Friday, April 10, 2015

Danielle Beverly from Old South visits Oxford College

From Filmmaker Danielle Beverly of Old South: 

Oxford College is the small, rural outpost an hour away from big sister Emory University in urban Atlanta. With just around 900 students, it’s a lovely, tiny, but bustling campus. My host Dr. Margaret “Molly” McGehee, arranged a dinner prior to the screening, and as we walked through the student cafeteria I could see and hear how connected students were with one another. I smiled as I caught snippets of their animated conversations (and jealously eyed their frozen yogurt machine.)

Dr. McGehee invited several faculty, staff and students to a small dinner before the screening. Talk quickly turned to Greek and race issues on their campus, and other colleges. No small talk was exchanged. Rather each of the women took a turn to share illuminating personal stories. A stranger and their guest, I was grateful for such generous conversation, which provided me salient insight into their college and wider experiences, in advance of the post-screening Q&A.

Sated by meaningful conversation, and a healthy (yay) salmon dinner, we took this photo before heading to the screening.

I didn’t quite believe my host Molly McGehee, when she warned that the huge gymnasium theatre would be pretty full. But she was right. I took this photo, as folks still had 10 minutes to arrive.

Oxford College is special in that it is reserved for freshman and sophomores only. It provides a focused, intensive liberal arts education that primes first and second year students for the move later to Emory’s more sprawling campus in Atlanta. This made me all the more impressed with the deep and sometimes heated discussion about racial dynamics, after the screening of Old South. I asked for “real talk” and these underclassmen brought it.  Students felt empowered to share strongly held opinions, and then those impressions were refuted and challenged by others. In this vigorous back and forth exchange, they dialogued intelligently and shared passionately with each other, even as they respected one another. This was, by far, one of the best post-screening conversations of the Old South tour. I learned so much from this student body.

A week later, I received an email from an Oxford student: “Black Student Alliance had a discussion on Race and Greek Life during our general meeting and many of our talking points came from the film and Q&A afterward.”  I had hoped the film would resonate with students, and it appears it has at Oxford College. Greatly humbled.