Ali Muhammad Directs HBCU Documentary The Return — Will Packer Produced The Project for Comcast

hbcu documentary

On Friday (Oct 21), Comcast NBCUniversal will release the HBCU documentary, The Return, which highlights the experience HBCU students and alumni have through the lens of homecoming celebrations and traditions

Ali Muhammad directed the documentary which Will Packer executive produce. It will premiere exclusively on the Black Experience on Xfinity channel 1622 and Xumo.

The Black Experience on Xfinity Channel is a first-of-its-kind destination of Black entertainment featuring the ultimate in Black storytelling, available on X1, Flex, and on-the-go with the Xfinity Stream app and Xumo app.

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In 2020, the global Covid-19 pandemic put a pause on most large-scale college activities and sent students into virtual learning. After a year of lockdowns and sheltering in place, 2021 marked a return to campuses and the traditions that come with it. In the HBCU world, the biggest of these traditions is Homecoming, an annual pilgrimage that brings thousands of Alumni, students, family, and friends together in one place for a week-long celebration. The Return explores the HBCU experience through the prism of these celebrations.

The Return was shot in 2021 during the pandemic when many schools either canceled or limited homecoming. The team traveled toa few of the schools that decided tomove forward with Homecoming events last year, including Jackson State, Florida A&M University, and North Carolina Central.

The HBCU documentary features candid conversations with alumni from Morehouse, Spelman, Clark Atlanta, Howard, FAMU, Tennessee State, Jackson State, NC A&T, and more. The many stories they tell explain the unique and shared experience of attending an HBCU.

Some of the topics covered in the film include:

Establishing Home – The film explores the decision-making process to attend an HBCU over the more mainstream, predominantly White institutions. While it can be an easy decision for some, for others it can be a difficult one.

The Safe Space – The HBCU experience doesn’t reflect the real world. This is often one of the lines high school students hear from guidance counselors and alumni upon deciding to attend an HBCU. However, this is precisely the reason Homecoming is so special to so many. The HBCU is a place for coming of age and finding one’s place in the world outside of the gaze of mainstream America.

The Return – The experience of “The Return” is about coming back to that safe space again and again. It’s about greeting old friends and familiar faces, while navigating all that Homecoming has to offer. This includes beloved traditions like The Yard, The Day Party, The Parade, The Tailgate, The Game, and The Bands.

The Gift – Homecoming isn’t just parties and fanfare. It is also one of the most important times for giving back. The film dives into this process and what it means to these institutions, as well as the philosophy on giving from administrators and alumni.

(Story via Comcast press release)

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