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“Black Brilliance” highlights achievements of African American students

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“Black Brilliance” highlights achievements of African American students

South graduate Michael Arnold gives a presentation in this screencap from the documentary

South graduate Michael Arnold gives a presentation in this screencap from the documentary "Black Brilliance," about five black students journeys to graduation.

South graduate Michael Arnold gives a presentation in this screencap from the documentary "Black Brilliance," about five black students journeys to graduation.

South graduate Michael Arnold gives a presentation in this screencap from the documentary "Black Brilliance," about five black students journeys to graduation.

Emilio del Carmen, Staff Writer

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“Black Brilliance,” a short documentary produced by Twin Cities Public Broadcasting Service (tpt) that covers five black Minnesotan high school seniors on their path to graduation. The documentary is part of tpt’s American Graduate initiative, which focuses on building positive narrative about Minnesota’s youth. One of the students featured in the film is Michael Arnold Jr., who graduated from South High last year.
The film follows students Shakira, Lucien, Eshay, Ivey and Michael as they talk about their passions, their lives, and their hopes for the future. The essence of film is to focus on black students who have achieved excellence.
The film shines light on how these students have succeeded instead of focusing on the massive achievement gap the Minnesotan educational system struggles with-it’s one of the highest in the nation.
“We have students who are doing really well, [why not show those students] and highlight them,” said Tanya Hodge, who taught Arnold for two years in AVID. “We’re always highlighting the negative,” said Hodge, who appreciates that the documentary focuses on success stories of black youth.
In addition to focusing on these students, “Black Brilliance” does a very good job of explaining the achievement gap at the beginning, with the words of Hodge, “The education system in this country is failing students, the students aren’t failing.”
Next, the film jumps to say, “teach me what I need to know, let’s try not to focus on the negatives.” This sets the scene for the entire film as it goes on to showcase the kind of excellence that these black youth have shown, from spoken word to coding and graphic design, to culinary skills.
“He just deserved the accolades that the video did,” said Hodge when describing what Arnold was like. “He was a young man of few words, but always thinking, always doing, really dedicated to his schooling and his family, didn’t let things take him of his focus. He came from the North side every day, he was never late, he never had excuses,” said Hodge.
In the film Arnold comments on living on the North side of Minneapolis, which is stereotypically labeled as “shady” or “ghetto”. Even a simple Google search of “North Minneapolis” suggests this, with the top two results being shooting and crime respectively.
Websites such as About.com and virtualtourist labels it as one of the most dangerous areas of Minneapolis to be in, as well as one to avoid. Arnold dismisses this in the video,“You don’t live in the area, so you don’t really know what’s really happening.”
Overall, the film does a fantastic job of highlighting the accomplishments of the black youth that it follows throughout. The film paints a bright sky of possibilities for students of color in Minnesota, despite the shortcomings of our broken education system.
The film is just under 27 minutes long. It is an inspiring piece aimed at students of color who struggle with feelings of not being in a position to succeed, specifically black students. I would recommend it to anyone who has ties to the Minnesota school system, or to those that are interested.
“Black Brilliance” is available to watch on Youtube.

South graduate Michael Arnold gives a presentation in this screencap from the documentary "Black Brilliance," about five black students journeys to graduation.

South graduate Michael Arnold gives a presentation in this screencap from the documentary “Black Brilliance,” about five black students journeys to graduation.

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“Black Brilliance” highlights achievements of African American students