Documentary series following life at a high school in South Carolina, USA. The seniors prepare for their vintage Hollywood-themed prom.
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If I had to describe OW in one word - a real diamond.
Over the top.
Oh, my God.
This ain't no fairy tale high school.
This ain't no fairy tale story.
Everything is real here.
OW receives black people 98% of the time.
You share pain, you share tears,
we are lifelong friends forever.
Teachers, please close all doors, we are in an active hall sweep.
I'm a senior, and it's make or break time for me.
I'm about to get ready to leave high school.
Y'all going to jail, because y'all in a stolen car.
Come on, Ry-Ry!
Oh, I love you, man.
I am so proud of you,
because I know that you have overcome obstacles
to make it to this day.
It is going to be a wild ride.
So tell me, MacKenzie, what do you want at your party?
Whoever took the phone, you're not a very good person.
It's sad that her birthday party has to come to this.
What if you had hit somebody?
I was being careful.
No, you wasn't, because you ran a red light.
She put me out, but I understood why she put me out.
This shower is about Harmoni.
I appreciate everybody for coming today and everything.
I appreciate you supporting us and everything.
Oh, look, my baby's going back to school.
I'm scared. I don't want to be a failure.
In God's hands.
Welcome back. Welcome back.
We're back from spring break,
and I was hoping you would have your pants up by now.
Prom is the 23rd.
April 23rd, yeah.
Yeah, they're ordering clothes and stuff.
It's going to be a big night.
Yeah, it's going to be a big night.
So today we kick off that last leg in this race.
I've... I've often seen it written that the race to excellence
has no finish line.
But we have to have a finish line here this year.
And we're about to cross that line for seniors.
Let's go. Let's go, y'all.
Morning. How you doing?
How was your break?
Good. Let's go, y'all.
Good morning, faculty, staff and students.
Welcome back from what I assume was a wonderful spring break.
Reminder - vintage Hollywood. April 23rd, 2016
at the cinema room here in Orangeburg.
This is a prom to remember.
So, pretty much, we know we want flashing lights.
You know, we want vintage Hollywood.
How are you going to put it?
Flashing lights and vintage Hollywood?
Should we order, question one,
should we order the whole kit on page two and three?
What's the price there?
A big deal?
Like, it's senior prom.
Like, it's going to be lit.
Oh, my God!
I cannot wait.
Vintage Hollywood - a glamorous affair?
Y'all not feeling that? No?
I like the glamorous affair! Affair.
No, I don't have a date, but that's fine.
I'm still going to slay by myself.
Hollywood is really for those who know what prom would look like.
-So you want the columns and...?
I like the gold on page...
I was mad at the fact that Breezy put me out.
Because she knew that I didn't have nowhere else to go.
And that's, like, hurting me a whole lot.
That hurt me, and that's when I really knew, like,
it was done.
The support that I had was lost.
And I just felt like I got a little too comfortable.
And I felt like that's what messed everything up,
when I got too comfortable.
My father's been locked up for six or seven years.
But he's got one or two more years,
we're not really worrying about how long he's been in jail.
I'm just ready for him to get out.
I wish I was at school.
School, school, school.
Dear Miss Rodriguez, a hearing was scheduled
on Thursday March 17th, 2016.
As a result of the hearing,
Anthony will attend Brother's Keeper Alternative School on Monday.
It encourages that Anthony enrols in an anger management programme.
He will not be returning to OW.
You can't go to college in these kind of programmes.
A kid that's constantly in trouble.
In away, I'm kind of upset by the decision, but I guess...
I guess they knows better.
I guess they know better.
Only thing I'm scared of is being a failure.
I do not want to be a failure.
And that's probably it.
That's my one thing - do not be a failure.
All radio holders, 1083.
All radio holders, 1083.
All I did was defend myself.
To the point where you're fighting, that's certainly not necessary.
-I didn't want to fight her.
-Then why'd you get up first?
I'm not a fighter. She stood up first, Miss Smalls.
