April 15, 1945 – June 17, 2023
Cheryl Chisholm, daughter of Harriet Nash and Charles Sumner Chisholm and
mother to Hallie Spencer Hobson, transitioned to become an ancestor on June 17, 2023.
Cheryl: thinker, voracious reader, intellectual, aesthete, Aries, excellent cook, iconoclast, cinephile, art collector, traveler, clothes horse. Cheryl: friend, student, teacher, counselor, scholar, child, mother. Cheryl: lover of true colors, bright colors, bold colors, red and green, loather of beige. Cheryl: consumer of murder mysteries, opera, dance, theater, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Hallmark holiday movies, fried catfish and collard greens, as much of the world as she could get. Cheryl: poet, drawer of connections, explorer of metaphor and mythology, drawn to deep, multi-generational, ancestral visions, songs, dreams: apple and snake. Cheryl: bound to the ocean, to Yemaya, to the sea. Cheryl: Black all day, everyday. Cheryl: champion of our culture who reveled in global Black brilliance and creativity.
Cheryl: ASHE. ASHE. ASHE.
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Cheryl Chisholm was born on April 15, 1945 in a large, close African American family of teachers, doctors, and other professionals in Atlanta, Georgia. Her father Charles Sumner Chisholm was an ophthalmologist and her mother Harriet Nash Chisholm was an educator. Her family was able to trace the maternal line to ancestor Sinai Reynolds (1777-1869), who was an enslaved person in Newnan, Coweta County, Georgia. Sinai had been allowed to hire out her time (selling baked goods and persimmon beer) and she was ultimately able to buy herself, her husband, and four of her five children free. The eldest daughter, Nellie, stayed enslaved in Georgia and was Cheryl’s great-great-great-grandmother.
In the early 1960s, Cheryl left the segregated South for New England where she attended high school at Northfield School for Girls and then Radcliffe College (later Harvard University). At Radcliffe, she took classes in anthropology and psychology and began to travel and explore the world, including Hawaii (research on cross-cultural symptomatology at the state mental hospital), Colombia, and Brazil (anthropological fieldwork on a religious pilgrimage). After graduating from college, she moved to Europe for a time with extended periods in London, Florence, and Paris, and then, after the assisination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., felt called home to find her place in post-Civil Rights America.
In New York City in the late 1960s, she had a career as an editor in trade and scholarly book publishing where she worked with ground-breaking authors including Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Childress, Verta Mae Grosvenor, and Joyce Ladner. She married Charles Blagrove Hobson on February 14, 1972 and they moved back to Atlanta where she gave birth to daughter Hallie Spencer Hobson on her birthday in 1974. She worked as a press officer for the High Museum of Art and wrote scripts for her husband’s production company. The young family then moved to Washington D.C. where she and Charles eventually divorced but coparented amicably While there,Cheryl worked in the press office at the Museum of African Art (later to become a Smithsonian, national museum). In D.C. she was introduced to African film culture by Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima at Howard University which prompted her to pursue her master’s in critical film theory at UCLA.
After the master’s program in Los Angeles, she returned to Atlanta where she became the director of the Atlanta Third World Film Festival and The King Center’s Nonviolent Film Festival, while writing for film, producing documentaries, facilitating critical media literacy workshops (inspired by the work of Paolo Freire), and teaching at Spelman College. She also traveled
extensively to Burkina Faso, Cuba, Canada, and other countries for film festivals and programming engagements. Chery produced and directed On Becoming a Woman: Mothers & Daughters Talking Together, a film for the National Black Women’s Health Project (NBWHP– now Black Women’s Health Imperative), which has been placed in the National Archives as part of the Women Make Movies collection. Among other honors, she received the Atlanta Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts (1994) and the Black Film Pioneer Award Clark Atlanta University Black Film Festival (1996).
Making On Becoming a Woman, attending NBWHP’s retreats, among other experiences, refocused her on the high rate of trauma experienced by Black women and inspired her to return to her plan in college of becoming a therapist. In 2009, she received her Marriage and Family Therapy license in the state of California and in 2014, at the age of 69, she received her Masters in Community, Liberation, and Eco Psychologies from Pacifica Graduate Institute with a thesis entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Shadow Sandwich and African American Individuation.
Cheryl derived great joy and meaning being a therapist, using, in addition to talk therapy, sand tray, dream work, breath work, embodied imagination, as well as poetry, music and film to help adults access deep memory and imagination to heal themselves in the present. Most recently, she served private clients at Women of Color Therapy, Inc. and counseled students at Pasadena City College while working to complete her dissertation on decolonial parenting for the African American community in the Community, Liberation, and Eco Psychologies program at Pacifica Graduate Institute.
She is survived by Hallie, maternal aunt Mrs. Dorothy N. Shack, and numerous cousins, friends, colleagues, and clients.
Plans to celebrate her life will be forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, gifts in her memory can be directed to the Alumni Association of Pacifica Graduate Institute to support the creation of a scholarship fund that will be established in her name.
While we work to get the fund set up, if you contribute through the website please click “donate,” select “other” on the dropdown menu, and add to the note field “for Cheryl Chisholm Memorial Scholarship Fund.” If you have questions please contact: Dianne Travis-Teague, Senior Director of Alumni Relations, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 801 Ladera Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93108, (805) 969-3626, Ext. 303 or Cheryl’s daughter Hallie S. Hobson firstname.lastname@example.org.