Short Film, Fastest Man in the State, Playing at the Whitney Museum, April 8-9

Jessica and Sandy

On April 8-9, Fastest Man in the State will screen at the Whitney Museum as part of its Biennial Program. Co-directed by Kevin Everson and Claudrena Harold, Fastest Man in the State tells the story of a pioneering group of African Americans who integrated the University of Virginia’s athletic program during the 1970s. Much of the film centers on the experiences of Kent Merritt and Harrison Davis. Through scripted training exercises and drills, the film celebrates the visual beauty of athletic competition.

Black Monologues and the Reclamation of Space: Black Fire Students Interview Micah Watson

By E. Adler, A. Branch, M. Curtin, N. D’Addio, L. Engel, C. Gorelick, C. Magume, C. Shoaibi

Those who belong to minority groups often feel othered when attending predominantly white institutions. However, their experiences are far from monolithic. But the tendency to assume that every minority experience allows the privileged to excuse themselves from the processes of understanding and relationship building, which can actually break down the barriers that perpetuate this type of behavior. For our class project, we interviewed Micah Watson and William Harrell, both of whom shed light on their time at the University. What emerged from these interviews was certainly the notion that regardless of time, the Black experience is not monolithic and it is problematic to perpetuate that myth.

Themes that emerged from those conversations and interactions include: reclaiming space, eliminating the monolithic narratives, contextualizing high school within the college experience, and the student/administrator dynamics. There has been some progress at UVa, but in other ways, most distinctly the decline in black enrollment, the University has also regressed. In the same way that experiences within one graduating class or generation of students are not monolithic, neither are even the individual experiences of students during their time at the University. Also, a lived experience can differ from the memory of one. To better understand the diversity of experience at UVa and particularly within the concept of dismantling the idea of a monolith, one can turn to the stories of both the class of 1984 and current third year Micah Watson.

Ms. Micah Watson is a member of the class of 2018 at the University of Virginia. She came to the University from Wichita, Kansas where she attended high school and graduated in 2014. Since coming to the University she got immediately involved in changing the experience for Black students at UVa. She was determined to channel her passion for theater, and recognizing the very few spaces, if any, Black students had ideas for creative expression, she created the theatrical production, the Black Monologues. She is the director and producer of the show that started in 2015 and established itself as an annual production in 2016. In addition to Black Monologues, Ms. Watson is also involved in OneWay, an intervarsity Christian fellowship at the University.  She majors in both drama and African American Studies and speaks a lot about the competing pressures Black students face, and particularly how she attempted to channel those experiences into the Black Monologues.