By Emily Tennant-Koller
American Promise Documentary Screening
11AM Saturday, March 22nd, 2014
Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State
1300 Elmwood Ave.
Buffalo, NY 14222
I recently attended the African American Cultural Day held at Adoption Star. It was a wonderful event and I’m really happy that I brought my son. As a white mother of two brown sons, I feel it is crucial that I am aware of immersing my children in their culture (s) of origin and encourage them to engage in that culture by giving them opportunity to do so. I also tell them every day that they are beautiful and smart.
“In the U.S. today, African-American students across all income levels score an average of 25 points lower than their white counterparts on standardized tests. This is known as the racial achievement gap.”
With all of the cultural knowledge that I want to expose my sons to, it is just as important for me to acknowledge that there are influences in society outside of my control as a parent. Systemic racism and educational inequality, especially for young black men in America, is pervasive. When my sons are out with me, they take on some of my white privilege; it is once they start moving through the world without me at their side that my fear for their safety and opportunity grows. Talking about racial inequalities do not make them real, they already exist. It is when we do not recognize the differences and similarities between racial groups, their experiences and the way we experience the world that a dangerous line of “us” and “them” is drawn. The more I see these inequalities, the more that I want to do something about them.
With all of this said, I encourage all parents to attend the upcoming screening of the film, American Promise. It is free and open to the public.
American Promise is a documentary film spanning 13 years from directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson. The film captures the stories of Brewster and Stephenson’s 5-year-old son Idris and his best friend and classmate Seun as these families navigate their way through the rigorous prep-school process. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity. The film is set against the backdrop of a persistent educational achievement gap that dramatically affects African-American boys at all socioeconomic levels across the country. Winner, U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award, 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
After the screening there will be a panel discussion about the film and its implications. This film and companion book (Promises Kept) give great insight into the larger, pervasive issue of the Black Male Achievement gap. At the end of the film, we hope you will walk away with a greater understanding of these concerns and what we can do about them.