Documentary 'American Promise' Follows K-12 School Experience of Two Black Boys

'American Promise' shows how the reality of how racial dynamics play out today in education relates to the impact of perceptions about black boys.

In 1999, when we turned our camera on our son Idris, and his best friend Seun, they were beginning kindergarten at the prestigious Dalton School in New York City. We had great expectations for the boys and were eager to document their journey through school. We were confident that this incredible opportunity would set them on a course for academic success and we wanted to capture it all on film. But as we navigated the education system and wrestled with the same questions most new parents face, we knew that we had a different story to tell.

This experience pushed us to expose the impact of the unique social and emotional needs of black boys on their academic performance. As black boys, our sons' futures were riddled with extra hurdles: they would be twice as likely as their white counterparts to be held back in school, three times as likely to be suspended, and half as likely to graduate college.

American Promise is our family's personal story of raising black sons—but the trials we document are things that every family faces, particularly those with boys of color. We hope to use our journey as a magnifying glass to explore how each of us—as parents, teachers, and members of a larger community—can play a role in shaping the identities of our nation’s black boys.

The film examines some of the factors that allow the opportunity gap to occur. The complicated reality of how racial dynamics play out today in education relates to the impact of perceptions and how our kids, particularly boys, have to deal with implicit bias and stereotypes on a daily basis. Acceptance and feelings of belonging are about how our children are perceived when they walk in the classroom and what expectations their educators and peers have for them. It's also about the impact those perceptions and expectations have on our children's feelings about themselves and how they perform. This is what experts have termed the "racial academic achievement gap"—a performance gap that is often fueled by stereotyping and implicit bias. Black and Latino boys feel the effects of the gap most keenly.

Fourteen years after we began filming, American Promise is a documentary as well as a national campaign working to advance the success of black boys. We hope the film will help galvanize a national conversation on what it takes for parents, educators, and the community to help further the academic success and socio-emotional health of black boys.

We've built tools for parents and caregivers who want to help our black boys, and ensure that all young people are equipped with the same opportunities for excellence. You can visit to learn more about our resources for parents and caregivers—including our upcoming book, Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life—and the Promise Club, a parent support group initiative to create local parent communities that are safe places to discuss and strategize how to support our sons. There is also an educator's professional development curriculum designed to help educators discuss and examine different pedagogical approaches when engaging with black male students.

American Promise opened in New York City on October 18th and opens in cities across the country (click here for theaters and dates) on Friday, October 25th. In the meantime, watch the trailer above, share it with your friends and family, and join the conversation, on Facebook, Twitter, and in the theater! And, let's all work together to use that conversation to spark real changes for black boys in this country.

Pledge to catalyze real change for black boys and close the opportunity gap. Click here to say you'll do it.

via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less