Inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ elegant Letter to My Son recently published in The Atlantic, I returned to an interview I filmed a couple of years ago of Jason Epting and his teenage son Keenan.
Jason, a teacher in both traditional and charter schools, was teaching at Harlem Village Academy when I interviewed him for the film Unchartered Territory. (Soon after we started the interview, we learned a funny coincidence: we had both grown up in Nebraska.)
In a recent follow-up conversation with Jason he told me:
As a black man in America I still feel that it is my responsibility as an educator and father to help unlock the potential of students of color to be positive contributors to their communities and their future generations.
What I have learned is that the more students we reach, the more potential we have to impact families years from now.
All of our children deserve a quality education and I feel I was called to this position to help students believe that they can shake up the world…and actually do it.
At a time when research is proving that black boys are treated more harshly for the same behavior as white students, and are less likely to be referred to gifted and talented programs when they qualify, it is reassuring to know that educators like Jason are out there.
I’m happy to report that his son, Keenan, is now a freshman at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (go Huskers!), where he plans to major in communications. Keenan has already started writing and in this piece he tells yet another story of student mistreatment based on skin color.
Kelly Amis founded Loudspeaker Films in 2009 to combine her passion for social justice and education equality with her love of art and belief in the power of film.