5 Questions for André Robert Lee, Director and Producer of The Prep School Negro

André Robert Lee

André Robert Lee

We are very excited to welcome André Robert Lee to campus next week to share his film The Prep School NegroWhen he was 14, André received what his family believed to be a golden ticket: a full scholarship to attend one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. Elite education was André’s way up and out, but at what price? Yes, the exorbitant tuition was covered, but this new world cost him and his family much more than anyone could have anticipated. In The Prep School NegroAndré takes a journey back in time to revisit the events of his adolescence while also spending time with current prep school students of color and their classmates.

In addition to presenting his films at hundreds of schools, André serves as a consultant and advisor for Connecticut College’s Mellon Undergraduate Research Program in the Arts and Humanities. He has worked with the New York City Public Schools, The Ford Foundation, Miramax Films, HBO, and Dreamworks and has been a speaker at The Gates Millennium Scholars Program Leadership Conferences. André is a member of the Connecticut College Alumni Board of Directors and the Advisory Board for Ready Willing and Able: The Doe Fund, Inc. He also serves on the Jury for the Academy Awards Student competition and serves as a Reader for The Gates Millennium Scholars Program. 

1. What has the response been to the use of the word “negro” in the title of your film and how does it differ across groups of people?

Andre Robert Lee filming The Prep School Negro

Andre Robert Lee filming The Prep School Negro

I have had all kinds of reactions to my use of the word “negro” in the title of the film. Many adults who were born in the 50s, 60s and 70s raise their eyebrows at the title. They are a generation that saw the end of the word “negro.” They are very curious about why I have chosen to use the word.

I find people born in later generations are surprised by the title. Folks ask if I call myself a “negro.” I assure them I do not and am not an advocate for the return use of the word.

2. In the description of the film, you write, “The exorbitant tuition was covered, but this new world would cost him and his family much more than anyone could have anticipated.” How do you measure whether or not your experience at Germantown Friends was worth it?

André Robert Lee in the spring of 1985

André Robert Lee in the spring of 1985

I think I look at the entire experience and measure it in my life. What did I gain from going to the school? What kind of relationships did I develop? Who is the person I am today, based on this education I received at Germantown Friends School? Was I able to deal with the separation from my family while at the school?

I deal with these issues in the film and during the after-screening workshops. To date, I have conducted more than 220 workshops.

3. In what ways do you hope this film will be transformative for audiences? What is the “to do” list that you hope teachers and administrators will put together after seeing the film?

I ask people to watch the film and think about where their heart and mind meet. Find yourself in the project. The “to do” list is one a school community has to develop. I cannot walk in and make that list. I ask folks to agree to acknowledge the need for the list and to get started in building it together. What do students need? What does the community need?

4. What has been the impact of the film? Has anything surprised you?

Students who participated in the film

Students who participated in the film

I have been to a number of schools, colleges, universities, film festivals, and conferences. I am surprised at each venue. I have requests to return to schools and requests to visit schools in the fall of 2013. The biggest surprise is the number of folks who have stepped forward and shared their stories.

5. Whom was the film made for?

Originally the film was made for my family. I have since decided that the film is dedicated to anyone that has ever felt like an “other.”

Please join us on Wednesday, January 30 at 7:00 pm in the Athletic Center for a screening of the film and a Q&A with André. Learn more and RSVP.

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About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
This entry was posted in 5 questions, diversity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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