A first-generation American, born of Caribbean (St. Kitts-Nevis) heritage in 1980’s East New York, Brooklyn, Tamika Guishard’s ultimate goal as a filmmaker is to foster a re-birth of the after-school special for today’s urban youth. She aims to incite critical dialog within communities and between generations.

Her first foray into film/video, “Hip-Hop Gurlz” (2003,) completed the winter after graduating with a double major in Communications & Afro-American Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, was a video diary exploring the link between today’s hip-hop music videos and adolescent girls’ self-esteem. Although HHG was screened at scholarly conferences and youth symposiums nationwide, it was Ms. Guishard’s return to East New York as a seventh grade Social Studies teacher that cemented her desire to make films that entertain, enlighten, and teach.

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Tamika Guishard is a true believer in civic duty, media arts, and education. “To whom much is given, much is required,” her secondary school’s motto, was fortified during her boarding school years at Phillips Andover.  These Non Sibi or “not for one’s self”  fundamentals have uniquely shaped her understanding of the world.  A resulting “birdseye aesthetic” informs her narrative work, eye-opening documentaries, and holistic curricula.   She has lectured classes at Brooklyn’s Automotive High School, screening her films with accompanying lesson plans over the past four springs as a Rooftop Films “Teaching Artist.”

At NYU’s Graduate Film program Ms. Guishard learned how to recycle her teaching capacity into lasting stories for the screen: to live on through word-of-mouth, in classrooms and, eventually, theaters.  As a thesis film student she continues to weave civic responsibility and education into her projects, as shown in her 2007 television documentary.  “Wounded::Sovereign,” which details the explosive Native American Treaty Rights Activism of the early seventies, being just one example.

As a Park Ranger for the National Park Service, Ms. Guishard has recently organized a three-day intensive for the African Burial Ground National Monument’s first Teachers’ Institute.  In addition to interpreting the African Burial Ground for the public, Ms. Guishard has also conceptualized and produced “Digital Diaries,” a collaboration between the National Park Service, WNET/PBS, and the Harlem Children’s Zone.

A natural storyteller, Ms. Guishard’s scripts often reflect her comedic nature, or even her love of dance. Her first feature screenplay “DiDE (D-Day,)” the story of a drug dealer and his estranged, addict mother, was a finalist for the 2009 Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab.  Propelled by traditional and contemporary African Diasporic rhythms, it is the cinematic adaptation of a dance theatre performance she had produced in her junior year at PENN.  This type of storytelling was a first for African Rhythms and co-authored by Zenzele Royster (seasoned Philadelphia poet) and Jeffrey Page (NAACP Image Award-nominated choreographer) in 2000.  Since college, Tamika has gone on to perform with Forces of Nature Dance Theater and Bambara Drum & Dance Ensemble, respectively.

Ms. Guishard is currently raising funds and hard at work on her thesis film, “Jackie.,” a short about an Ivy Leaguer raised in the New York City foster care system who meets her birth mother for the first time. “Jackie.” examines what society asks of its youth—even after abandoning them. This story will resonate with children and parents, the homeless and the privileged, guarded souls and vulnerable spirits.

With one foot in the industry and the other grounded in community, Ms. Guishard’s films are united by their gritty realities and an urgent sense of humanity.