Howard University English professor Phill Branch grew weary of hearing his fellow teachers complain about the hard-to-pronounce names of some of the students in their classes. Truth be told, Branch, a Baltimore resident, wondered why some parents chose to given their children a name that may prohibit them from future opportunities. Feeling the need to vent, Branch wrote about a blog post addressing the issue, but then decided words on the Internet just couldn’t encapsulate the totality of the situation.
“I realized people needed to tell their own stories,” Branch said. And from there Searching For Shaniqua the documentary was born. The hour-long film examines the stereotypes many have surrounding the name Shaniqua, as well as other names given to predominately black and brown children. However, the film wasn’t an easy-peasy undertaking. Branch says he began filming in May of 2013 and wrapped nearly three years later in May 2016, along the way meeting men and women who spoke candidly about their names, their experiences and why they think some hold onto the stereotypes.
Branch’s documentary has won praises from audiences everywhere, and even took home the 2016 HBO Best Documentary at Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival. Check out the trailer below and for New Yorkers wanting to catch the film in its entirety, it will be screened at 6pm, Sunday, (Sept. 18) during the Harlem International Film Festival located at MIST.