That Time My Film Screened in NYC at a Premiere Hosted by Issa Rae

As a 17-year-old high school student, I never thought that anything I wrote would go “big time”—at least not for a few more years. From a young age, my parents and teachers always told me that I could achieve anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. But who knew an idea that I had about a story would blossom into what I called “Veracity” and have an amazing organization like Scenarios USA believe in it enough to bring it to life.?

The awe that I felt when “Veracity” was chosen as the Chicago winner of the REAL DEAL about Place and Power contest (and that I still feel now) was at an all-time high at the Scenarios World Premiere and Celebration last week at the Angelika Film Center in New York City.

Initially, I was very excited for the attendees to see my film and I was even more excited to see the two other Scenarios films written by Skyler Edge and Lani Pringle. But as more guests arrived, my nerves began to build. Many of these nerves grew from my admiration of Issa Rae, who hosted the evening, and Franchesca Ramsey and Michaela Angela Davis, who were there as Scenarios Influencers.

Issa Rae with winning writersIssa Rae with winning writers (l-r) Skyler Edge, Janaya Greene, Lani Pringle

Out of all of the shows that I watch on Youtube, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” is my all time favorite. I never thought of myself as acutely “different” from my peers until my sophomore year in high school when a guy in my class pointed out how “weird” I was for freely wearing an afro and dressing in clothes that weren’t “in” or even mildly considered as designer.

Though I did not let that remark define me, it was one of the first times that I truly realized that I didn’t fit in with one crowd, and I embraced it. This was not always easy, as it always feels harder to stay true to yourself than to follow the crowd to gain more popularity points. This is why Issa Rae’s “Awkward Black Girl” was so pivotal to my understanding of being who you are because, well, being yourself is the most essential way of happiness.

Michaela Angela Davis has been a tireless advocate for more representation of young women of color in the media, which is everything that I hope to accomplish in my career.

With all of this in mind, knowing that I would meet Issa Rae soon made me excited and all the more nervous. But when I met Issa, all my nerves withered away as she was very down to earth and maybe even as nervous as me to present for Scenarios. Meeting Franchesca Ramsey and Michaela Angela Davis were also very significant moments for me. I’ve watched Franchesca Ramsey’s Youtube videos on activism and allyship countless times. Michaela Angela Davis has been a tireless advocate for more representation of young women of color in the media, which is everything that I hope to accomplish in my career. Meeting these three exquisite women meant a great deal to me, and it meant even more that for the first time something I accomplished could influence them as their work has always influenced me as an African American woman.

Michaela Angela Davis, Janaya, and Franchesca RamseyJanaya Greene with Scenarios Influencers Michaela Angela Davis (l) and Franchesca Ramsey (r)

My remaining nervousness came from being unsure of how the attendees would receive “Veracity” — Scenarios USA, director Seith Mann, and myself worked very hard on making the film as outstanding as possible.  But when my lead character Olivia appeared on the screen, my worries transformed to enthusiasm and it was as if I was viewing “Veracity” for the first time all over again.

To hear that something I wrote brought people to tears, reminded others of what high school was like for them, and made even more people empathetic to those around them, touched me in a way that I will never fully be able to explain.

The most gratifying part of the entire Premiere and World Celebration was the feedback that I received. To hear that something I wrote brought people to tears, reminded others of what high school was like for them, and made even more people empathetic to those around them, touched me in a way that I will never fully be able to explain. I am eternally grateful to Scenarios USA for making “Veracity” possible. I now know that anything really is possible as long as you believe in what you’re working towards, and have a remarkable group of people backing you up.

This piece was originally posted on scenariosusa.org.

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