We're officially one month away from the official premiere screening of Sincerely, the Black Kids! Y'all wouldn't believe how excited I am to share these stories for the culture. This is what I dragged Eduardo all around the 13 original colonies for. This is the culmination of not only my year's worth of student government experience, but four years' worth of learning about the value of sticking to your guns. But most importantly this sincerely is for the black kids.
My blog posts abruptly halted the narrative after our visit with Cornell on January 28th. Lo and behold, however, we didn't just disappear back into our 9-to-5's. On January 29th we flew back to Orlando, Florida and drove home to Sarasota feeling all kinds of accomplished. I figured the Sarasota Film Festival would be thrilled to find out we limited our L's to strictly lowercase ones. I was most excited to share the news with our producer Shakira Refos, the administrative backbone of the project and our liaison with the Festival.
Sincerely, the Black Kids was actually conceived from a single offhanded comment I made to Shakira the summer after my student government experience. Once she questioned me about my future plans, I mentioned wanting to do a creative component to my upcoming undergraduate thesis. Given what I had discovered while meeting several of the country's student government presidents just weeks earlier at the Presidential Leadership Conference, I said something akin to:
"Real talk, it'd be interesting to make a documentary about how these black student government presidents all coincidentally turned out to be impeachable."
Shakira, ever about her hustle, responded with something akin to:
And thus the paraphrased beginnings of this documentary came to pass. Shakira took me on as an intern with the Festival's Education and Community Engagement Department, of which she was the Director. I put in the necessary work and was paid back with exactly what I was promised: the production of Sincerely, the Black Kids. She made some phone calls, convinced the immensely talented Eduardo Correa to come on board and shipped us off on the dopest college tour of 2018. She set a date for me come in the very next workday to share some footage and folk tales once we returned. When I walked in the SFF building that scheduled morning, however, everyone looked at me in a way I couldn't describe. Someone still slack-jawed noted:
"Oh, no one told the interns?"
No Becky, no one told the interns that Shakira had been inexplicably fired that very morning. Representatives of the Festival assured me that despite "Shakira not being with the Festival anymore", the project would be able to continue with help from the Festival's marketing team as to not violate our prior agreement thanks to grants previously supplemented by New College of Florida. In my mind that didn't explain enough. Canning my producer three months before the Festival on a casual Tuesday violates a quite a bit of what I agreed to.
Upon meeting with the woman of the hour, I'd come to find out the beef boiled down to Shakira having the gall to not let a grown man with a convenient last name talk to women of color like God gave up watching. Wackness. No grown woman, man or otherwise should have to put up with corporate dick swinging,. and I wasn't about to let that underwrite a film about PEOPLE NOT LISTENING WHEN THE SYSTEM GOT BLACK PEOPLE F****ED UP.
Thus, the rest of the Education and Community Engagement department and I left the Sarasota Film Festival.
There's truly no hard feelings, though. If there's one thing I've learned from my own experiences with opps coming for my job, however, it's that there's rarely an opportunity worth the collateral damage of another human's livelihood. As I imagined what Shakira must have been going through knowing the Festival had no qualms with executing her projects without her, I felt as if the story now ironically came to life again (as if we weren't nonfiction already). I thought about my own anger towards my government's student court during my trial, and how it rose hotter against their actions than it did for the students I knew were personally coming at us - it's fair game if you want to run the judicial fade with me once you've made it clear that we have problems, but I couldn't believe how quickly someone once unaffiliated could come for my entire employment just to help out their friend. Worse yet, I couldn't believe how boldly someone in a position of power, no matter the degree, could justify outright untruths. I was also sure Devontae couldn't believe it when his naysayers found questionable support, and that Jaren couldn't believe it either when he was given his court date, and that Delmar couldn't believe it when she witnessed a black student get assaulted on YouTube as if she wasn't down the street. Silence is complicity, and there was no way I was going to be that bystander nervously perched all bow-legged and scratching the back of my head while making excuses to my friend, of all people.
So here we are three months later: Sincerely, the Black Kids will now be the realest independent documentary to hit the scene this 2018. Shakira, Eduardo and I have finished the project on our own and can't wait to hit the Festival circuit with the story that deserved to be seen through hell, high water, frat parties, and firings. We're officially post-production, and I truly hope that no one else needs to get exposed between now and our May 11th screening at New College's Sainer Auditorium (time tbd).
This grateful Black kid.
(Shakira, you the best!)