All I did was tell a boy not to let her get to him,
because I wouldn't let her get to me,
and she was standing targeting me too.
She stood up at her chair, then she was about to come and fight me,
so I stood up out my chair,
because I didn't want to get beat in a chair.
And everything happened so quick.
What am I supposed to do?
You know what the punishment is for fighting, correct?
It was self-defence, though.
Who hit who first?
She got me on the ground, was kicking me.
There's video, probably, somewhere.
You can see how everything happened.
Your version, is that the same version
everyone else has in the room?
There's video... Ask the teacher, how about that?
-I did that.
-What did he say?
That you were up first.
That I stood up first?
Well, if that's really how it is,
then I guess that's how it's meant to be.
I guess that's how the world turns.
I shouldn't get in trouble for just trying to do the right thing,
I'm telling you.
Dr Peters, you have a parent waiting for you at the front office.
Hey, Ms Williams.
How are you?
Tell Miss Smalls that we'll be in my office, OK?
If Mykenzie stood up
because the girl is now in her personal space, and she's like,
"I'm not going to sit here and get hit," that's one thing.
But if she stands up to say, "You want to fight?"
that's a trigger. And for these children,
somebody standing up is a challenge.
It says, "Come on, let's fight."
Why should she be the one to have to back down from what is right?
And allow what is wrong to continue?
She's saying to herself, probably - now I'm thinking in her head -
that, "I don't care if I'm a white girl in a black school.
"I'm just going to be myself, and I should be allowed to be myself."
And she's right.
She's right. She should be allowed to be herself.
-But there's rules.
-But is it smart?
We - you and I and everybody in this school, and you at home -
have to teach her how to read her environment.
And to say that, "It's not going to be safe for me to jump into this."
She's got consequences to face when she gets home for this, obviously.
I am one of the only white people here at the school.
And Mom knew that was going to be the case
and I knew that was going to be the case.
We chose to go to OW, because a lot of white parents
are sending their kids off to private school
and schools like that,
so their kids don't have to be in an environment like this.
When I first came here,
I had positive energy and everybody was afraid.
Now, it's like I don't trust anybody,
you can't get to these kids,
keep your mouth shut and stay as visible as possible.
You still appear to be going right at her.
Adrenaline. Adrenaline, was right there.
You didn't see where she hit me first, Momma.
See, she's hitting me.
And I'm just trying to block my face.
When somebody hits you,
it's human nature.
Had you ignored her, we wouldn't be having this situation.
But, Momma, you gotta put yourself in my shoes
as a student in that school.
You said for me to put myself in your shoes as a parent,
and I did that. And I can see where you're coming from.
If my child got suspended for ten days at school,
I'd automatically want to punish them too.
But put yourself in my shoes as your daughter in a school like that.
I'm not... That's not fair.
OK, no, just listen to me, it is fair, Mommma, get out the gutter.
It's fair. From your perspective, I see how it could be unfair.
But from my perspective, being the person in the school, it's fair.
Because you've got to put up with it, you can't speak up for yourself,
you can't defend yourself all the time,
or it's going to start something with somebody.
You gotta just take it, every day.
You gotta take it as it comes to you, and say,
"I'm better than that."
It's not a race thing, no, but it's a culture thing.
It's a way of who you are, in that school.
If you don't follow up with what they're doing
and how they act and all that... Momma, you are singled out.
Dr Peters was kind of saying the same thing.
He was saying that, somehow or another, you are in a culture,
and a world now that you don't understand.
He says that we need to keep you safe
and that you understand that people in this culture
take things differently.
And I really have to say, I thought that, on the way here,
I thought I was going to say something totally different,
and I'm going to tell you this, and I hope that, one day...
..that I won't regret saying this.
But I'm saying the opposite - be you.
Take that for who you are.
-Take that, and see the good in people.
-Thank you, Momma.
You stick up for what you think is right,
and the good Lord will protect you, and good will come out of it.
That's right. You always try to help people.
And if bad things happen because of it, like a ten-day suspension,
just compose yourself the best you can and...
