Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are constantly evolving throughout the 21st Century with student enrollment increasing. These institutions are growing and expounding upon the considered rich culture of black excellence that HBCUs have been labeled to be known for.
“Tell Them We Are Rising” is a platform for black colleges’ stories to be told to students and people who don’t know about the history. Stacey Holman, the producer of the film, and her research team interviewed several students in the making of the film to coordinate student life on campus.
Thursday, Nov. 2, Holman held an event at Florida A&M University (FAMU) showcasing the documentary, as well as hosting an interactive panel discussion.
Stanley Nelson, a documentary filmmaker, capitalized on the culture of HBCUs in his documentary by examining the legacy of HBCUs and why they are important in society. The documentary also encompasses the origin of these universities.
“Eight years in the making of writing the proposal, and gathering grants we are telling a story that has never been told. 200 years of history in 85 minutes. It was a very daunting task, but no one else was going to tell it. You never hear about the entire experience of black colleges,” Holman said.
On behalf of Nelson’s absence, Holman and Bank of America (BOA) Global Human Resources executive, Calandra Jarell, held a panel with FAMU students discussing the documentary.
FAMU is one of the public universities that is showcased in the film. FAMU has even experienced this increased enrollment of students. 2,003 freshmen students were admitted to FAMU during the Fall 2017 semester alone.
In the duration of the panel, Holman asked for future politicians to raise their hand. Ankhenaton Thomas was one of the men who raised his hand and shared with the audience his future plans.
Thomas is a Florida State graduate and an aide to Commissioner Curtis Richardson. He has a dream to lead the legacy of HBCUs.
“I appreciate the fact that someone is documenting the significance of HBCUs around the nation. Being able to know that someone is doing that is very important for us to come out and support their project,” Thomas said.
The Florida State graduate said he plans to showcase the importance of education at a Historically Black College or University because there was a time when African-Americans and minorities could not receive an education.
“In the past 6 months, I have toured around several HBCUs to document what HBCUs are known for. My goal is to get my friends back at home in Detroit into
college. Showing them that these institutions were built by their ancestors or people who wanted to educate African-Americans and minorities at a time where we could not get educated,” Thomas said.
Nelson is partnering with Bank of America executives to share the documentary at HBCUs across the country. Jarell said that BOA is supportive of the film and is inspired about the documentary.
“We saw the film “Tell Them We Are Rising” and Bank of America felt inspired to get involved in making the film more mainstream. We are very supportive of the film as a corporate company,” Jarell said. “It has completely recharged me, and reemphasizes the power and the influence going to an HBCU has.”
The full “Tell Them We Are Rising” documentary will premiere on Jan. 26, 2018 on FAMU’s campus. The film will air worldwide on PBS Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. This documentary not only has influence on students who attend HBCUs, but it harvests a seed into people who want to put black colleges on the map.