By Katharine Q. Seelye
Camille Billops knew from a young age that she did not want to be a mother. And when she had a baby, she gave her up for adoption, when the girl was 4.
Ms. Billops would go on to become an internationally recognized sculptor, painter and filmmaker. She held salons and created extensive archives of black cultural life in New York over several decades.
But Ms. Billops, who died on June 1 at 85, gained the most attention for a movie she made about giving up her daughter. She was resolutely unapologetic about the decision, even as society judged her harshly and wanted her to repent.
The movie, “Finding Christa” (1992), which she directed with her husband, James V. Hatch, documented Ms. Billops’s rejection of her daughter and their reunion 20 years later. Christa Victoria, a vibrant and artistic young woman who was raised by a loving adoptive family in Oakland, Calif., was welcomed back into the Billops fold.
Ms. Billops saw the lives of black women as endurance contests, struggles to survive abusive or alcoholic men, and children as part of the yoke that kept women from being free.
“I didn’t admire motherhood,” Ms. Billops said.
Ms. Billops was more interested in becoming an artist. She went to the University of Southern California to study art and occupational therapy. But she soon found herself pregnant. The father was a handsome Air Force lieutenant who said he would marry her — 500 wedding invitations were sent out — but who skipped town instead.
All best, and condolences to Camille Billops’s family.