Broadcast students at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts took part in an advance screening of the documentary “American Promise,” which follows two African American boys from preschool to high school graduation.
At age five, best friends Seun and Idris are accepted at Dalton, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Idris’ parents decide to film the boys and follow their experiences at the predominantly white school.
“Dalton will open doors for him for the rest of his life,” said Idris’ father Joe Brewster at the beginning of the film.
Both Idris and Seun’s parents quickly realize that educational opportunity is not a solution and that societal issues surrounding race and gender still play a huge role in the boy’s lives.
Thirteen years in the making, the film is a very personalized and complex look at the challenges facing young black males.
After the screening, Paseo students shared their reflections on “American Promise.” Here are excerpts from their written reviews as well as two student created video responses to the film.
“The title of this documentary to me means that America is under-construction with public and private education for African American males. I can somewhat relate to this documentary because I am an African American. Although I am female, I still am facing going to a public school and in a district that is not considered the best.”
“America’s promise to some may mean equality, it might mean love and respect, it might even mean power and wealth. But in my opinion the two students in the documentary believe that America’s promise is education. I can relate to the color issues being an African American female. However, I have never been discriminated against when it comes to my education.”
“At the beginning of the documentary when they showed the title of kids that graduate from Dalton private school usually end up going to the top colleges in the United States like Stanford University, Harvard University, or Yale University I was stunned. These colleges only accepted the top students in the country; I thought that these two boys had a chance of going to a place like that. The two black boys had the keys to a good life they just had to graduate and go to college in this case …. The part I related to the most in the documentary was when the boys applied to all the colleges that they were promised they would go to if they graduated. For me that was the worst part of the documentary because I have been accepted to all the colleges that I applied to starting with Missouri State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and University of Missouri …. I started thinking about the other kids in America who could not go to the college they wanted to go to, it must suck. It made me realize that I should take care of my business because I’m a lucky black man to be accepted to all of these colleges.”
“To begin, I feel that the title of this documentary holds some irony because Americas promise is that they will provide the same level of educational benefits to everyone, but in the movie it showed that this promise was false. All students aren’t treated the same and given the same opportunities. Both of the boy’s parents said it themselves that they sent their sons to private school because they would be offered more opportunities than they would not have if they went to a public school. It’s true that the kids in inner city schools do not receive all the same benefits, opportunities or materials that students in private schools receive or even school such as Blue Springs. I don’t think its just a coincidence that inner city kids are mostly minorities and private schools are most white and upper class kids.”
“If I was presented with the chance to attend a private “upper-class” school as kid, I’m not sure what my Mom would have done. But attending a public school for my whole life, and then seeing and having friends that went to private, or suburban school, it does make me think what my life would have been like if I had took that same route. Watching that movie and seeing the two young boys go through everything, I can definitely relate to them …. The movie made me go into a deeper thought about whether I would succeed in college or not. Would it have been better for me to go to a suburban school? I have yet to find out and I will not find out until I am in college failing or succeeding. I do know that my school district is extremely behind with a lot of curriculum and things that should been taught to us. I hope that I will do well in college and even if it is a struggle I will personally gain knowledge and educate myself in and outside of the classroom. I’m not sure if America is fulfilling their promise. But I promise to work hard and fulfill my own dreams, with or without America’s help.”
“I think that when they created the name ‘American Promise’ that it meant we were meant to be free of any discrimination and that no one should be judged. The two boys Seun and Idris attended a private school where they were the only two blacks in the classroom almost in the whole entire school. But with not immediately catching on to the things that they were learning in that particular school is that I brought them down. I think that also that the teacher should have been putting more time in with them if they were not understanding some things in the classroom. I”m sure that they were not the only kids in the class that were struggling with their work in the class.”
Major Funding for Education coverage on KCPT provided by Jo Anna Dale and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation