Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl: The Life of Vertamae Smart

Photo credit via

Photo credit via

Julie Dash, the amazing director behind Daughters of the Dust, Illusions and The Rosa Parks Story has created a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to support her latest film, Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl.  To continue production, the team needs to raise $55,000, which is no small feat with only three days left.  This documentary tells the overlooked and often forgotten life story of culinary anthropologist, actress, writer and poet Vertamae Smart Grosvenor.

We had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Dash in 2007 at a film festival in Columbus, Ohio, and to say we’re excited she is releasing another film would be an understatement.  As we so often mention here at Black Chick Media, the lives of African-American women are hardly ever told…And don’t even get us started on the lack of recognition and support for women filmmakers (African-American or otherwise).

Please join us in supporting this fabulous project and legendary director.  Follow the film on Twitter at @SocialGeechee and Facebook:



In 2004, The Library of Congress placed Daughters of the Dust in the National Film Registry where it joins a select group of American films preserved and protected as national treasures. Ms. Dash is the only African American woman whose film work has become a part of the National Film Registry.

Twenty-three years ago, filmmaker Julie Dash broke through racial and gender boundaries with her Sundance award-winning film (Best Cinematography) Daughters of the Dust, and she became the first African American woman to have a wide theatrical release of a feature film. The Sundance Collective inducted Daughters of the Dust into its Archives in 2012.

Julie Dash is currently in production on a feature length documentary about Vertamae Smart Grosvenor, a world-renowned author, performer, and chef from rural South Carolina who has led a remarkably unique and complex life. The film is based upon Grosvenor’s bestselling work, Vibration Cooking: or the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl.

Dash has written and directed movies for CBS, BET, ENCORE STARZ, SHOWTIME, MTV Movies and HBO, directing, the NAACP Image Award winning, Emmy and DGA nominated, The Rosa Parks Story, Incognito, Funny Valentines, Love Song, and Subway Stories: Tales From the Underground. Every High School in the United States has copies of The Rosa Parks Story. Her work as a Film Director includes theme park, Disney’s Imagineering, and museum design Brothers of the Borderland for The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Museum. Her work includes music videos, documentary, commercial spots, PSA’s, industrial films.

Film retrospectives of her work have been held in Beijing, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Paris, England, India, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Film festivals are too numerous to list.

Ms. Dash earned her M.F.A. in Film & Television production at UCLA; received her B.A. in Film Production from CCNY, and she was a Conservatory Fellow at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies, Class of ‘74. When not working on her projects Ms. Dash is a frequent lecturer at many of the leading Universities in the United States.

Julie Dash holds the 2013, Bob Allison Chair in Media at Wayne State University.

Directing Reel:

Rachel Watanabe–Batton, Producer

Watanabe-Batton has over fifteen years of media and entertainment experience working across various platforms, including film, television, new media, commercials and music videos. Watanabe-Batton began her career in feature film development at Warner Brothers, working for Australian director Peter Weir on the film Fearless. She has produced short films including, The Killers and Bajodel Perro, and has been an associate producer on independent features including Ripe and The Book of Love. Watanabe-Batton also worked on Democracy in South Africa, a feature documentary about Nelson Mandela, and produced the documentary Cutting Edge for HBO, as well as Insider Trading With Gabrielle Reece. She is Vice Chair of the Producers Guild of America East (PGA), and Chair of PGA’s Diversity Committee.

Juanita Anderson, Producer

Juanita Anderson is a veteran producer and documentary filmmaker whose work has centered on the African American experience, the arts, and social issues that give voice to diverse perspectives in the Americas. As an executive producer, Anderson has launched more than twenty-five station and independent projects into the national PBS schedule and has guided the work of nearly forty independent producers across the nation.  Anderson’s work has garnered numerous national awards including the NBPC Prized Pieces Award, the George Foster Peabody Award and a DuPont Columbia Silver Baton for excellence in broadcast journalism, in addition to seven regional Emmys for her work in local public television. Her exhibition credits include producer/director of the Favorite Poem Project: Chicago (2014) online at, 18th and Vine a People’s Journey, on permanent exhibition on permanent exhibition at the Horace M. Peterson Visitors Center of the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri; and executive producer and segment director of the Favorite Poem Video Anthology, originally commissioned for the Bicentennial of the Library of Congress. Anderson is currently a member of the Media Arts and Studies faculty in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University.

Patricia Williams Lessane, PhD, Executive Producer and Principal Advisor

Patricia Lessane is the Executive Director of The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, a post she has held since 2010. She is an affiliate faculty member in Sociology and Anthropology, Women’s and Gender Studies, and African American Studies. Lessane began her teaching career at Chicago State University in the English department in 1996. She earned her doctorate in Cultural Anthropology in 2005. She was a faculty member at Roosevelt University from 2008-2010. She is co-editing We Hold These Memories Inside of We: Examining Daughters of the Dust and the Black Arts Aesthetic of Julie Dash, accepted for publication by the University of South Carolina Press. Lessane began her museum career at The Field Museum as a graduate researcher in the Center for Cultural Understanding and Change, before working as the community liaison for the “Wrapped In Pride” exhibition. She was the Project Administrator for the museum’s Diversity Project until 2006. From 2008-2010, Lessane worked as a consultant on the Museum of Science and Industry’s annual “Black Creativity” exhibition and programs, where she developed and facilitated lectures, workshops, and panel discussions around African Americans in film, medicine, and the green energy movement. Lessane is currently an executive board member of Collegium of African American Research (CAAR), and a board member of the Coastal Conservation League.

