Behind the Camera: A Student's Perspective

By FSM Communications

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Vernita Brown, a senior at North Lawndale College Prep, wrote her personal statement for college on what she learned through taking the FSM at NLCP “Designing Documentary” class last year. Here are her inspiring words:

According to a study by Northeastern University in 2002, a quarter of African American men ages 20 to 64 were not employed at any point during the year. The year ­round joblessness rate for black men was twice as high as that of white and Hispanic males. These statistics help explain why so many African American men turn to the streets to sell drugs. From the outside, all people see if a waste of time: men showing no effort to improve their lives, men who have let their ancestors down by not getting the education or employment that our predecessors have worked so hard to achieve for us.

It fell upon five high school teens to figure out why these men sell drugs instead of going to school and getting a job. For my “Designing Documentary” class, several other female students and I made a documentary about men who sell drugs. This is something we see everyday, and most of these people are our friends, classmates, family, and neighbors. This one little documentary changed the way I view society.

From our interviews, I learned that most of the men selling drugs have tried to succeed in life. They have tried to earn a living legally, but society does not see them as “men of the working field.” Many of the men go to school, but they sell drugs to make money for their families. These men have been mislead to believe that this is the only way to live, that they will never become a member of the working class.

I was forced to imagine looking for a job, and no one hiring me because of where I came from and what my past mistakes might have been. I was hurt knowing that I could put my all into something and not succeed. This is the country of change and promise, but how can these men change if they are not given the chance?

As I looked at my finished project, it changed my views on the world around me, and how it interacts with different people. These men try and try each day, only to have their dreams shot down. Because of this documentary, I will allow no one to turn me down or prevent me from doing anything that will get my closer to my goals. I will settle for nothing less that the best of what this world has to offer. I will continue to accept all the glorious things and opportunities that this world has put in front of me, and, most of all, I will never let anyone tell me I can’t do something because I know I can.