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The Legacy of Black Women Union Leaders

Above photo: A Border Patrol Tactical Unit cameraman documenting their raid on the No More Deaths camp July 31, 2020. This footage is at the heart of our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security.

​​It’s been a year since we initiated the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the federal government in Skylight v. US Department of Homeland Security, to release footage filmed by the Border Patrol of their military style raid on the No More Deaths humanitarian aid camp on July 31, 2020 near the U.S.–Mexico border. Border Patrol says they have no filmed footage of the raid that day, in spite of the fact that one of the No More Deaths volunteers present photographed this image of an agent with a professional motion picture camera and stabilizer.

Our lawyers at the American Immigration Council are doubling down, determined to find film of this nearly two-hour raid that detained the volunteers, handcuffing them and taking their phones so that they could not document the assault in progress. It is estimated that more than 30 people receiving food, water, medical aid and shelter from 100 degree desert heat were arrested by the Border Patrol and taken away, their fate unknown.

We intend to include the footage in our film Borderland as part of the story that depicts the abusive tactics by Border Patrol against immigrants entering the country and the efforts of grassroots communities who organize and fight back against these inhumane policies.


A newspaper clipping from 1979, featuring Gloria Jordan and the strike she helped organize.

Our first documentary, Resurgence (1981) featured the Black women union leadership at the Sanderson Farms meat packing plant as they battled factory owners and the Ku Klux Klan in Laurel, Mississippi for better working conditions. The Vice President of the Union was an extraordinary woman named Gloria Jordan. A few weeks ago Gloria’s granddaughter Tiffanie got in touch to say that she was writing a book about Gloria and had heard about Resurgence and wanted to show it at the local PBS station in Mississippi during Black History Month.

Though the women didn’t win that union battle, it changed their lives and the lives of their communities forever. Today, Tiffanie is carrying on the legacy of Gloria, determined that her grandmother will not be forgotten. To contribute to that effort, we are mounting an effort to make a 4K digital master from our original 16mm film. Stay tuned for updates!


Irwin Young, courtesy the Young family.

The film lab and media center that was in the Young family for three generations, DuArt, closed its doors this past year. Soon afterwards, our beloved Irwin Young died. I think Irwin ran the lab so that he could live a life of total immersion in the independent film scene. He was a real friend to filmmakers and extended deep lines of credit to even the most commercially questionable films. He loved documentaries. He explained it was because they weren’t commercially minded, they were looking for social dividends.

Irwin let us do our entire developing, post production, and print finishing for When the Mountains Tremble on credit, because he felt that the story was explosive and needed to be told. And this is one example among a thousand films he nurtured. Irwin was a great friend to many Latin American filmmakers who would travel to New York city, just to work with him and DuArt. Irwin was a leader in the development of the cinematic arts, his contribution here and abroad was enormous.

Pamela Yates

Pamela Yates is an award-winning film director and the co-founder of Skylight, a not-for-profit media organization that for over 35 years has combined cinematic arts with the quest for justice to inspire the defense of human rights. Skylight’s films and programs strengthen social justice movements and catalyze collaborative networks of artists and activists.

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