Journalism students bring to life real social issues


From left to right: Jeffrey Legitime, Danielle Francis, Alesha Thomas, Donovan Harrell, Mark McGaugh and Shelinka Cunningham produced short documentaries that were presented in Artist in Bloom this past weekend. Photo by Ahkila Brown



By Danyelle Johnson
Outlook Writer

The crowd inside Lee Hall’s Auditorium was captivated for a 15 minute spell. That’s how long it took Danielle Francis and Alesha Thomas to shed light on the social issue of mental illness in African Americans.

As short as it was, their presentation was detailed enough for the audience to come away with a better understanding of depression.

Autumn Bell, a senior broadcast student, could relate.
“I felt like J-school journals was the perfect place to express that I have social anxiety,” Bell said. “I believe it was important to come out and say that particularly because journalism is a communicative major, so I felt like I needed to communicate.”

The presentation on mental illness was one of four narratives produced by Journalism students, focusing on a topic of their choice. Titled Artists in Bloom, the documentaries were intended to bring awareness to social issues.

This past weekend’s showings was a revival of what was an annual event for several years before it took a three year hiatus. It is a Specialized Reporting class offered at Florida A&M School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.

The students gave their productions matter-of-fact names, like “The Black Veil,” which was the presentation by Thomas and Francis.

“African Americans are subjected to mental illness at a higher rate than Caucasian Americans and it’s usually because it’s not talked about amongst our race,” said Francis, explaining why she and her partner chose the topic.

Others were titled “Pulpit to Politics,” which gave a snippet about preachers in the Black church and how they are being portrayed as leaders to their congregation.

“Coming up with this idea really started with looking at where we are today and really asking the question,” said producer Mark McGaugh. “Where is that voice? And where is that leadership?”
“We really enjoyed doing this piece, because we got to experience the insight of real people who have lived through the generational gaps and it was very powerful for me to help produce this documentary and find solutions,” said producer Shelinka Cunningham.

Donovan Harrell and Jeffrey Legitime even produced their short film with the focus on Blacks who wear costumes as super heroes. They titled it “Cosplaying.”

“I’m a huge nerd,” said Harrell. “I love comic books and video games, so I wanted to do something that was light hearted, interesting and also something that would stick out.”

Cosplaying is short for costume play which is a term referred to as dressing up as a game character.
“I’ll go back to the time when I was about 5 or 6 and I would dress up as my favorite superhero and people would tell me that I can’t dress as these characters because I’m Black, Harrell said.

“In the future, I went on to some cosplay conventions and I realized that there aren’t a lot of Black people participating and I was interested to know why. If it’s because of a lack of Black characters to portray, or what.”

Another title was “Dream Again,” a retrospective of President Obama’s historic win and his viewpoints.

Kenneth Jones, who teaches the class that presented the documentaries, was proud of his students’ effort.

“This is what we’re doing on this campus, right now, and I cannot say enough about it,” Jones said. “I am very proud of the character of all students and all their hard work.”

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