By Morgan Lawrence

James Baldwin’s immortal words from his collection of essays, Notes of a Native Sun, embody the theme of this film; “I am what time, circumstances, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that. So are we all.”

Raising Bertie illustrates a six-year portrait of three African American boys surviving their circumstances from adolescence to adulthood in rural Bertie County, North Carolina. This documentary captures the complexity of the plight in the African American experience with employment, education, poverty, family and individuality. This documentary follows three boys – Reginald “Junior” Askew, David “Bud” Perry, and Davonte “Dada” Harrell – through disappointments, struggles and victories.

Bertie County’s population is 80 percent Black with scarce opportunities and little excitement. The film highlighted the reality of 27 prison within 100 miles of the county.

A video of former President Barack Obama’s speech resonated with the boys facing their odds of success in their slow paced lives. Obama stated, “There is no excuse for not trying.” This proved that you have the choice of rising above or succumbing to your circumstances.

Margaret Byrne directed this award-winning documentary with help from Executive Producer Jermaine Cole, also known as rap artist, J. Cole. This intimate, heartbreaking and emotional journey of three African American males will inform the audience of the harsh reality of poverty, lack of education, and the Black experience here in America.

Raising Bertie will premiere in New Orleans at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center on 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard on Friday June 23. PBS will also premiere the documentary on August 28.