Know in myself I did the right thing.
-That you tried to do the right thing.
Here we go.
My father is in one of the best prisons in South Carolina.
The other prisons in South Carolina,
I heard that they have most African-Americans in there,
and they have dangerous African-Americans.
They be killing each other just to kill each other for fun.
I'm glad that my father's in one of the jails
with the old people and stuff.
I'm nervous about telling my father I got kicked out of school.
But if he in jail and I hide something behind his back,
that'd be messed up.
Look who come up.
-Little dude from across the street!
-I love you.
I love you more.
How's school coming on?
-What about them grades?
-They was good.
-What you call good?
As and Bs. And some Cs.
What about that attitude I was telling you about?
I don't know.
-That flew out the window.
Nah, it ain't gone.
What do you mean by that?
You got in some trouble?
-Not some trouble.
-A lot of trouble.
I got kicked out of school.
-I got kicked out of school.
-Punching someone in the nose.
He said my momma was going to die.
-He said my momma was going to die.
I'll always be proud of you.
My father being locked up...
For one, they were saying,
for two hours I was mad.
I'll tell you why I was mad.
Because that day before, I said, "Dad, don't do nothing stupid,
"just stay home."
Wake up in the newspaper,
everybody crying. So I go get the newspaper,
and I spaz out, punch a wall.
That's when it started. I just realised something -
that's where it started. That's where my anger started.
That day I punched a wall.
And ever since then, I started punching walls.
I never started punching stuff.
So that mean, with your father being in jail,
you shouldn't use that as an excuse, just like I did.
When your father be in jail, that should be, like,
a motivation to you to, like,
inspire you to be stronger and better than your father.
Getting asked to leave OW wasn't a good thing.
But I took advantage of it, I'm glad it happened.
So I won't end up in jail or six feet down, like others.
The majority of my friends, their fathers are
either out of their lives or, you know,
somehow in their lives, but not in the same household as them.
Oh, my daddy!
Daddy, daddy, daddy.
He's just my daddy.
Well, I consider him a sperm donor.
It affects the school,
because you can see the ones that don't have a father figure to go by.
And there's the ones, you know, that are misbehaving,
and really not doing what they're supposed to do.
Who is this dude?
Nobody don't know really who he is.
Everybody know who Kordel Johnson is.
And if you don't know, then you ain't somebody,
that's all I gotta say.
Like, if I call him asking for something,
I know I can't depend on him,
because my mother,
she was basically my father and mother.
The OW prom is not like what you see on TV.
You don't have fairy-tale endings.
You don't make up with the dude that was being a butthole
the entire time you were preparing for prom.
Prom is a very big deal for me.
This is the mark.
This is just one more step to...
I'm out of there.
You see Vernon?
I saw him yesterday.
No, I didn't speak.
-It's a long story?
He used to live with me.
He used to be, like, my kid.
A couple of occurrences happened,
stuff I don't put up with with my kids,
so I just had to let him go.
She put me out. I'm now currently at my Aunt Rosa's house.
It's a little hectic there, because of all the kids.
This is, like, their fourth time doing that.
But I'm sticking it out until graduation.
It's my aunt's three kids,
and then my Aunt Rosa has my other aunt's two kids.
And she have me.
And then there's my Aunt Rosa
and her boyfriend. So there's eight people in the house.
The situation with me and Breezy...
If she tell me to run around the school naked
and she'll be friends with me, I would get butt-bone naked.
She's Breanna, and she got a whole lot of pride in her.
I just want my friend back.
SCHOOL BELL RINGS
-Hello, how are you?
-Good, how are you?
Through this little adventure I've been through with Mykenzie,
as you know, and moving into Orangeburg,
how do we get away from something's that's always been of...
almost segregation, still, in our county?
Right. How do we create the conditions for students
to be able to get to know each other?
And to walk away with a perception,
whether it's positive or negative, at least we'll know.
If we can somehow combine the schools together,
try to get the community more...
..united. But how do we do that?
So we put together a breakfast...
-Where is it?
