Drexel Online student in TV Management creates award-winning documentary
In today's age of civic engagement, there are seemingly endless ways to raise your voice. Some write letters to their congressional representatives, or march during protests. For Shereen Williams, an online student in the MS in Television Management program, the most natural way for her to get involved was to play to her strengths. So, she made a documentary.
And now, she's winning awards for it.
Called "Mother's Fears," the 15-minute documentary brings together American mothers of different ethnicities and religions to talk about one of their greatest fears: trying to raise their sons in a culture that can be disproportionally violent towards people of color. Williams features her own young son in the video and highlights the struggles of three additional families including a white couple raising an adopted black son, a Mexican-American family and an African-American Muslim family with a teenager with autism. Regardless of their differences, all of the mothers in the movie want the same thing: a world in which their children can grow up safe.
For Williams, this was an intensely personal subject. As an African-American woman and the mother of a young son, she watched coverage of high-profile killings of young African-American men with dread. The idea for the film came after she was pulled over by police while driving with her then nine-year-old son. Though Williams was quick to point out that she doesn't believe all police officers are a part of the society-wide problem, the incident still left her shaken. The encounter did not lead to any physical aggression, but Williams said she thought, "When he gets my age, will he survive this? When he gets to a driving age, will he survive these types of stops by law enforcement?" From that encounter came "Mother's Fears."
"I wanted to let people know that we're mothers and we fear for our sons. We fear for what can happen," Williams said, "and not that I can solve the problem, but I can bring awareness to how we're feeling at this moment and give us a voice to what is going on in America."
Though she has degrees in media arts and journalism, this was the first documentary Williams ever made. Not that you would be able to tell, given the film's reception. She's screened it to audiences in the United States and South Africa and won an honorable mention from the Los Angeles Film Awards. The film was also a finalist at the Yonkers Film Festival, the Cape Town International Film Festival and the African World Documentary Film Festival.
Despite the positive feedback, it can still be scary for Williams to share her work. "I get butterflies every time," said Williams. "My son's face is the first image that comes on the screen, so I'm just like, 'Oh my God, what is everybody going to think?'...It's like you're getting surgery in front of everybody."
Williams is currently working on developing a television show called "Sisters from Gold," which will be based in South Africa.