By Minna Xiao
Since the beginning of February, in conjunction with Black History Month, Tayo Amos ’14 has uploaded one to two new videos to her website bexcellent2014.tumblr.com for her “Black Excellence” series at Stanford. The videos, which are modeled after The New York Times “Screen Tests,” feature Stanford students in the black community discussing their passions, interests and ambitions. The project will continue through the end of February.
Amos, who is double majoring in Science, Technology and Society as well as Iberian and Latin American Cultures, is no stranger to the realm of film. A budding filmmaker, Amos was recently selected as one of the six college students comprising “Team Oscar” who will be delivering Oscar statuettes at this year’s Academy Awards.
Amos said she drew inspiration for her project from Essence Magazine’s short film contest, which sought to challenge the stereotypical depictions of black women in media and Hollywood by asking each contestant to submit a film showcasing positive, multidimensional portrayals of black women.
“This idea of positive representation stuck with me,” said Amos, who wanted to frame this conversation within the context of the Stanford community. “I want to show that there are amazing Stanford students who look like me and are doing really great things. They talk about what they’re interested in, what their passions are. It’s a statement.
“This was my chance to bring these people and their stories to the forefront,” she added.
For her project, Amos interviewed and filmed 33 Stanford students over the course of fall quarter, spent seven to nine hours a day editing the videos during winter break, and has consistently released a video or two every day throughout February.
For Chris Sackes ’16, who was spotlighted on Day 12 of the project, Amos’ Black Excellence series serves as way of introducing Stanford’s black community to those unfamiliar with it.
“I really like the concept…for Black History month to show how much progress has been made in the past 40 years or so,” he said. “For people outside of the Stanford bubble, this project can show that there is a strong black community at Stanford, and there are people who are thriving and excelling.”
In his video, Sackes spoke of his passion for photography, his involvement in the a capella group Talisman and his affinity for languages.
“Black excellence means doing the best you can…and not letting any hindrances get in your way and going after what you want,” Sackes said.
Tucker Bryant ’16 remarked that his black identity has become much more salient since coming to Stanford and articulated his passion for both art and urban development in his video, which was featured on Day 2 of the project.
Bryant said it was an honor to be involved with the project.
“It was especially great seeing the final product come together, because you end up with this incredible range of personalities that are vastly different as individuals, but collectively represent a certain commonality that laced the fingers of our experiences together in an unexpected – but graceful – way,” Bryant said.
So far, the response to Amos’ project has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve been getting emails and Facebook friends saying, ‘This is really cool. You should do more of this,’” Amos said. She plans to shape these videos into a final project for a class on digital art and hopes that “this website stays as a digital relic…that people will stumble upon five years later.”
Christina Gibbs contributed to this report.
Contact Minna Xiao at mxiao26 ‘at’ stanford.edu.