A Night Honoring Dr. Kern Jackson | Arts and Sciences News
Posted on March 23, 2023 by USA Marketing and Communications
The University of South Alabama hosted a special screening of "Descendant" earlier this month in honor of Dr. Kern Jackson, director of South's African American Studies program. Jackson is the film's co-writer and co-producer.
“Descendant” not only has given an international spotlight to the important story of the Clotilda and the Africatown community, it has also given focus to the work Jackson has been involved with for more than 30 years. Jackson and his students continue to explore the unique culture and traditions of African American communities in Mobile.
South plans to host a second screening of the film at the beginning of the Fall 2023 semester during Week of Welcome.
“Descendant,” which was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award for outstanding documentary film, tells of the last known ship to carry enslaved Africans to the United States, the Clotilda, and follows the personal stories of its descendants and the history of the Africatown community north of downtown Mobile. The remains of the ship were discovered in 2019.
Jackson, a folklorist and assistant professor of English, worked on the film with Mobile native Margaret Brown, director and co-writer. The film also earned a spot on the shortlist for an Oscar nomination.
“We are humbly honored the film is receiving this great recognition. It’s great that the Africatown community is no longer standing alone,” Jackson said. “For Africatown, funding and entrepreneurship are a big deal. We know change will come as more supporters join this important effort.”
Jackson, Brown and descendants who participated in the film recently traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with members of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. They also participated in a panel discussion and a film screening of the documentary at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History.
“This film is resonating with many communities, especially young people. And, they are now joining several of the organizations supporting the efforts of Africatown,” Jackson said. “We are grateful this film is a tool that is helping to amplify the story and issues affecting the Africatown community.”
Jackson is receiving numerous requests to speak about the film. He will serve as a delegate at the 20th Annual Skoll World Forum in Oxford, United Kingdom, to be held April 12-14.
“During this trip to the United Kingdom, there will be learning sessions and opportunities for connections with people from all over the world,” Jackson noted. “The University of South Alabama is playing a crucial role through the efforts of the Study Abroad program by building a Global USA relationship. Everything I learn at this forum will be shared with the Africatown community.”
“Descendant” won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Creative Vision at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Netflix purchased its worldwide rights; Higher Ground, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, is presenting the film alongside Netflix.
Jackson, along with several of his students, visited Africatown this month to capture the stories being shared at the “The Fifth Annual Spirit of Our Ancestors Festival” at the Mobile County Training School. There were several volunteer opportunities at the festival for USA faculty, staff and students through the Office of Community Engagement.
USA Director of African American Studies Dr. Kern Jackson, left, supports his students as they learn through listening in Africatown at the Fifth Annual Spirit of Our Ancestors Festival in February 2023.