Every once in a while, a documentary rolls around that feels especially kairotic. The Infamous Future: The Untold Story of New York City’s Eagle Academy is just that—in addition to poignant and moving.
Written and produced by John Campbell, The Infamous Future works to challenge the narrative surrounding young black and brown men of America. It provides a sharp critique of biased media and prejudicial policies that cast young men of color as underachievers, criminals, aggressive and uneducated—predisposed to a life of drugs and gangs.
Eagle Academy, the focus of Campbell’s documentary, is on the front lines for better representation and opportunities for young men of color. At the helm stands David C. Banks, in partnership with One Hundred Black Men. Together, they created Eagle Academy in response to the discovery that, in the state of New York, 70% of all crimes stem from just seven neighborhoods—all of which are impoverished, with underfunded schools and corrupting forces that become all too appealing to frustrated and unguided young men.
Given the statistics that prove black and brown men are disproportionately likely to face jail time, and add in the fact that 72% of those incarcerated are under the age of 18, David C. Banks felt that it was time to step up and provide an intervention. By going into schools in crime-heavy neighborhoods, Eagle Academy has worked to provide young men of color an unparalleled experience to learn, grow, and succeed. What’s more, they are being shown that their lives and their educations matter.
“Black boys who are behind academically, they are the demographic that everybody is trying to avoid—and that is the population that we have asked for. That’s the reason we were created in the first place, because we see the promise and potential in each and every one of them.” — David C. Banks
At a Talks at Google event, I had the opportunity to begin a dialogue with David Banks and John Campbell on their experience working on The Infamous Future. In the interview, we discuss both of their motivations surrounding the creation of The Eagle Academy and the documentary, as well as their approach to education, the challenges they face, and how to motivate young men of color to succeed in a world that doesn’t always believe in them.
To say the talk was profound would be an understatement. Similarly, describing the film and the provocations that come with it presents a unique challenge as well. The director of the film, Richard Butterworth, told theGrio, “I honestly hope that people are as inspired by that fight as they are troubled by some of the statistics.” In a nutshell, his quote works to explain the viewer’s experience—torn between inspiration for the future and frustration for the present, the film strikes precisely the right chord at this moment in time.