Oylnade are writers; Maggy Francois is casting director; and Kristin Iris Johnson serves as associate producer. The Waiting Room and The Hotline special programming evenings are the second series of films to premiere in the BET Her Presents franchise this year produced by Tressa Azarel Smallwood and production company MegaMind Media.
For more on Raheem DeVaughn and his foundation, visit https://www.lovelifefoundationdmv.org.
For more on Tressa Azarel Smallwood and MegaMind Media, visit https://www.tressaazarel.com/