David Claessen, Director of Photography/Cinematographer

David Claessen has shot documentary films for Dutch, French, and British Television, and has worked on several major feature film projects for Lionsgate, Universal, TriMark, New World, Viacom, and the Weinstein Company. Claessen also completed several films with Julie Dash, including The Rosa Parks Story for the CBS Television Network.

Bernard Gourley, Line Producer

Bernard Gourley is a producer, director and photographer. His production credits include the comedy feature Uncle P (2009), the action feature, Clean Ops the Chronicles of V (2012), and the television feature documentary, Why We Laugh: Funny Women (2013).

Lillian Benson, ACE, Editor

Veteran editor Lillian Benson has committed to join the project. She has edited a wide range of both narrative and documentary projects including Wounded Knee, Beyond the Steps: Alvin Ailey American Dance, and for the series Freedom Riders, The Great Depression series, as well as four episodes of the landmark series Eyes on the Prize II. Benson was the first African American female editor selected for membership in American Cinema Editors (ACE), the internationally recognized honorary society of film editors. She currently serves on its Board of Directors.

Mary Battle, Research Consultant
Mary Battle is the Public Historian at the Avery Research Center. She received her PhD in Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts from Emory University in 2013. Battle has professional experience in museums, including the Smithsonian Institution. Her research interests include African American history and culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry, public history, digital humanities, and oral history.






Filmed Interviews with Scholars/Artists/Activists include:

Hugh Masekela musician, trumpeter, Black Arts Movement, South African antiapartheid activist, co-composer on food opera Nyam (longtime friend, shared birthday with Vertamae and Maya Angelou)

Rafia Zafar Professor of English, African & African American and American Culture Studies, Washington University in St. Louis


Quincy Troupe poet, Black Arts Movement, editor, journalist, friend; worked on food opera, Nyam; professor emeritus at the UC San Diego California (best known as biographer of Miles Davis).

Farah Jasmine Griffin William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies, Columbia University, (and author of Who Set You Flowin’: The African American Migration Narrative (Oxford, 1995), co-editor, with Cheryl Fish, of Stranger in the Village: Two Centuries of African American Travel Writing (Beacon, 1998).

Jessica B Harris Culinary historian and educator; English professor at Queens College, CUNY; author of 12 cookbooks documenting food and foodways of the African diaspora, including High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, founding board member of Southern Foodways Alliance.

Sonia Sanchez poet, activist, scholar, developed Black Studies program at San Francisco State University; and was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University; recipient of Robert Frost Medal and Langston Hughes Poetry Award (and longtime friend to Smart-Grosvenor and co-editor of SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Reader).

Barbara Watanabe Batton activist, educator, teacher to Smart-Grosvenor’s youngest daughter during 1968 NYC Teachers’ Strike; slept in school with parents/students.

Ted Wilson writer, poet, Black Arts Movement (and longtime friend to Vertamae and Amiri Baraka).

Psyche Williams-Forson culinary anthropologist; Associate Professor, American Studies University of Maryland (and author of Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, & Power; and wrote the introduction to the 4th edition, Vibration Cooking).

Woodie King, Jr. producer, New Federal Theater, filmmaker, Black Arts, Black Cinema (and producer of play, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuff).

Danny Glover actor, producer, humanitarian, friend (and repeated guest on NPR).

Margaret Porter Troupe writer, friend; Harlem Arts Salon; producer, food opera, Nyam.

Nancy M. Grace Beat Literature; Director of The Center for Diversity and Global Engagement and Virginia Myers Professor of English, College of Wooster (and author of Girls Who Wore Black: Women Writing the Beat Generation).

Fabio Parasecoli writer, Associate Professor and coordinator, Food Studies Program, The New School.

LeRoy Henderson renowned photographer (documented Smart-Grosvenor’s visit/time as a chef with Muhammad Ali).

Marshall Allen musician, saxophonist, age 90, longtime member and director of Sun Ra Arkestra since 1957.

Danny Rae Thompson musician with the Sun Ra Arkestra.

Sue Goodwin National Public Radio producer, friend, (and has said of Smart-Grosvenor, “Not many preceded her using food as a lens. You know the saying, there’s a universe in a grain of sand? That’s what she did with food. You saw the entirety of America’s history with race through food.”

Olu Dara musician, singer, friend; composer, food opera, Nyam (father of rapper Nas).

Manthia Diawara writer, filmmaker, cultural theorist, scholar; Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Cinema Studies, New York University (and author of Black-American Cinema: Aesthetics and Spectatorship; and We Won’t Budge: An African in Exile in the World).

James E. Smethurst Black Arts Movement scholar, and UMass Amherst, Schomburg Fellow (and co-editor of SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Reader).

Sam Waymon composer, musician (and Nina Simone’s brother and friend to Smart-Grosvenor since teenage years in Philadelphia).

Michelle Materre film producer, writer, educator; Assistant Professor of Media Studies at The New School; distribution and marketing specialist; managed theatrical release of Daughters of the Dust; and film programmer, Creatively Speaking.