By Jordan Kalajian, Radio St. Pete Insider Correspondent
(1/29/2024) Jazz legend Louis Armstrong’s music influenced jazz artists for generations to come. But there is another unspoken tune beyond the brass melodies and iconic performances. This lesser-known life story remained behind curtains never to be seen by the public…until 2012.
Sharon Preston-Folta is Armstrong’s illegitimate daughter. After years of contemplation and discussion with her mother, she finally shared her truth with the world when she a book “Little Satchmo,” later adapted into a documentary directed by John Alexander. The riveting film about Louis Armstrong’s secret child has won several awards including the 2023 Southeast EMMY Award, 2022 Japan Indies Film Festival and other festival accolades.
The team was most excited about their feature on PBS with “Reel South” in season 7. “It was a dream come true,” said Preston-Folta. During the film Preston-Folta discusses how behind the scenes Armstrong was a loving father, but it was a different time. Broadcasting the truth then would have jeopardized his career, so the family decided it was best to keep this part of his life a secret.
Radio St. Pete Insider got a sneak peek about what to expect after the event. Preston-Folta and a special guest Dr. LaDonna Butler will host a Q&A at the end while they talk about universal themes and topics in the film such as father-daughter relationships, family secrets and feeling invisible. These topics are very relatable and have drawn many to this film.
In the future the Little Satchmo team hopes to reach more with this story. Sharon says “a feature length film is not out of the picture.” The team also hopes to do more educational screenings at universities to create engaging discussions about these topics.
Preston-Folta hopes the audience takes away from the film is that “your voice matters.” Sharon’s experience is not unique and many struggle with finding their voice in the world. No matter the circumstances if you believe in yourself and “stand firm in your beliefs… you can make it happen,” says Preston-Folta.
With a story like this Sharon has the ability to reach many and touch their hearts with her story. Sharing her experience allows her to help others who may be struggling with something similar. To learn more, visit https://littlesatchmodoc.com/.