Sincerely, Miles, Shakira, and Eduardo - 5.12.18

From left: Paul Loriston, Jaren Stewart, Raina Nelson, Miles Iton, Giulia Heyward, Cheikhou Kane,  Leen Al-Fatafta, Shakira Refos    SINCERELY, THE BLACK KIDS debuted at New College of Florida's Sainer Auditorium for a premiere test screening on May 12, 2018.    Finally, after months of blowing up inboxes all across the Florida coast, the team behind "Sincerely, the Black Kids" was ready to let the gem shine on the city. Shakira, Eduardo and I spent the month after the Sundance co-sign finishing the first cut of our film. New College, the host of all inchoate stages of the project, seemed fit to be the first to see the results of how I spent their Student Research and Travel Grant (thanks, NCF Foundation! Here's your plug by the way). The Sainer Auditorium on their Caples campus boasted an intimate stage + projection hall capable of seating approximately 260 audience members. For my own personal sentiments, I wanted to fill that room.  May 12 was the Saturday before New College of Florida's class of 2018 graduation ceremony the following Friday. Sincerely, the Black Kids would be my last obligation to the school; while we looked forward to beginning a journey towards the film's success, I also moved towards closing the chapter of my life that gave us the film in the first place. There were many sentiments attached to having a debut at my home institution, but the predominant thought remained on the need to stunt on everyone who had roasted my Philosophy degree up to that point. Thus, May 12 was set aside for stuntin', and we made it known thanks to some good looks from the NCF Tangent and Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

From left: Paul Loriston, Jaren Stewart, Raina Nelson, Miles Iton, Giulia Heyward, Cheikhou Kane,  Leen Al-Fatafta, Shakira Refos

SINCERELY, THE BLACK KIDS debuted at New College of Florida's Sainer Auditorium for a premiere test screening on May 12, 2018. 

Finally, after months of blowing up inboxes all across the Florida coast, the team behind "Sincerely, the Black Kids" was ready to let the gem shine on the city. Shakira, Eduardo and I spent the month after the Sundance co-sign finishing the first cut of our film. New College, the host of all inchoate stages of the project, seemed fit to be the first to see the results of how I spent their Student Research and Travel Grant (thanks, NCF Foundation! Here's your plug by the way). The Sainer Auditorium on their Caples campus boasted an intimate stage + projection hall capable of seating approximately 260 audience members. For my own personal sentiments, I wanted to fill that room.

May 12 was the Saturday before New College of Florida's class of 2018 graduation ceremony the following Friday. Sincerely, the Black Kids would be my last obligation to the school; while we looked forward to beginning a journey towards the film's success, I also moved towards closing the chapter of my life that gave us the film in the first place. There were many sentiments attached to having a debut at my home institution, but the predominant thought remained on the need to stunt on everyone who had roasted my Philosophy degree up to that point. Thus, May 12 was set aside for stuntin', and we made it known thanks to some good looks from the NCF Tangent and Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Courtesy of Sarasota Herald-Tribune, article by Jimmy Geurts

Courtesy of Sarasota Herald-Tribune, article by Jimmy Geurts

The day of May 12 hosted our debut screening coupled with a question and answer panel featuring the documented students from New College, as well as special guests appearances from alumn Raina Nelson and Clemson Student VP Jaren Stewart. Attendants began filling up the seats as soon as we opened the doors. Local community members, school administration members, students and even some good old fashioned downtown-frequenting film buffs lined the rows until the very last minute. For their efforts, we started on time! 

Shakira Refos opened up the showing with a powerful introduction, sharing her side of the story before introducing Eduardo Correa to well-deserved applause for his own account. As we prepared the crowd for the bomb-est visual storytelling experience of 2018, Shakira spoke words to power that set the stage for the next 40 minutes:

"This doc is for those who have faced pain in the accusations and assumptions that you don't belong in your position of power, and have had someone attempt to strip your accomplishments, pride, dignity and legacy away from you... just because you are black."

And from there, we did the thing. We encouraged folks to leave feedback on the comment cards provided before we make the Festival-ready edits, and we were not disappointed with what we got. Of course I could tell you it was lit and that #S,TBK is about to touch campuses worldwide, but I'll use this space for the second shout out/plug instead. Pam Nadon of The Observer stopped by and gave us a play-by-play that I think could give you a better idea:

"There were audible moans, groans and shouts put forth on behalf of the audience that were so emotionally charged that it was difficult to hold back the tears. This is one powerful piece of filmmaking." - Pam Nadon, The Observer

What really got the message across powerfully was the panel, discussion, in which several involved students participated in a question and answer session moderated by [yours truly]: Paul Loriston (2016-2017 Co-President of the NCF student gov), Cheikhou Kane (2016-2017 Vice President of Relations and Finance of the NCF student gov), Leen Al-Fatafta (2016-2017 Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion of the NCF student gov), Giulia Heyward (2016-2017 Executive Secretary of the NCF student gov), Raina Nelson (2015-2016 Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion of the NCF student gov) and Jaren Stewart (2017-2018 Vice President of the Clemson student gov). 

Jaren gave his unique perspective as a guest of the campus, as Raina shared experiences during and after New College. Giulia shared necessary background not even discussed in the film; Paul placidly explained how the finality of his New College experience changed his academic course entirely. Cheikhou openly questioned the value that New College and other institutions truly placed on diversity beyond the optics, and Leen did not hesitate to draw parallels between her experiences discussed on film and her experiences as a Middle Eastern student in a PWI. Even I had a few extra aggressions to relive that didn't make the B-roll.

Ultimately, experiencing the film and panel as the period on my time at New College felt right. It wasn't a complete vindication for the events of the film - which I didn't ask for to begin with. It was a final moment of truth that no one can take away. Someone else had to sign off on my degree, but I was able to sign, seal and deliver to the institution everything that Sincerely, the Black Kids was meant to. I hope to message reaches with all conveyed intention, because I will be forever grateful for my past four years and can only hope New College does for future black students all the good it has for me where it did. 

To the next generation of Novo Collegians: take flight into the pursuit of ecstatic wonder, and as Jaren says in an imaginary clip you will soon be able to imagine, "do it afraid if you have to."

Sincerely, the Black Kids.

*NOTE: We are still accepting donations to support our submissions to film festivals! Donate via Venmo (@Miles-Iton) and/or PayPal (mw.iton@nebodiedent.org / Shakira.refos@gmail.com).

(From left) Giulia, Miles and Leen one week later, delivering the first group commencement speech at the 2018 Graduation Ceremony.

(From left) Giulia, Miles and Leen one week later, delivering the first group commencement speech at the 2018 Graduation Ceremony.