Director: Josef Adamu / Executive Producer: Herrana Addisu / Director of Photography: Bradley Virshup / Gaffer: Jeremy Herrom / / 1st AC: Jack
Kelly / Production Assistant: Mia Aba / Production Manager: Sarah Maria / Production Assistant: Hanif Castle / Sound: Jackie Mitchell / Wardrobe Stylist and Casting DIrector: Simone Sullivan / Set Assistant: Savahleetah McGee / Talent 1: Mackenzie / Talent: 2 Maya
Dress Rehearsal is a film inspired by Amanda Gorman, who, in 2017, was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. By 2021, she became the youngest poet to recite her poem “The Hill We Climb” at a presidential inauguration. The 22-year-old captivated the Biden inaugural audience and viewers from all across the globe with her depiction of a painful history and an unshakeable hope for the future. Gorman has since recited a poem at the 2021 Super Bowl, co-hosted the 2021 Met Gala, and was named an Estee Lauder Global Changemaker.
Dress Rehearsal captures the curiosity and creative imagination of a young girl filled with aspirations. The film features Mackenzie Shelton, an 11-year-old girl from Brooklyn, and her mother, Maya Shelton. As all children do, Mackenzie seeks to take advantage of having some time at home alone, as her mother, Maya, heads out to run some errands. Mackenzie rummages through her and her mother’s belongings to style an ensemble resembling the attire infamously worn by Amanda Gorman when reciting “The Hill We Climb” during the presidential inauguration. Seizing the opportunity to recreate a moment that moves her, she positions herself in front of her mother’s vanity, and recites “We will rise from the golden hills of the West…”
Amanda Gorman’s inaugural speech touched the hearts of many. Her courage, resilience, and representation continue to empower and motivate black youth across the world. Her color-blocked elegance was distinguished and memorable, and her confidence radiated through her words. This singular moment has had an immeasurable impact, influencing many youth.
Dress Rehearsal sheds light on the importance of representation and access to black literature within our school systems. Students face limited access to Black literature and related works. As a result, Black students, authors, and educators are being marginalized in the public school system. An instance of this occurred in March 2023, when Miami-Dade County in Florida removed Amanda Gorman's poem from the curriculum of K-8 students. This decision followed complaints from parents about the nature of Gorman's work, which focuses on issues of feminism, race, marginalization, and oppression. Such incidents present barriers for students to learn about the rich history of Black Americans.
We have partnered with Color Of Change — one of the nation's largest racial justice organizations — to amplify the significance of education justice and support their campaigns to bring equity to the education system.
Maya Shelton is a single mom of two beautiful children born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She works for a non-profit and as a freelance make-up artist. For her, community means feeling secure and comfortable in your space; having fellowship with your chosen family; and feeling unconditionally supported and protected, in your home and immediate surroundings.
In discussing her experience being a black woman and mother to a young black girl, she refers to a constant state of admiration and fear. She shares, “I want to protect her and shield her from the world but also want to provide her with the proper tools to navigate this world with her head held high.” She shines light on the fear of falling short of leading by example, as she too is still learning what it means to be a black woman and person navigating complex and new situations, adding “Nobody teaches us how to teach relentless self-love in a world that is hell-bent on telling us that we are no enough.” She describes her role as a mother as one not only meant to guide her daughter on how to thrive but also meant to assure Mackenzie that blackness is not only a strength but an asset.
Mackenzie Shelton is a 12-year-old girl, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She aspires to one day become a singer or dancer, an activist, and a loving mother. When asked what community means to her, she says “It means people gather together and they are a whole. Community means family. You can depend on your community”. Looking ahead, Mackenzie shares her longing for equality, to see the 14th amendment actualized through equal protection for all, adding “I want to see my family happy. I want to see a healthy environment”.