TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Black professor at the University of South Florida is getting ready to premiere a film he wrote and directed that spotlights several issues minority teachers and students face at predominately white universities and colleges.
Ryan Watson is a Film Maker, College Professor, husband, father and a Black man.
“When you’re an African-American faculty you are put in a position where you have to represent and represent the right way,” Watson said.
Watson is the only Black male professor in the Mass Communications Department at the University of South Florida.
“The interaction of only being the only Black male teachers makes you feel some kind of way, but then you get black students,” he expressed.
Black students, a rarity for Watson at USF. Also, having Black colleagues is rare. This is the case for the teacher workforce as a whole. According to the Department of Education, only 18% of educators are people of color, Black men represent just 2%. This, while 49% of public elementary and secondary students are children of color.
“I’m certain I can count on one hand how many times I had a black man as a teacher,” Watson said.
Watson took his life experience and turned it into a film.
“It had been in me for a while, but I never actually put it on paper,” he said. “It really goes into full circle about how it is being the only African-American faculty and on the flip side of it, what the interaction with your African-American students.”
Watson wrote and directed his new film; The Ivory League: Confessions of a Black Faculty. He said it only took him an hour to write after he realized he wanted to put another film out. The film was shot over the course of three days at USF and is compromised of a great cast of local actors and producers.
His film is about a Black professor at a predominately white university who goes the extra mile to motivate an underachieving minority student.
“Where you nervous about putting this film out? Did you feel as though you would receive backlash?” 8 On Your Sides’ Deanne King asked Watson. “Oh I’m sure, but it’s whatever,” Watson said. “Film is supposed to make you feel something. there will be people, that don’t like it, there will be people who love it, that’s life.”
Whether one may like it or not, Watson cares more about the impact this film will have on teachers, regardless of their color, as well as, student. However, he’s putting a huge focus on how important Black teachers are for Black students.
‘When you have an opportunity to have a black teacher that loves you, you have to take advantage of that,” Watson said. “You have to understand what ‘for the culture’ truly means. It’s not about social media, it’s not about doing the commercial things. It’s about how do we treat each other behind closed doors.”
Watson’s film is set to premiere on Jan. 9 at the College and Career Conversations as a part of the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival. You can follow this project’s journey on Facebook. For more on the film, you can visit their IMDB page.