Miami Law to Host Screening and Lecture of Award-Winning Film American Promise


In the U.S. today, African-American students across all income levels score an average of twenty-five points lower than their white counterparts on standardized tests. This is known as the racial achievement gap, and is often just the beginning of lifelong inequalities shaped and impacted by the social construction of race. The group for which this phenomenon has been most often documented in the American school system is African-American males.

American Promise spans 13 years as Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson, middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, who make their way through one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation at Manhattan’s Dalton School, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class, and opportunity.

American Promise used the compelling story of two middle-class black families at a private school to tell a much larger story about access—social, economic, political, even—and how that access breaks down by race in our country,” said Miami Law Professor and organizer Osamudia James. “As such, we are honored to bring the documentary, and Michèle Stephenson, one of the documentary's directors and subjects, to campus.”

The film will screen on Thursday, October 23rd, at 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:45) at the Cosford Cinema, on campus. The lecture, featuring film director Stephenson, will be held Friday October 24th, from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. at the Student Activities Center, Senate Room. Both events are free and open to the public.

American Promise was an Official Selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and winner of the Grand Jury Award at the 2013 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. It is a co-production of Rada Film Group, ITVS, and POV’s Diverse Voices Project, part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, made possible by CPB.

“All American families want to give their children the opportunity to succeed. But the truth is, opportunity is just the first step, particularly for families raising black boys,” said Michèle Stephenson, Co-Producer and Co-Director. “We hope American Promiseshines a light on these issues.”

“Our goal is to empower boys, their parents, and educators to pursue educational opportunities, especially to help close the black male achievement gap,” said Joe Brewster, Co-Producer and Co-Director.

The screening and lecture is hosted by Miami Law, the UM School of Education and Human Development, the UM American Studies Program, UM Miami Educational and Psychological Studies, UM Students for Education Reform, Palmer Trinity School, the UM Office of Academic Achievement, and the Woodson-Williams-Marshall Association.