-It's going to be at OP, at the cafeteria.
At OP, I'll be there.
we still have a white school and a black school in Orangeburg.
One is public and one is private.
We have an opportunity to go to OP.
What I want to do is facilitate conversation, right?
We probably have six white students, right?
Five or six. Give or take.
I could be on OP's Campus - Orangeburg Prep's campus -
probably within eight minutes.
I mean, we're that close.
But then, your perception of Orangeburg Prep is what?
-All right, all right.
Why is OW a school that has 98.6% of our children African-American?
Don't we live under a rule of desegregation?
What's up, man? What's up? How you feeling?
Good. Yeah? You feeling some pressure?
Yeah, a little bit.
Wouldn't be normal if you weren't feeling that.
I'm almost relieved to hear you say you're feeling some pressure.
When is the baby due?
27th of April.
Of April. All right.
I want you to get to a point where you don't make decisions
that are detrimental to you, your family, your girlfriend,
and, now, your baby.
Because they're going to need you more than ever right now.
And a lot of times, you know, your girlfriend,
she's going to need your support and your presence.
You need to be there for her,
cos she's gotta be scared, she's young, man, you know?
It has become an accepted part of our culture
that black fathers not being in the homes,
that it's become normalcy.
I'm here to tell you, that's not normal.
And I don't want you to be a part of something that's not normal,
or an accepted practice.
I want you to be the exception, not the rule.
I know how important that is to see.
I see my sisters, and how they're close to my dad.
I want that to be your daughter with you.
All right? And I wanted to look back 20 years from now and remember
this conversation. Because you're going to make it.
I know you'll make it. As hard as it is.
All right? All right, brother.
I don't want to disappoint my family.
I still want to do this, I still want to play ball.
But I'm trying to face reality at the same time.
And I got a daughter over here, on the other side of my life,
I've got a daughter.
But I still want to go to school, so that's going to be out of state.
You feel me? So it's like...
I got a lot going on right now.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday...
Straight to the point, we need a plan.
Yeah. Parents need to be a part of what we do in here,
seven, eight, nine hours a day.
What parents have done is they've done drive-bys on us.
They've driven by and dropped their kids off on us.
And all of the problems that their children have, we now have.
But this is the diagram.
This night, Thursday night,
I'm going to challenge them to become partners with schools
instead of consumers. And it's going to require all hands on deck.
SCHOOL BELL RINGS
All right, be safe, man.
All right, brother, you too now.
The parents of our successful students are engaged,
and the parents of our students who are not engaged are not active.
You want us to educate and help train your children,
then you best come up here and be involved in the process.
OW has taught me this year there's only one me, and I can't do it all.
-No, no - thank you for my change.
I care about you, bro.
All right. What you doing,
getting ready to fight this morning?
I feel like opportunity depends on your circumstance.
You probably have more opportunities if you go to the private school
than you do if you go to OW.
The town is split in half.
Where Walgreens at, if you live on the left side, that's the hood.
That's like, the dark side of town.
But if you live on the right side,
that's where a bunch of businesses are.
They come pick your trash up there.
There's a lot of stuff.
I feel like it's crazy how we are separate, but that's just how it is.
So, listen, we are excited this morning to be a part of,
I think, history, in Orangeburg County.
Where we come together, transcending race,
thinking and discussing the things that you should be leading
the conversation on.
In certain areas of America, yes, I fear for black men.
I might walk into somewhere right now,
and they see all these tattoos on me, and they're like,
"Oh, yes, he an inmate, he a failure."
Anything, you never know, anything.
OW has a reputation.
That reputation has been what, about OW?
Just, it...seems ghetto...
Right. So, as a ghetto school...
We just, like, hear stuff, like, through talk of other people.
Doesn't always mean it's true,
but it's what you think of when people tell you all that stuff.
We don't mingle. I wouldn't see none of y'all on a regular basis,
on the weekends. No times.
The only people I really know that's Caucasian...
..I can count how many people.
We went on a tour, for a college tour,
I was shellshocked. There was white people everywhere.
