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Celeste A. Bateman's New Documentary "Gone Too Soon: The Life, Legacy and Loss of Newark’s Cultural Icons"

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Gone Too Soon is a new documentary from arts advocate and film maker Celeste A. Bateman

Gone Too Soon: The Life, Legacy and Loss of Newark’s Cultural Icons is a documentary project that examines the lives as well as the artistic, cultural and educational contributions of several of Newark’s cultural icons.

The featured in the doc are Cephas Bowles, former WBGO Presdient and CEO, Poet/Playwright/Activist Amiri Baraka, Poets Breya “Blkbrry Mollassez” Knight and Halim Suliman; Actor/Director/Arts Administrator Rodney Gilbert, Historians Dr. Clement Alexander Price, Charles Cummings and Dr. Robert Curvin, Artists  Russell Murray and Jerry Gant and theater producer Kabu Okai-Davies.

The 90-minute documentary is the work of arts advocate, filmmaker and licensed booking agent Celeste A. Bateman from Newark.

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Doug Doyle/Zoom
Arts advocate and filmmaker Celeste A. Bateman chats with WBGO's Doug Doyle about her new documentary that highlights the lives of Newark's cultural icons

Bateman spoke with WBGO Journal host and News Director Doug Doyle via Zoom.

"I decided in 2016 that I was going to do a documentary and I was inspired by bassist Mimi Jones and the documentary she did on Bertha Hope. The Women In Media-Newark of which I have been a part of for about 11 years, we sponsor the International Women's Film Festival on an annual basis and we showed at WBGO Mimi's interview, her documentary on Bertha Hope and I was just so inspired by that, just putting down while she's alive her outstanding history and outstanding accomplishments of the jazz pianist. Then in early 2018, I just realized that so many of our cultural leaders had passed away in a short period of time. We loosely examined a 15-year period and it just struck me one day. I wrote a Facebook post about it and a lot of people weighed in. And when I looked at it all, I said this has really changed from my point of view the landscape of the City, that we lost of all of these people in a 15-year period."

Celeste A. Bateman is also a member of the Women In Media's International Film Festival

Bateman says her connections to WBGO go back to the early years and she was impressed with former President and CEO Cephas Bowles brought to the public radio station in Newark.

"I had served on the Board of Director of WBGO for five years, but just as I was transitioning off the board, Cephas was coming on board as the General Manager. What I found special was his circuitous career in a sense, in that he came to us from the Midwest, but he was in effect coming home because he actually grew up in the City of Newark. I just thought it was a wonderful happenstance for him as a broadcaster for this station that we were bringing this man back home who along the way had gained extraordinary skills in the area of radio broadcasting and public radio. We have an interview with Bob Costas, they had gone to Syracuse University together, but Bob gave us a series of wonderful statements about Cephas, not only about what an extraordinary broadcaster he was but what an extraordinary person he was. Dorthaan (Kirk) talks specifically about his acumen of raising funds for the station."

Cephas Bowles died February 21, 2015 in Hackensack, New Jersey, from complications from a stem cell transplant. He was 62.

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"Gone Too Soon" is a documentary from Celeste A. Bateman

Bateman says Bowles and the other subjects of the doc can't be forgotten. What did Bateman learn from doing this project?

"I learned the importance and the value of working as a team. Me as the filmmaker, me as the director, I get a lot of accolades, the feedback from this film has been absolutely extraordinary, we've got a lot of hits on social media and positive feedback, but it really takes a team. I've worked alone for a very long time. I've been working from home since the late 90's. This is the first major project that I got to work with a team, two members are my sons, so that was very special to me."

Celeste's son, actor Jamil A.C. Mangan, is the narrator of the documentary while her son Carter "Rock" Mangan, Jr. is the film's Sound Recorder and Music Director.

You can see the entire conversation with Celeste A. Bateman here and get more information about Gone Too Soon at https://celestebateman.com/.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.