When Miles Iton and Paul Loriston, both black, were elected co-presidents of the New College of Florida Student Alliance in 2016 and named a cabinet that included several other students of color, Iton says they faced racially motivated backlash from fellow students that shocked him.
This sort of incident isn’t isolated. The black student experience at top institutions, including liberal ones, is often one of alienation and racism, something the pair discovered when they attended a national student leadership conference in Washington, D.C., and started talking to other black leaders. (One of the worst examples was at American University, which made national headlines in 2017 when students hung bananas from nooses around campus after a young black woman became student body president.)
The experience inspired Iton to spend months documenting what it means to be black on predominantly white college campuses. The result is his provocative 35-minute film Sincerely, the Black Kids. Since then, Iton was invited to participate in a workshop for emerging filmmakers hosted by the Sundance Institute, and he and his producer Shakira Refos are now submitting the film to festivals around the country. Iton, 22, graduated from New College in May and is pursuing a graduate degree in Taiwan. He hopes the film forces colleges to address race in a more honest way on campus. “You have to have the conversation,” he says.