I didn't know what to say to them, I didn't know what to do.
I was just, like, you know?
I don't know how to talk to them, I didn't know how to approach them.
It was like a glass of milk, and I was like a pepper.
That's how I felt, that's how I felt!
Nobody in my family is racist,
but I don't know what they would say if I brought a white girl home,
you know what I'm saying?
Yeah, they'd probably, like, "Hold on now..."
you know what're saying?
It's not the fact that my family's racist,
it would just be weird. I would feel weird bringing...
You know what I'm saying?
I don't think my parents would like it,
because they're born in a different time, or whatever?
But I don't think it should be that way.
What's next? Do you walk away and say,
"OK, we had a good experience with those black kids from OW?
"They're not that bad!"
You know, you go home and say, "Mom, guess what?
"I met this guy, Kordel, he was cool!"
You know? I mean, "He didn't try to beat me up!
"Or take my pocketbook!"
You might find something like, "Hey, let's go meet up somewhere."
-Honestly, like, we're not going to see each other,
and that's the truth.
Orangeburg is segregated.
I think that breakfast allowed OP and OW students
to say their views,
but I knew for sure we weren't going to change the world
with that conversation.
We wasn't going to change Orangeburg with that conversation.
All right, my brother, what we got going?
OK, I don't know if I should... OK...
Me and Breanna, like, I feel like it's not going to happen.
Like, we're not going to be friends.
Vernon came up with this?
We did have a friendship.
I'm not really...
ready to talk to him.
Or be buddy-buddy, like we once were.
I honestly don't think that it'll ever get like that again.
Like, once you make her mad, it's...
It's not over with.
Hi, this is my baby.
-Look at my baby.
Don't mess up the make-up!
Gotta go get it. Ain't nobody going to give you nothing.
You weren't born into money, the money ain't going to come to you.
So you gotta go get it.
# So long, so long
# Jesus walk with me
# To the hustlers, killers murderers, drug dealers
-# Even the scrippers
-Jesus walks for them
# To the victims of welfare for we livin' in Hell here,
-# Hell, yeah
-Jesus walks for them
# Now, hear ye, hear ye Want to see Thee more clearly
# I know He hear me when my feet get weary
# Cos we're the almost nearly extinct
# We rappers is role models We rap, we don't think
# I ain't here to argue about his facial features
# Or here to convert atheists into believers
# I'm just tryna say the way school need teachers
# The way Kathie Lee needed Regis That's the way I need Jesus... #
I don't know where our relationship stands exactly.
But I don't know...
No, I haven't spoken to Vernon.
We'll start off with our welcome to prom.
What's up, OW? CHEERING
So, all of the candidates for prom king need to come towards the front.
Prom kings have been chosen.
Rendull Middleton. CHEERING
We're going to announce the winner. And our prom king is...
Rendull Middleton. CHEERING
MUSIC: Can't Do Without You by Caribou
I feel I was already prom king.
I'm the prince of the city. This is how I imagined it.
Seeing here, prom king... OK!
What's the plan? That's just the only question right now.
What has God got planned?
He done got you through elementary, middle and high school,
so what's the plan?
# I can't do without you
# I can't do without you
# I can't do without you
# I can't do without you... #
College... College is not for everybody. You know?
Not for everybody.
# Can't do without, can't do without
# Can't do without, can't do without, can't do without... #
I feel excited, you know?
I know where I'm going to college, I know I'm going to State
and I know I'm going to play football.
Everything is basically laid out.
It's like a brick road. All I have to do is follow the brick road.
# I can't do without you... #
I have sort of a naive approach.
I honestly do not know that much about the world.
And I'm about to step into it.
It's best to keep your hope alive
and never to give up and to stay positive.
# I can't do without you... #
I just can't wait to get out of this high school,
get out of this home city that I'm in right now.
Like, there's more than Orangeburg out here in this world,
and I'm trying to go see the world.
# Can't do without, can't do without, can't do without
# Can't do without, can't do without, can't do without... #
You know what I mean? Just...Hollywood.
