Lebanon's grandmothers shine in WEPA's movie premier for 'Our Grandmothers' Voices'

Surrounded by friends, family and supporters, these grandmothers got to take a stroll down the red carpet on Saturday for the premier of WEPA Empowerment Center's debut film, "Our Grandmothers' Voices."

The bilingual film, roughly 35 minutes long, followed interviews from 12 grandmothers living in Central Pennsylvania, imparting their wisdom, shared stories of their past and forewarned parents and youth of what they see today.

Ten of the grandmothers were honored just before the premier, walking down a red carpet of their own to front row seats for the show. It was the first time that they were shown the final product.

The crowd, composed of family members, WEPA supporters, and special guests like Mrs. Pennsylvania Earth, Deborah Hornick and Ms. Senior America 2019 & 2020 Esmeralda Ybarra Hetrick.

Patrons were greeted by a photographer, as well as a warm welcome from Hornick, before enjoying horderves, conversation and live music, ahead of opening the remarks by those involved in the production of the film as well as Hornick.

The film was met with a thunderous applause of positive feedback.

Maribel Torres, co-founder of WEPA, gave some opening remarks before the premier, touching on the premise of the film and the inception of the idea.

The idea for the film came from WEPA co-founder Maribel Torres, who herself did not grow up with her grandmothers in her life. She found a similar series of videos online while looking for ideas for programing, about grandmothers in Argentina, who were leading a movement to find their grandchildren.

"It dawned on me that I never met my two grandmothers," Torres said. "I never had the privilege of knowing them. So, you know, once someone is no longer here with us because unfortunately we all have to go through death. I thought to myself how can we preserve the voices, and specifically in our community, how can we preserve some of the voices of our grandmothers in the community."

The movie was produced by Solomon Ortiz, owner of production company Glass & Sensor and WEPA board member, who was immediately on board with the idea once talking with Maribel.

While the film will be installed as a permanent exhibit in the future student lounge of WEPA, perpetually playing on a loop and gradually added to with more grandmother interviews over time, Ortiz said that they were currently working out additional distribution avenues.

While each subject was asked the same set of questions, what they spoke about was unique to them. Ranging from advice on how to live the best life possible, to what needs to be done next, each one of the grandmothers had something important to say.

The grandmothers featured in the film walked down a red carpet between the viewers to their front-row seats before it was shown.

Albertine Washington, the first interview in the film, spoke about persevering through adversity, including how she was learning to live alone with the recent passing of her husband, as well as making the changes in life necessary to become the best version of oneself by constantly reexamining who you are now and loving who you are to the fullest.

"I've had opportunities to talk about certain topics, but this is the first opportunity for my voice as a grandparent, so I was really talking from a perspective of being a grandparent as opposed to speaking as a retired teacher, an African American, or (someone) living in Lebanon."

Former mayor of Lebanon City Jackie Parker was also interviewed for the film and spoke about a moment of adversity in her life, when the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in the city in 2000. Parker, in response, held a unity day to bring the community together.

She also discussed what she sees as a step back in equity, not just in Lebanon but all over, as housing, education and good jobs have become less accessible for more people, expressing displeasure with the world that the Baby Boomer generation created for younger generations.

"When I was first asked to do it, I didn't really get the big picture of what it would be. So I knew it was going to be grandmothers being interviewed, but I didn't know how it was going to be put together or what it would be like and it turned out really well, I thought."

Grandmothers from the film, along with Maribel (lower middle) and Rafael Torres (lower right) and Solomon Ortiz (lower left) pose with Mrs. Pennsylvania Earth, Deborah Hornic (crown, right) and 2020 Ms. Senior America Esmeralda Ybarra-Hetrick (crown, left).

This is the first event that WEPA has put on since officially opening its doors last month. Co-founder Rafael Torres said during the opening remarks that he would work to put on more events like this moving forward.

Maribel said that they would likely hold another event in the future honoring grandmothers, and put on a Three Kings Day celebration in January as they did early this year.

Daniel Larlham Jr. is a reporter for the Lebanon Daily News. Reach him at DLarlham@LDNews.com or on X @djlarlham.

This article originally appeared on Lebanon Daily News: WEPA Empowerment Center's film, 'Our Grandmothers' Voices,' premiers