Diversity Film Series brings topic of college to a social level

Franklin Hagler, Reporter

The Dare to be Diverse Film Series is a unique show when it comes to SUNY Buffalo State. These colorful stories look to bring awareness to the problems that linger in society but highlight the fact that it is not all bad. Some people do make it out of the tough times for the better.

The most important part of the night is the panel discussion that is held after every show. The goal is to create a dialogue and hopefully come up with a solution to the problems presented, while creating a safe platform to discuss ideas. And how it will ultimately improve Buffalo.

The latest film focuses on the problems like college debt and the weight of living up to expectations.

The film “All the Difference,” directed by Tod Lending, was a story set in the south side of Chicago about two young African American men trying to make it through the rough beginnings of life and graduate college.

Krishaun Branch and Robert Henderson both deal with circumstances many kids can relate too. Branch is dealing with the pull of gang life, the allure of drugs and, for the first time, not having some spending money in his pocket. Henderson grew up poor and was raised by his grandmother after his mother was murdered by his father.

“It is never easy coming from a different background and then going off to a college campus. Everything is new so it’s a big adjustment. When living in poverty, like the people in this film, it puts you at a disadvantage, but isn’t the determining factor on someone’s life; you define that yourself,” said Jason Parker, diversity program coordinator at Buffalo State.

The panel for this film included Don Patterson, the director for Upward Bound, a program that runs on Buffalo State’s campus, Dr. Fatima Morrell, the assistant superintendent in the Buffalo Public Schools, and Dr. Jevon Hunter, a professor of urban and literacy education at Buffalo State.

“The story was powerful because looking at those young men on the screen I see myself when I studied here at Buffalo State,” Patterson said. “Coming to college then, being the only black kid in the room at times was hard, but I knew getting out of the city was the best thing for me, and I knew if I didn’t get out at that time just like those boys on that screen, I probably wouldn’t have made it.”

College can be a difficult experience. Everyone’s time spent in college is completely different, but to focus on small common factors and building a community of friends are a few ways to help when feeling down. Hunter talked about this when speaking about what he advises his students on how to cope with being away from home or on their own for the first time.

“Community, I would say, is the best advice I would give a student when coming to college,” Parker said. “Finding people they moved here from Brooklyn, or who are just away from home just like you, find that common ground and build your community off that, even throw a pizza party and talk about the things you miss or even how much your school sucks either way that’s better than being by yourself, that’s how you get through college.”

Morrell understood the experience portrayed in the film as well, going through college as generally the only black woman in most of her class. It was not always easy being looked at constantly and living up to your own or her families’ expectations.

“I was shielded at home; I didn’t know how real it was until I step onto that college campus and got that first glance,” Morrell said. “The best thing I can do for myself was to absorb and learn about everything, not meaning just my history but the history of those around me. I knew I had to know my culture and the culture of those around me so I was always prepared, always questioning, and then people accepted me for who I was as opposed to how I looked.”

These powerful messages and conversations generated through films are used to help fuel students who feel like they are in a bad position and see no way out. A series like this highlights things like why college campuses struggle with retention rates and keeping students on track with financial aid.  When you have people like Morrell, Hunter and Patterson, films like “All the Difference” show that though the college experience can be tough, it is not impossible.

The next film will be shown Nov. 17 Burchfield Penney Art Center. It will begin at around 7 p.m.

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