This summer, HBCU Buzz, Lionsgate, and MRC partnered to present The Blackening HBCU Tour, allowing students and alum of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to see the hilariously scary new movie “The Blackening” early. 

The Blackening” centers around a group of Black friends who reunite for a Juneteenth weekend getaway only to find themselves trapped in a remote cabin with a twisted killer. When they discover one of their friends is kidnapped by the killer they are forced to play a game where they must sacrifice the “blackest” person in order to save them and get out alive.

According to the official synopsis for the film, “The Blackening” skewers genre tropes and poses the sardonic question: if the entire cast of a horror movie is Black, who dies first?”

From left: X Mayo, Dewayne Perkins, and Melvin Gregg at Regal Atlantic Station for the Atlanta stop of The Blackening HBCU Tour.

The film stars Dewayne Perkins (“The Upshaws,” “Saved by the Bell”), Grace Byers (“Harlem,” Empire”), Antionette Robertson (“Dear White People”, “The Haves and Have Nots”) Jermaine Fowler (“Coming 2 America,” “Judas and the Black Messiah”), Melvin Gregg (“Snowfall” “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”), Jay Pharoah (“SNL”., “Resort to Love”), Yvonne Orji (“Insecure.” “Vacation Friends”), X Mayo (“Swarm,” “American Auto”), and Sinqua Walls (“Power,” “American Soul”). 

The Blackening HBCU Tour visited five cities, bringing out students and alum from the neighboring HBCUs.

The tour kicked off in Florida on April 28, at Challenger Learning Center IMAX Theatre. Birmingham, Alabama was the second stop, taking place on May 30  at Sidewalk Film Studio. The tour was brought to Colonial Heights, Virginia on June 5 at South Park Mall Cinema 16. Bowie, Maryland’s screening was on June 6 at Regal Waugh Chapel Movie Theater, and the last screening was in Atlanta, GA on June 8 at Regal Atlantic Station. 

In addition to a pre-screening of the highly anticipated film, movie-goers were treated to a Q&A session with cast members and the co-writer of the film, Tracy Oliver at select stops. The tour also included a night vision crew capturing the audience’s reaction to the film, free merch including T-shirts, bottle caps, and posters, as well as picture opportunities with the cast. 

At the Florida stop, the Florida A&M University community packed out the theater and engaged in a Q&A session with the film’s co-writer Tracy Oliver after the screening. The reigning King of Orange and Green, YuKwon Toney served as the influencer/host for the event. 

At the Alabama stop, movie-goers came out to the theater donning HBCU apparel representing colleges such as Miles College, Alabama A&M University, Jackson State University, and Tennessee State University. Co-writer and star of the film Dewayne Perkins made an appearance at the screening, partaking in a Q&A and taking pictures with the movie-goers. 

More cast members came out to the next stops as Jay Pharoah, Melvin Gregg, and Antionette Robertson made an appearance at the Maryland screening, and X Mayo and Perkins joined the latter at the Atlanta screening. 

Perkins, who co-wrote, produced, and starred in “The Blackening,” said the film displays the multiplicity of black people—“black people are not a monolith, our unity is what helps us persevere,” he said. When asked about what he hopes people will take away from the film, he said “the symbolism that together black people can do anything, mainly stay alive and that’s how we have been. It’s a comment on the past, the present, and the future — that black people, we are not a monolith.” 

The movie was well received by the audience as they laughed and screamed throughout the entire screening. One moviegoer, Tennessee State University student Christian Johnson said the movie was funny and relatable to many black experiences. “It was a beautiful commentary on what it is to be black and what it is to be black in black spaces,” she said. “it was the first time I felt like the jokes weren’t about me, but for me,” she added. 

“The Blackening” is based on a 2018 short film of the same name by the comedy sketch group 3Peat, also starring and written by Perkins.

During the Alabama screening Q&A, he shared details on the seven-year journey of how “The Blackening” went from a sketch to a full-length feature film. He said that he wrote the sketch in 2016, then it was filmed in 2017 and released the following year in 2018. That same year Perkins got a call from Tracy Oliver, the writer of the 2017 box-office hit “Girls Trip,” which changed everything. “Tracy called me in 2018, we sold it to MRC, who’s the studio. October 2018 we wrote the script, it got greenlit, and we filmed it in 2021. It premiered at TIFF, which is the Toronto International Film Festival in September of last year, then it comes out on June 16, 2023” Perkins said.

The journey of how “The Blackening” came to be is a testament to how success takes time and hard work and dedication pays off. When it comes to advice for aspiring writers and creatives, Perkins told the crowd, “do the thing that you want to do and don’t wait.”

X-Mayo also offered words of encouragement for the audience at the Atlanta stop of the tour, stressing the importance of collaboration and community. “Get with your community,” she said. “Whoever sets your soul on fire, whoever encourages you, when you tell them an idea, they’re excited about it—keep talking to them and keep people around you that encourage you because nobody can be self-made, it’s impossible, we’re all community made artists.”

Melvin Gregg echoed Mayo’s sentiments, speaking specifically to content creators, encouraging them to stay true to who they are instead of chasing trends. 

“The Blackening” comes to theaters this Juneteenth weekend on June 16th. 

“I just hope people show up and have a good time and understand that seeing an entire all-black cast of leads shouldn’t be an anomaly, it should continue to happen.” Antionette Robertson said. “We need to see each other, we need to support each other, that’s the only way that we’re gonna make our mark and continue to show the world different hues of blackness.”