On a breezy Wednesday night on the historic Howard University campus, students, parents and even some NBA fans piled into the Cramton Auditorium in hopes to see the 3-time NBA Champion Steph Curry, and of course his newest project, Emanuel, a 90-min documentary based on the horrific mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina that claimed the lives of nine people. The atmosphere was electric as the crowd of mostly students waited restlessly for a glimpse of Curry. After more than an hour of waiting, a voice came over the auditorium announcing Curry’s plane was delayed and the film would go on and start in 15 minutes. As you would imagine, that didn’t go over well with most students, who came just to see the 5-time NBA All-Star.
Minutes after, the mood of the room completely shifted once the film started. The film was met with roaring cheers as the beginning starts with excerpts from Jon Stewart (then host of The Daily Show) and former President Barack Obama speaking about the events that occurred the night of June 17th 2015. Soon you could hear nothing but screams and tears as family members told their chilling stories of what happened to their loved ones as surveillance video showed Dylann Roof entering and exiting the church. Emanuel’s director Brian Ivie, uses water throughout the film to illustrate the haunting past of Charleston, which at one point in time served as the premiere port for slaves entering America for the first time.
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME Church in the country founded in 1816. It is also the first independent black denomination. Emanuel was also home to South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was a victim in the 2015 shooting. According to the FBI, Dylann Roof left a manifesto detailing his racist views and meaning behind the deadly shootings.
In a Q&A panel moderated by the New York Times, Curry and directors Brian Ivie and Jeron Smith, a Howard alum discussed the moments they shared with each family member of the shooting, Ivie said “The first few times we met with families we did not record nor have cameras with us, just to earn their trust and connect with them on a human level. When it came time to shoot, I actually had Jeron interview them because I understand the difficulties as a white man connecting and empathizing with a black person, so I was mostly behind the camera.” Ivie went onto say the documentary will debut on June 17th of this year, the four-year anniversary of the shooting.
With his mother in attendance wearing a black hat with a low brim, jeans and sneakers, Steph Curry explained the importance of athletes speaking up and out on issues that affect their community. “We are smart, we are educated and have a huge platform, and I’ll continue to use my platform until I don’t have it anymore.” As for his mother Sonya Curry, one of the NBA’s most recognizable mothers, said, “As a mother, this is one of the proudest moments for me, watching the film I was at a loss for words.” Both Sonya and Steph stayed after the screening to take pictures and more with students and faculty.