WFSU and Firelight visit FAMU to screen PBS Film “Tell Them We Are Rising”

Panelist at the screening of "Tell Them We Are Rising" from left to right, Reginald Ellis,
President Dr. Larry Robinson, Marcia Smith, Stanley Nelson and Lynn Hatter. 
Photo credit: Nichelle Cobb

Florida A&M University (FAMU) partnered with WFSU Public Media and Firelight Films to present a public screening of “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director Stanley Nelson.

The screening of the 90-minute film was held at 7 p.m. at FAMU’s Lee Hall and was followed by a panel discussion with representatives from the “Tell Them We Are Rising” team, university leaders, alumni, and other guest to talk about the issues explored in the documentary.

“Tell Them We Are Rising,” tells the story of black colleges and universities and their impact on the nation over the past 150 years. The documentary takes viewers through the journey of African-American history through the lens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

The film begins with Blacks rising from slavery. Showcasing the whippings and killings of Blacks for knowing how to read, but then showcases the journey to their overcoming of slavery and shaping a new destiny.

One audience member, Akua Kyereba, was enthused about seeing the display of Blacks rising through their adversities.

“It was great to see how far Blacks have come from fighting to now rising,” Kyereba said. The enthused audience member said “the black mind is very powerful” and people who don’t understand it will always try to attack it.

Nelson explained that as a people “we’re not done until everyone is connected to us” because Black people are still faced with racial injustice, lack of resources in communities, and several racially inflicted adversities.

Some individuals do not see a need for HBCUs since the education system is fully integrated now, but the documentary highlights that HBCUs are known to ignite social change in the Black community.

One of the layers of the documentary discusses how the institutions are now, how Black students attend every year, and how Black students are learning to be proud of who they are.

Business administration student Maridia Abdul, who attended the screening of “Tell Them We Are Rising,” said that the film gives viewers an understanding of the reasons why Black students attend HBCUs.

“The film really helps you grasp a deeper understanding of why Black students attend HBCUs,” Abdul said.

HBCUs continue to sustain young Blacks by providing a nurturing environment that does not put individuals in a box. “There have been few institutions that sustained African-Americans and the most constant one has been HBCUs,” Nelson said.

FAMU’s President, Dr. Larry Robinson, said that HBCUs are relevant because of history and that it is important to continue promoting HBCUs.

“The relevance of HBCUs are the relevance of Black people and their history,” Robinson said.  “We have to continue to promote and market our HBCUs.”

Robinson also explained that continuous alumni support can help, not just financially but supporting events, causes, and movements the schools participate in.  

In retrospect, Black institutions have impacted the nation through activism, service, and education.

As Nelson said during the discussion, “the story of HBCUs is evergreen” and there will always be something to tell about the significance and history of what these institutions have contributed.

“Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities” will air nationally on the acclaimed PBS series, “Independent Lens” on Monday, February 19, 2018, from 9 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. EST (check local listings). The film will also be available for online viewing on beginning February 20, 2018.