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Maya Cade lectures to audience with PowerPoint slide to her left.
Connecting Communities Digital Initiative Scholar-in-Residence Maya Cade gives a lecture on tenderness in Black film, February 21, 2024. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress. Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.

Recording available for Try a Little Tenderness with Maya Cade

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You can now enjoy the recording of Maya Cade’s Try a Little Tenderness lecture on the Library’s website and YouTube channel. Both include captions and transcripts.

Maya Cade stands in front of podium and screen before an audience in a small theater.
Maya Cade defines tenderness in Black film, February 21, 2024. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.
Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.

Maya wowed the in-person and virtual audiences with her take on tenderness in Black film. Maya also unveiled the relaunch of her website, Black Film Archive, which includes a new exhibition, Tenderness in Black Film. There you can find dozens of films that register tenderness in categories that Maya has outlined as distinct nodes: community, familial, romantic, self and soul.

“1. With community —friends and neighbors— tenderness appears as an investment in the betterment of each other through gestures of understanding and deepened connection. This investment allows us to see possibilities our families may not have been able to provide or teach. Throughout Black cinema, these visions can manifest in dramas or comedies.

2. Tenderness is defined on this site as pointed moments of affection where Black possibility, transformation, and connection bloom. Familial tenderness is often planted in the image of our heritage where our first indications and lessons of tenderness’s possibilities are planted. Throughout Black cinema, these visions manifest in familial stories, home videos, and dramas.

3. The tenderness of romance is manifested through an embrace, a loving gaze, an unfolding of the truest self, and the opening of hearts in the way romance promises. Romantic love can often be seen in Black film as the prize for survival in Black dramas or the hope of tenderness’s transformation in romantic home videos. Romantic love is not a singular vision or the model of our tender beings but exists on a spectrum of the warmth we welcome in our lifetimes.

4. Tenderness of self & soul is manifested through portraits of dynamic expression of our lives on film that enhances our capacity for understanding. This can be seen through the director who takes a lens to the lives of a Black community that would otherwise be invisible or from an artist turning a lens on themselves to reveal a truth that only comes from transformation.”

We invite you to check out Maya’s archive of tenderness here.

Want more from Maya? Here’s an interview with Maya. Also, join us at our upcoming Summer Fuse event on Monday, June 24, where Maya will introduce the new Artists/Scholars in Residence, Maya Freelon and Allie Martin. Register for the webinar here.


CCDI is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path program with support from the Mellon Foundation. This program provides fellowships and grants to individuals and institutions for projects that innovate, imagine, and remix Library materials to highlight the stories and perspectives of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color from any of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and its territories and commonwealths (Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands). Learn more about CCDI here.

For more about the Library’s historic Of the People initiative, click here.

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