Fierce Women Podcasters: A conversation with several women filmmakers of color and podcasters discussing emerging Afro-Latino voices in the United States who are working to create more visibility for their communities and experiences. In conversation with Rocio Mendez, Mercedes Ilarraza, Grasie Mercedes, Ona Oghogho, Sola Adenekan, and Julissa Contreras.
Moderated by NYWIFT Program Manager, Barbara Vásconez.
Date: Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021
Time: 4:00pm EST
Location: Zoom (Links can be found in confirmation email)
Rocio Mendez is an award-winning actor, fight and intimacy director and a proud New Yorker committed to building confidence in brown and black girls through storytelling. Rocio has done multiple independent films showcasing their talents in martial arts and comedy. Rocio has worked with a range of theaters nationally including Atlantic Theater Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, and Classical Theater of Harlem, among the many. Rocio has been nominated for multiple awards for their work in Fight Choreography and Movement. Rocio is a team member of UNKLE DAVE’S FIGHT HOUSE – a collective of fight/intimacy/movement directors serving theater, film, and educational institutions. Rocio and Mercedes Podcast focuses on embracing and celebrating blackness in the Dominican community.
Mercedes Ilarraza is a Dominican-born actor, writer, and director, and podcast host. I grew up in the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She draws her inspiration for her characters and stories from her Dominican and Puerto Rican communities. She developed her writing under Allen Davis III and his playwriting unit, Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre writing Unit, and New Federal/Henry Street Unit under Woodie King Jr. Mercedes has written and directed several short plays and films, most of which have socially conscious themes. Her play, Pelo Malo touches on self hated beliefs and embracing the journey of “natural hair”. Her recent play, Waiting Room, touches on gentrification and its effects on the people who were living there before. She also co-wrote a romantic comedy called Angel Whispers. Her most recent writing piece was chosen out of hundreds of submissions as one of Billie Holiday Theatre’s 50in50 writers for their Love in the time of Corona series read by Lisa Arrindell. She made her TV acting debut on The Village on NBC.
Grasie Mercedes-Garcia is an Afro-Latina actress, writer, director, and podcast host from NYC currently residing in Los Angeles, CA. She began her career at MTV Networks as a producer before moving to LA to further pursue her creative endeavors. Grasie recently launched a new podcast called Not (Blank) Enough, where she talks to her guests about everyday insecurities and triumphs. Her acting credits include day roles on 9-1-1 on FOX, Good Trouble on Freeform, The Affair and Masters of Sex on Showtime, Criminal Minds, and the pilot Four Stars for CBS. She has also been featured in over a dozen national commercials and indie films.
Not (Blank) Enough Podcast
Ona Oghogho is the founder and CEO behind Blk Pod Collective; a digital community for Black podcasters and Pod House Media; a full-service podcast production house focused on helping entrepreneurs, businesses, and organizations launch and manage a podcast as part of their marketing strategy. Ona’s background in marketing and communication allows her to uniquely align her skillset with her passion for bringing brand stories to life; while working behind the scenes to diversify the industry.
Sola Adenekan is the daughter of an Engineering Pioneer, who was on the team of engineering designers of the first handheld camcorder at Motorola. She is a granddaughter of the Civil Rights Movement, a businesswoman, a mother, a mathematician, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and a videographer for the Women’s March. She is the founder of Transmit Media and the forthcoming immersive social impact podcast network. Transmit Media is a multimedia podcast production company that creates socially driven content designed to activate progressive audiences. Their groundbreaking content includes the forthcoming multimedia podcast, The Kitchen Tables Series, which brings together elected officials, candidates running for office and people affected directly by social issues together in a “virtual” room to craft policy solutions to those issues. Past guests have included Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, US Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Ayanna Pressley, and activists Angie Kearse, Emerald Garner and journalist Nylah Burton. She is a graduate of New York University and is pursuing graduate studies at Harvard University.
FB: Transmit Media
Julissa Contreras, Dominicana from the Bronx, is a creator of the Ladies Who Bronché podcast and the YouTube hit Shit Spanish Girls Say. She is a writer, poet, actor, and innovator. Julissa worked in the nonprofit industry for over 10 years both in theatrical and youth development capacities and continues to bridge the two worlds to create dialogue and art that reflects society’s overlooked voices through advocacy. In all of her work, Julissa focuses on elevating necessary dialogue through creating connected experiences. Julissa worked with Miguel Mckelvey at WeWork developing and managing Impact and diversity, equity, & inclusion programming. Recently Julissa’s work has been commissioned and featured in Atlantic Theater’s African Caribbean Mixfest, Latinx Playwright’s Circle’s Greater Good Commission, Intar Theater, Harlem 9’s 48 Hours in el Bronx, and the BX Writer’s Year Gone Hazy anthology. Currently, Julissa has been consulting companies and institutions on DEI, leveraging her online platform to bring light to social inequality, with a passion for black lives, Trans Lives, and prosperity for all, as well as being a featured playwright in the MTA Radio Plays.
Ladies Who Bronche
IG & Twitter: @jewleesah
Barbara Vásconez (moderator) is the Program Manager at New York Women in Film & Television. Before joining NYWIFT, she held the position of General Manager at the Quad Cinema for three years. She has worked for a variety of film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, Hamptons Film Festival, Montclair Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, DOC NYC, and the Nantucket Film Festival. Her spare time is spent programming panels and creating unique community engagement opportunities for the New York Latino Film Festival. In 2019, she launched and founded the Ville Film Festival in Somerville, New Jersey. In 2020, she joined the Ecuadorian Film Festival as Co-Director. Her educational goals include working to develop film programs in New Jersey that improve film education for low income students. She works on amplifying the Latinx community and speaking on important issues like immigration and minimum wage. She is committed to the importance of film as a means of community engagement. Barbara has a degree in Film and Video Production from the School of Visual arts in NYC and holds a Business certificate from W.O.R.C in Philadelphia.
Produced by NYWIFT Board Member Zenaida Mendez.
Free Virtual Q and A
NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.