After mid-semester break, “Starting a Dialogue,” a project by Alcee Walker ’11 and Nicholas Menghini ’20, will be presented to the campus community. The project is a result of the Laurentians Investing in Networking and Careers (LINC) program.
According to the Career Services website, “The LINC program is designed to match first-year and sophomore students individually with a St. Lawrence alumnus/a or parent who serves as a professional mentor. The program provides a structure for developing connections and sustaining the relationship for a year.”
Walker is a filmmaker who has written and directed several projects. After graduating from St. Lawrence, he obtained a Master’s of Fine Arts in social documentary and a Master’s of Professional Studies in directing from the School of Visual Arts in New York, according to IMDb. He received two awards from the Director’s Guild of America for “Pain of Love” and “Inferno.”
“Starting a Dialogue” is a video series that Walker and Menghini say is “about finding real people to discuss how they feel about race, gender, sex, and dating.” Additionally, “The purpose of the conversation is about the realities of dating within the black community. Regardless of the media discussing dating and sex within the black community, we wanted to find everyday people and listen to how they feel about these issues.”
When asked about the inspiration for the project, Walker and Menghini say “Several years ago there was a BuzzFeed video created off of recent studies with online dating and live interactions between heterosexual individuals. It was noted that African American women were the least desired women compared to all other races.”
They add, “According to PEW, though only a small population within the black community marry outside the race, within that small amount, men are marrying twice as much outside the race than women.”
Walker states “with these studies, coupled with today’s media portrayal of women, I wanted to know if the numbers were true. I wanted to know how people really felt. That’s where the initial idea of starting a dialogue began.”
The series explores dating, sex, and race. It also strives to give black women a voice. “While searching for people to interview and conducting our outdoor conversations with people, it was clear that our series will be directed towards the perspective of black women. We realized that black women’s voices are often unheard in these situations, and it is important to showcase their viewpoint when discussing dating and sex.”
Every film project comes with its own unique challenges. “The obvious challenge in making this series is to make sure we represent all people within our community, without sounding biased,” say Walker and Menghini. “Another challenge was to figure out ways to include other races, as interracial dating is a crucial part of dating within the black community. It was difficult finding people of other races who were willing to talk about dating black people. It was clear the discomfort talking about race still has on our society.”
Menghini says “Working with Alcee has been a blessing. I’ve learned so much from him, from running-and-gunning with him in Union Square to our conversations over the phone.” He also has high regard for the LINC program: “I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for the [LINC] program. For those rising sophomores, I would recommend each and everyone of you to apply.”
The video series aims to educate people and encourage them to question their attitudes and beliefs. “There are varying opinions, and we understand that the series will make some feel very uncomfortable. However, that’s what we want our viewers to feel. After watching this series, we want you to walk away with questioning your own ideals and thinking about the choices you made in terms of who you date. We want people to start talking about this issue of dating within the black community and therefore beginning to rectify our own stereotypes about each other.” Walker also adds, “As black men, we need to step it up and stop making excuses when it comes to dating our sisters. We have along way to go but I think this is a start.”
Be sure to check out “Starting a Dialogue” February 19 at 6-7:30 p.m.
Update: Nicholas Menghini has provided links to the videos: