The documentary “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities” by director Stanley Nelson is the story of how black Americans fought against inadequate funding, overcrowded classrooms, poor facilities and inequitable government funding.
It is also a story of remarkable resilience, and one that many of our teachers, counselors and social advocates have encouraged their children to see. Just as minority students perform better when they are given teachers who look like they do, students who are developing their resiliency skills will be more successful in doing so if they are presented with examples of how resilience overcomes inequity.
Hollywood has trained us to believe that our stories must have happy endings. Nelson’s film doesn’t offer a cheerful climax. The reality is that graduates from historically black college and universities, or HBCUs, still face systemic racism and inequitable opportunity. White high school dropouts have a greater median net worth than black college graduates. But HBCUs have played a tremendous role in the fight to change that paradigm — producing graduates who have a stronger sense of purpose and financial well-being.
Resilience is not about making everything in the world perfect. It is about moving forward. “Tell Them We Are Rising” is an example of what can happen when people decide to move forward together.