By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Millington Central High School Broadcasting department not in the NAACP ACT-SO would seem weird since the program has participated the past 9 years.
Earlier this month Marshonn Calvin’s students competed in the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics film competition. Cavlin brought along Breana Maclin, Gregory Harris, Jessica Tackett, Beaonka Carter, Janesha Cade and Layla Gray’s projects to the First Baptist Church Broad in Memphis to compete in the filmmaking categories.
But those six short films/documentaries almost didn’t make it to the 2016 NAACP ACT-SO competition.
“We’ve just had so many projects going on this year especially with the senior video,” Calvin said. “We’ve been putting a lot into the senior video. I wanted to make sure I came back and we did a good job with the senior video. This year’s theme is High School Musical.
“With the show going on, we put a lot into the show,” he added. “So with that, Trojan TV has been our main focus. ACT-SO had been something we’ve been really dedicated in but the kids just had so many projects they were doing.”
The MCHS projects submitted to the 2016 ACT-SO had the full dedication of the six students. Hours around campus and in the classroom were committed by the group.
“They’re not native to what’s going on around them,” Calvin said. “They are care about a lot of those matters. It shows in the work this year. Every year we try to move it. The project that Breana is doing is important to her because she had a family member killed because of it.
“Jessica Tackett, the things she dealt with growing up and what she’s still facing,” he continued. “Greg going through a lot of stuff and seeing friends being bullied. Layla the project that she’s doing, she’s passionate about that type of work. She cares about what happens to human beings outside of her school. Beaonka who actually has an interracial relationship, she cares about what happens in things dealing with that nature. These kids want to have these discussions now. They don’t want to wait.”
Maclin’s film took on the topic of black on black crime. Maclin challenges the Black Lives Matter movement to included a crusade to stop African-Americans from committing violence against each other. The project was important to Maclin because her uncle Corey Andersom was shot 8 times and murdered on Valentine’s Day 2014 in a drug deal gone wrong.
Harris used the consequence of death to drive home his point about bullying. With the short film The Victim’s Revenge, MCHS students help bring to life a scenario where a girl seeks justice and a stop to the bullying she endured.
Harris said days sitting down with his grandmother Arletha Barnes watching Lifetime Network made him aware of abuse and bullying. And seeing it often in school pushed him to make the film.
Gray addressed the social issue of world hunger but closer to home. Her film placed a new face on hunger, a teenage white male who appears to be fine walking among his peers. But the student only truly gets something to eat in the cafeteria.
Gray attended a camp at The University of Arkansas Pine Bluff that gave her a day without access to food. Gray noted they saw the third-world issues with food and learned there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. In addition, the United States has several hungry people including children.
Carter touched on a topic not foreign to Americans and that is dear to her heart. With the film Unity in America, Carter challenges people at her school to think about how far America needs to truly unite.
The 18-year-old African-American student has been involved in an interracial relationship for 3 years and said she receives funny looks and multiple questions about her choice of a Caucasian boyfriend. Carter’s main point is for America to get serious about unity.
Life has been serious for Tackett born to parents a combined 28 years old. When Tackett was 5 years old, she was shot when her home was attacked in a drive-by shooting.
Her film Broken Statistics illustrates how it can be tough growing up in Memphis but you can overcome it with perseverance. Tackett should have been the latest statistic being born to a 13-year-old mother and 15-year-old father. The senior overcame a near-death experience to shine as one of the top film students at Millington.
The final entry from MCHS belonged to Cade. The junior combined her passion of journalism, filmmaking and poetry to showcase the Black Lives Matter movement. Cade focused on the reason why BLM has formed across the United States. She acknowledge recent events across the country has placed a fear in her heart to encounter law enforcement. Cade is hoping her film will help both sides unite and realize if someone is breathing and taking up space on this earth, they’re made of matter. And their life matters.
“God really wants us in the ACT-SO for some odd reason,” Calvin said. “I think it has a lot to do with what we’ve done with Jordan Brooks and other kids that have been in the competition. It’s my faith, I think it was a miracle we were in the competition.
“The main focus was to go back to what we used to do in the past like in 2010 and 2013,” he added. “That’s be professional. This year’s group is what Quameisha, Ruben and Kendrick were. They’re hard work and dedication has meant a lot. With Breana and Greg running the program this year, they’re leading by example. Layla being in the program, we bring her in with that dedicated spirit. She stays until the work is done.”
The 2016 students have continued the strong MCHS tradition at ACT-SO while raising the bar for those projects to come.
“They are paying attention to what is happening to African American kids and just young people in general,” Calvin said. “It’s something very important to them. With us being in the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition their thought process is on what is happening in the African American community.
“There is no excuse for us not to give our best on everything we do,” he concluded. “At the same time we’re addressing a lot of things that are going on in our community in a lot of the projects they are doing today.”
ACT-SO is a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit and encourage high academic achievement among African-American high school students. It includes 29 competitions in STEM, humanities, business, and performing, visual, and culinary arts. The first place winner will move on to the July national championship in Cincinnati, with all expenses paid by NAACP for winners of each division.