School Daze Turns 25

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How time flies. Yesterday, 25 years ago, one of the best movies ever made (in my opinion), School Daze was released. If you don’t stop whatever you’re doing to watch this classic film when it comes on, I’m definitely giving you a side-eye.

I was seven years old when it was released, and I don’t recall my first time seeing it, but it my crash course for HBCU college life. It was the predecessor to Drumline and Stomp the Yard, and even gave Hillman College on A Different World a run for its money. To me, it was a perfect depiction of life on a Historically Black College campus, and I wanted in. When I was younger, the best parts of the movie were acting out “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight” (I know all of the choreography) or singing along to “I Can Only Be Me.” It wasn’t until I attended college at Southern University, a HBCU, that I fully understood what was going on in the movie

Fifteen years later, the same things shown in the film were still happening campuses across the nation: colorism and hair issues between African American students, pledging fraternities and sororities, relationships, social activism, compromise of morals and yes, major partying. My college experience looked very much like School Daze. I realized after it was over that you really did a learn about yourself during those formative years. You grow up—hopefully.

Everyone knows the iconic end of the movie—Dap, played by Lawrence Fishburne, rings the bell on the yard of Mission College and screams “WAKE UP!!!” as people file out of their dorms in their pajamas. With humor and real life stories, Lee wanted us to get our heads, not just our beds, and see the bigger picture. How much of ourselves will we compromise to be in the “in crowd”? Just how far were we willing to go to be loved or accepted? How long will we base our self-worth on our complexions and hair? How long will be servants to self, instead of others?

By now, I’ve gotten the lessons from the movie, so I’m free to going back to the childlike state whenever I pop the DVD in and revel in the music and performances. Thank you, Mr. Lee, for giving us School Daze. It will always be a treasure to us. Now, excuse me as I pretend to be one of the Gamma Rays on the homecoming stage.

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