The cast of “Almost Christmas” spent their weekend as Rattlers at Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) homecoming, to not only promote their new film, but to spread knowledge and advice to students preparing for life after college.
Actors Omar Epps, Romany Malco, DC Young Fly and Executive Producer Will Packer who is also an alumnus of FAMU, joined students in a round-table discussion on Friday, that centered around the elevation of Blacks and how Black Hollywood was contributing to the movement of higher education in the Black community.
“One of the ways is just by being here and allowing them to see successful people that they the students may not have access to,” said Packer. “When I was at FAMU I didn’t know anyone in Hollywood or have someone that I could point to and say ‘Hey, I wanna be like him.’ So just being here and interfacing with people that look like them, that have gone into a very challenging industry and are successful, can be inspirational and that’s part of what we want to do,” said Packer.
Malco expressed that presence can suffice in some cases, but during a time where black awareness is at a high, everyone should be doing their part to push positivity and the education of Blacks.
“There’s an opportunity,” said Malco. “People are paying attention. People wanna hear what we have to say and it is important that in every opportunity that we get, in every song, every movie, every moment, that there’s got to be more to the narrative than just getting crunk. I feel as though this movie is a prime example, but every one of us has a platform. There’s the social media platform. So, it’s not just what is Black Hollywood doing, it’s what is the Black community doing on a global scale,” said Malco.
Packer switched gears and asked each of his cohorts to speak on their experience and what students should prepare for before leaving school. DC Young Fly was the first to offer a synopsis on how opportunities weren’t always afforded to him, but he pressed on until he broke ground.
“I’m from the hood,” said DC Young Fly.
“Everybody knows I’m from Atlanta, west-side born and raised. Throughout the years I never really saw myself being this successful. I knew I was going to do it, but I just didn’t know how. I was always in the streets, I was selling cocaine, robbing people, getting into shoot-outs. I was a good kid, but I ended up in wrong direction. But I kept at it and trying to make it right.
There are going to be so many doors that are slammed in your face, but a door is going to open up. Don’t look at somebody smacking your hand as the end. God is going to always be there and he just wants to see how you’re going to react when things don’t go your way,” said DC Young Fly.
It was then mentioned that a part of the HBCU experience is networking. Building a network with fellow classmates is a part of the college experience whether attending an HBCU or any other university. Epps stressed that it is the most important thing a student can do while obtaining an education.
“There’s value in network,” said Epps. When each of you go into your respective careers and you come out of the college experience and go into the professional, corporate world, there’s no network. You’re just another black face in that building with all them degrees and now you’re thrown into that machine, but the power is right here.
In Hollywood everything is connected, and with Black Hollywood it’s the feeling of being a rat in a cage and everybody is chasing their piece of cheese, and when you get the cheese, you wanna keep it instead of spreading it right here, or spreading it right there. We create our own network. So, in terms of my personal journey I was fortunate to have some of my closest friends as peers. We do the same thing, and we’ve always stayed connected. One went into writing, this one went into directing, and that’s the invisible connection that you can’t let them see. You have to keep that bond from where you’re at right now to where you are going, because the network is powerful,” said Epps.
The cast spent the remainder of the weekend interacting with the on-campus radio, newspaper, and the frenzy of students that were anxious to meet their acquaintance. During half-time of the FAMU vs. Hampton homecoming game, they took to the field to watch FAMU’s world renowned “Marching 100” marching band perform. The cast even got their hands dirty and served students and community members soul food outside of the football game. FAMU brought home the win and gave the “Almost Christmas” cast the complete essence of what it’s like to be a Rattler.