Vintage Hollywood. It's unfortunate,
it's so much like a Cinderella story that, for a night,
they get to really come out and...
..and lose the cares and troubles that they have in their real world.
I just wish it could be like that for them every day.
# Can't do without you
# And you're the only thing I think about
# It's all that I can stand Can't do without you
# And you know you're the one I dream about
# I couldn't do without you. #
She should probably be kicking me that I never got that interview.
She going to be... She going to be...
That's crazy, though, boy.
Just put it on her head.
You better rub the head.
I'm brown-skinned. She dark brown. I'm dark brown. You brown-skinned.
That's all there is to it.
He gotta do stuff for his daughter, that's all.
He gotta do stuff for his daughter. There's certain things he can't do
no more, like go out, things like that.
And think about what you gotta do now, that's all.
I'd say you gotta step up, be a man.
We ain't young no more. I've been telling him now that...
Although he have a child, he still is going to go to college.
And I don't want him or they to feel like, just because they got a baby,
they can't accomplish what they want to accomplish.
I don't mean to cry, y'all, but I'm sorry...
I don't mean to cry, for real, but that mean everything to me.
That mean everything to me, I swear.
I know, I have friends who have lost two kids, like, back-to-back.
I don't understand. Like, it's hard out here.
It's hard out here for our kids.
And just to see your kid walk on the stage and graduate,
that's everything to me.
That's everything to me, just waking up,
knowing that my child is still in the house with me.
He has no time to lose.
Even with Harmoni, he's gotta be the best daddy,
he's gotta be the best father for her.
He gotta show Harmoni, "Daddy got you."
You gotta do right by your kids, be a good father, I know that much.
Seeing what the next step is in life.
For the better of her life.
That's the next step for me.
Contemplate my next move.
We are having a Parent-Teacher-Student Association
feeling like if, we feed our parents and community, they'll come out.
And while they're here, we have a theme for the night -
All Hands On Deck.
Ending a school year, we want our parents
to really understand the need for parental involvement
HE HUMS A TUNE
'So we're expecting a good turnout.'
I've been sitting here thinking that the majority of people that are
here tonight are our staff.
We certainly should have more parents here,
because it's their children that we're educating.
So my comments tonight are really not reflected to you,
because you are the ones who get it.
Looking at our children, coming into the prom,
which had to be the best prom ever in the history of high schools,
they looked like millions of dollars.
You see, for our children, looking good is a priority.
Whether they had food Sunday...
..is a different story.
But they looked good Saturday night.
We've got to get to a point where we align our schools to the harsh
realities our children and families face.
But first, they must trust. And I think that is a word
that is missing from our children's vocabulary -
trust - because adults in their lives have let them down so many times
in their young lives.
Somebody has to stand up in Orangeburg...
.."This is not right."
I end tonight disappointed, as you might see on my face,
by the empty seats in our auditorium.
And I'm looking at the same people I've been looking at since August.
The same people.
1,200 students, and we had six parents attend.
It made me sick to my stomach.
We are asked, as educators, to not only teach their children,
but we are asked to help raise their children.
And so it's frustrating. It makes me angry.
Very few things make me angry.
That's one thing that makes me angry.
And I can't do it all.
The best I can do for y'all today is to keep y'all from going to jail.
I have to do four to six weeks' worth of work in two hours.
If he fails that class, he doesn't graduate.
-This our graduation, too.
Y'all chose to make a dumb decision, so y'all need to make it right.
I've never written a speech before.
I want to write something inspirational.
This is a picture of my mother.
As the seniors prepare for their vintage Hollywood-themed prom, two members of the organising committee, Vernon and Breezy, are no longer on speaking terms.
TJ anxiously awaits the results of his expulsion hearing and makes a visit to his dad in prison.
Mykenzie gets into some serious trouble, and her mum, Linda, launches an initiative to try to help racial integration in Orangeburg.
With just days to go before the prom, Rendull is anticipating the birth of his daughter, and Dr Peters makes a life-changing decision.