'Brown’ Documentary Is Worth 'Sitting’ For


The Brown V. Board of Education case is put in a new light as The N, the teenage-aimed part of Noggin, experiments with 10 students conducting a real-life study into race relations in America circa 2004.

In I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, the teens examine the progress — or lack thereof — that public schools have made since the landmark decision 50 years ago.

These students attend the Buffalo Academy for Visual & Performing Arts, a racially diverse magnet school, which, like much of Buffalo, N.Y., remains segregated. The students center their investigation around the task of integrating the cafeteria — an eatery divided partly out of habit and partly from choice.

In the beginning, the students share a youthful enthusiasm and optimism that inevitably transforms as they approach challenges and work to confront their peers — and at times each other — to achieve their goal.

In roundtable format, the teens speak about stereotypes, race relations, what it means to be black or white in America, and the advantages or disadvantages they feel each has.

As part of the experiment, the students pair up, one minority with one non-minority. This is where the rubber meets the road, like the uncomfortable silence when a white male visits the home of one of his African-American classmates.

Later, the two discuss why the white male used the phrase “lynch them,” referring to a situation involving a group of his African-American classmates. On their visit to an all-white pool hall, he whispers to a friend to make sure it’s okay to bring an African-American inside.

At first, the film seems cliché, but a full look reveals genuineness. The youngsters’ ability to candidly articulate their opinions and approach their peers with varied viewpoints makes it worth watching for adults and children alike.

The piece also shows moments of legitimate change for some students. A second pair of young men visits each other’s homes. After they meet their families, have dinner and spend a night, they form a bond formed from knowing each other better.

Filmmakers Whitney Dow and Marco Williams (Two Towns of Jasper) collaborated with executive producer Tonya Lewis Lee (Lilli, Dienasty). Consultants with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. also participated. (Discussion available at http:\\discussions.the-n.com)

I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education premieres on May 17 at 9:00 p.m. (ET) and repeats at 12:00 a.m. that night.