East Tennessee PBS hosts preview screening of documentary on African-American funeral traditions

June 18, 2013 - 6:00pm


What: Preview screening of POV documentary "Homegoings"
When: Tuesday, June 18, 6 p.m.
Where: East Tennessee PBS, 1611 Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37917
How much: Free
Contact: 865-595-0220
KNOXVILLE Viewers of East Tennessee PBS are invited to attend a preview screening of POV’s Homegoings, a documentary about African American funeral traditions on Tuesday, June 18, at the station’s studios at 1611 Magnolia Avenue. Doors open at 6 p.m. for refreshments, and the film screens at 7 p.m. The 56-minute documentary will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Hubert Smith, host of "The Hubert Smith Radio Show" on WUTK FM. The panel will include representatives from area churches and mortuaries. This event continues an occasional series of screenings hosted by East Tennessee PBS.
“By watching Homegoings together, we hope to start a conversation with our viewers about their families’ traditions and how they are changing over time,” says Amy Hubbard, ETPBS’s Director of Community Engagement.
In the film, the beauty and grace of African American funerals are brought to life through the eyes of Isaiah Owens, the son of South Carolina sharecroppers who, at age 17, moved to New York City to begin his journey toward becoming a renowned funeral director in Harlem.
Director Christine Turner’s debut feature documentary takes an up-close look at the rarely seen world of undertaking in the black community, where funeral rites draw on a rich palette of tradition, history and celebration. Combining cinema verite with intimate interviews and archival photographs, the film paints a portrait of the dearly departed, their grieving families and a man who sends loved ones "home."
"When it comes to death and funerals, African-American people, we have our own way," says Owens. "It has worked for us throughout the ages; it has kept us balanced, sane. And everybody know[s] that it's going to be a sad, good time."

The term "homegoing" has its roots in the era of the transatlantic slave trade, when many African slaves in the United States thought of death as a reprieve. It was commonly held that dying meant one’s soul would be emancipated and would then return home to ancestral Africa in a “homegoing.” While the phrase “homegoing” is more commonly used in the African-American community today to mean a passing to the afterlife, death still carries a special spiritual significance in African-American culture and is often perceived as a transition rather than a final destination.

The national broadcast premiere of Homegoings on Monday, June 24, at 10 p.m., kicks off the 26th season of the award-winning PBS series POV (Point of View). American television's longest-running independent documentary series, POV was recently honored with a 25-year retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art's 2013 Documentary Fortnight (where Homegoings had its world premiere) and a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.
For more information about this event, contact:
Paige Travis
Communications Coordinator
East Tennessee PBS
865-595-0220, extension 250