Daughter of Guyanese immigrants Deborah Jane is first Black woman to produce a cinematic hip-hop musical

Dollita Okine August 02, 2023
Deborah Jane Burke has become the first Black woman to ever produce a cinematic Hip-Hop musical, Strange Fruit: The Hip-Hopera. Photo Credit: LinkedIn Deborah jane Burke

Deborah Jane is the first Black woman to ever produce a cinematic Hip-Hop musical, Strange Fruit: The Hip-Hopera. The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana California recently hosted a Red Carpet Gala and Film Premiere in honor of her film.  

The plot of Strange Fruit, which will soon be produced as a feature film, follows LaShelle Robinson, a contemporary African-American Wall Street executive, as she travels back in time to free her enslaved ancestor from a lynching in order to lift a hereditary curse. “Hear the Cry,” the musicalized cotton field scene of the film which premiered, made a lasting impression by expressing the strength and unadulterated emotion that define Strange Fruit’s story.

According to Black News, the event was a significant turning point that marked the beginning of a series of events aimed at advancing international racial harmony. It also signaled the establishment of House of Deborah Jane Studios, a multiracial production company whose goals include promoting varied viewpoints in movies and changing people’s lives on a moral and spiritual level.

In the Santa Ana area, a local church known as The Sound has joined with the studio and the two are raising funds for the purpose of converting Strange Fruit into a feature film.

There were over 150 attendees, including local leaders and entertainment industry experts at the event. The evening also featured a Broadway-style concert that traced Strange Fruit’s 20-year transformation.

Having written and performed songs for over 20 years, Jane is a hip-hop recording artist and playwright. According to IMDB, She is a Guyanese immigrant’s daughter who as the only black family on her block felt invisible growing up in a predominantly white suburb. By composing, performing in musicals, and listening to hip-hop, she was able to escape the emotional burden of racism. This ignited her love for social justice and the power of music to tell compelling stories.

Strange Fruit, named after Billie Holiday’s iconic song, has been in the works since Jane’s junior year at Stanford University, where she originally produced it as an award-winning play. In 2022, her multicultural film studio, House of Deborah Jane Studios, filmed the musicalized cotton fields dance scene in Georgia as a proof-of-concept for a future feature film.

House of Deborah Jane Studios now intends to start a Strange Fruit College Tour that will feature daring cinema, performances, and discussions about race.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 2, 2023


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