Reticent: PeerForward Alumnus is Starting a Conversation about Black Boys, Trauma, and Collective Healing.
Antwon Lindsey is a man of many titles – father, teacher, author, and now – filmmaker. On March 16th, Lindsey debuted his first short film project, Reticent: Cause Black Boys Can’t Cry at Barry University in Miami Shores, FL. Two hundred members of the Miami-Dade community attended the screening, including PeerForward Coaches, Raquel Figueroa, and Loubert Senatus, as well as a number of other PeerForward Alumni. The screening was designed to be a public event precluded by an evening of “art, celebration, and community”.
To those that knew Antwon’s journey, the event was a triumph of will. But for Antwon, the evening represented so much more. It was an opportunity to have a real conversation with his community: “It’s about the story; it’s about what we experience, but never really talk about.” Reticent follows one young man’s journey confronting the trauma he has endured from his wider surroundings. The 18-minute short film is an intimate look at the thought process of a young black man who is figuring out how to cope and find a new pathway to success.
This week, the film will screen again for youth leaders attending the Youth Activation in Schools summit at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
Antwon grew up in Liberty City, Miami in a tight-knit, mostly low-income community where he benefitted from the strong values of newly immigrated families. Still, in Liberty City, “there was gun violence and nonsense around” some of which even Antwon fell privy to. Unknowingly affected by the violence and trauma in his surroundings, Antwon felt himself caring less about the future ahead of him. By the end of his 9th-grade year, his GPA rounded out to a 1.6. With the encouragement of his English teacher, Antwon resolved that he wouldn’t let his upbringing dictate his future; he would strive to become better for himself and those around him.
At Miami Northwestern Senior High; Antwon found the key to achieving his wildest dreams was to find people who were looking to do the same. “I wanted to get away from the violence…because sometimes I was guilty by association. I decided I needed new friends.” Antwon quickly found like-minded friends who set their sights on graduation and beyond. They became so close that they gave themselves the nickname ‘The Ninja Turtles.’ “We had shirts and everything,” Antwon laughs.
Antwon recalls how much he benefitted from the influence of his friends. “Being complacent wasn’t what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be anymore,” he said. During his summer workshop by PeerForward (then College Summit), Antwon found a way to break out of his comfort zone. “Lou (Senatus, a PeerForward coach) came up to me during the workshop and he challenged me, he didn’t even know me, but he challenged me to share my story during Rap Session.” With new found confidence, Antwon began to draw in more positivity, “Mondarell Latrez was a Peer Leader, too, and he had this great energy; he really took me under his wing during the workshop. Mondarell was one of those people who told me that I was going to be great”. The connections Antwon built during his workshops empowered him to start building deeper connections with those in his personal life, including his father.
In the years since Antwon’s workshop, he’s challenged those around him to have tough conversations. He recalls coaching a high school friend, Immanuel, while in line for graduation. “I really had to tell this dude, look, we’re just as good as the kids in the top ten– we took the same classes – we know them. We’re going to college. We’re going to be successful.”
As a filmmaker, Antwon points to that power of peer influence and peer support as the driving factor to getting the production made. Marquez Davis, a fellow PeerForward alum and godfather to Antwon’s son, originally challenged Antwon to make a short film out of his book of the same title. “Marquez said if I made the film, he would plan the screening. I was like, ‘okay, bet’.” A mere month after their conversation, Antwon approached Marquez with a script. “I finished the script in November and by January we were shooting, it was crazy.” While Antwon directed the film, Marquez planned for a community screening. Using his vast network, Marquez connected with yet another PeerForward alum, Dominique Franklin. With Dominique’s help, the team was able to secure a venue for the film’s screening debut, Barry University.
Through hard work and diligence, Antwon and Marquez were able to foster a much-needed conversation with their community. Truly, it’s what Antwon hoped for. He talked with department heads at Florida International University and from his 8th-grade class in Miami-Dade. all in the hope of creating a real conversation about the mental health of those in his community.
His book is now being used for orientations at his alma mater, Florida Gulf Coast University, and on college library shelves as far as California. When asked about his motivation for starting this conversation, Antwon said “the film is not about me, it’s about our story. I want people to see that kids go through this and don’t know how to
cope.” He hopes he can help change that. When talking about his drive to complete this project, he quotes famous rapper, Tupac: “I’m not saying I’m gonna rule the world or I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world. And that’s our job, it’s to spark somebody else watching us.” To Antwon, that’s his job, to spark the conversation, to make an impact, to help Black boys be heard.
You can find all of Antwon Lindsey’s work on his website AntwonLindsey.com. His books, Reticent and The Orchard of Sentiment are available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com