dream is a legendary writer, filmmaker, organizer and, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most humble celebrity-activist whisperers around. (Side note: I don’t just throw around the word legendary. See photos of dream with her close friend, the late Notorious B.I.G., for proof of just how long she’s been organizing, making art and pushing cultural influencers to do what’s right and grow creatively and politically.)
She’s also unflinchingly confident, having recognized early on that likability and other people’s opinions about who she should be and what she should believe were far less important than the principles that guide her life: truth and intellect. Whether as the producer of the award-winning New York Times video short, The War On Drugs Is An Epic Fail, narrated by Jay-Z; the filmmaker of the 2016 documentary, Treasure: From Tragedy to TransJustice; the writer behind an upcoming collection of essays on Detroit; the behind-the-scenes convener and nurturer of activists all over the world; or the mother to a lovely college-age daughter, she always grounds her work in what she believes to be important and true, whether popular or not.
Maybe if we all we stopped trying so hard to be liked, to be something or someone different from who we are, and instead got about the business of owning our truth and changing the world, we’ll be half as prolific as she is. I certainly hope so.
Erica: Do you feel limited by anything?
dream: Yeah. I have the responsibility of parenthood, so I have tuition I have to pay. Regardless of, say, if I want to just unplug and get off the grid. Or turn down particular checks. That hasn’t been an option for me and probably won’t be for a while ’cause now I see that this younger generation, their opportunities have been limited economically…I don’t have this way of dissing millennials because you have to live, like, eight in an apartment, or at your parents’ house. It was flush in the ’90s.
Erica: Thank you for saying that!…We didn’t create this kind of chaos, this environment, and in the narrative of “follow your dreams” — which is inspiring and wonderful and people should — there’s not enough talk about reality and constraints and the social context we’re trying to thrive in.
dream: And it may be about getting new dreams. One of the things that happened in Detroit was that houses were burned down or abandoned after black flight and then the wild started to reclaim it. My old neighborhood is full of pheasants. You can go hunting for pheasants! A lot of those lands were reclaimed by neighbors who grew farms. So there’s a way that the lens itself has to adjust.
Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.