Below is an interview with junior Diamond Blue. The JagWire has edited the interview for content and brevity.
JagWire: What inspired you to make Coffee?
Diamond Blue: Well, to be honest when I was 13 years old Trayvon Martin was killed. That impacted me really tremendously because I have cousins who are black males and I have people in my family that are black males that I care about a lot. And, that was like the first event that took place and I was like, “I gotta really make something that’ll show people that there are too many unjust things going on.” To be honest, that is what really inspired me to start this documentary, or not even just the documentary but just to start something that’ll stick with people. I’m the only person in my family, or I’m the first person in my family, to really get involved in activism and the first person in my family to be ‘woke.’ My mom, obviously, she knew it’s not right, the things the black community has been experiencing for hundreds of years, and minorities in general. But I was the first person in my family to get heavily involved in activism and pro-minority rights, and I would say that Trayvon Martin’s death is what inspired me to get into it.
JW: What started Coffee?
DB: My freshman year, I wanted to write a book about what it’s like to be a black student in high school or what it’s like to go to a middle school and all that as a black girl, and the things that I’ve experienced. I was like, “If I, as a 16 year old girl, wrote a book, it’s only going to target a certain audience.” There’s not going to be a 40 year old white man who’s going to be like “I’m going to read this book” about this experience. That’s what I thought; I didn’t think it would get out there so I turned to the idea of making a documentary. And at first, it was a little bogus like where would I get the resources to do this? I don’t have the equipment, the money. I don’t have the investments to do it, so what I did was I went to Walmart and I spent $14 on 12 notebooks and a pack of pens and said, “okay, I’m just going to start writing.” So the entire summer, going into sophomore year, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, and I talked to people, and it was like low-key interviews. I talked to people, and they thought it was just casual conversation. Some people were like, “why are you asking all these questions,” but I was really trying to broaden my horizons. Me wanting to write a book when I was in ninth grade turned into a documentary because I know that a documentary that’s not revolving around myself and showcases the life of so many other people could definitely capture the attention of not just one specific group. That’s where Coffee came from.
JW: Whom are you working with?
DB: I have a lot of people in high school who I’m working with. I’ve also started working with students form UNC. I’ve interviewed former student athletes from Duke, but I recently met Tim Tyson, who is the author book, The Blood of Emmett Till. He gave me truth and put his input in on it and exchanged emails. I’m currently working with the filmmaking program at Duke University and exchanging emails with the assistant of the head of the program. I’ve been working really hard in getting in touch with J Cole’s manager, but I think it’s safe to say I’m a lot closer than when I was before to getting his songs approved for use because they are copyrighted.
JW: Why the name Coffee?
DB: Coffee is a substance that can be changed or adjusted to someone’s liking. You can take coffee, and you can add cream, add sugar, add milk—anything you want to, creating a totally different beverage or drink anyway you want to. A lot of people have the misconception that you can adjust a person or a person’s culture to your liking. What I’m trying to showcase is that the American school system tries to get this unrealistic image and unrealistic expectation out of students, particularly of color, and that needs to stop. There needs to be an end put to that. Also, the things that have become normal in so many of our schools are almost disgusting. Some of the words that have been a normal thing to say, that’s an issue. My overview would be, my ‘thesis,’ would be that although everyone is different, adjusting someone, particularly students of color, to fit your liking and unrealistic expectations or your perfect image of a model student is inappropriate.
JW: What audience are you trying to reach?
DB: Everyone. I don’t want this to be something that just the Hispanic and Latino community, or just the Asian community, or just the black or white community can see. This is for everyone because I feel like there’s something that we all can do to fix this. There’s something that our country was built off on that it’s really in the soil, because really we’re all just a tree. This country is really just a tree, but the soil and dirt that we use has so many things that we don’t need. The curriculum is ridiculous, history classes are whitewashed, which is a term I use very loosely because people don’t realize the significance of it anymore. Kids not knowing about their culture, and if you go to a history class in our school you don’t really hear anything positive about black leaders other than MLK, Rosa Parks, you know? Positive things about Latino, Asian, Hispanic, or Caribbean leaders—there hasn’t been a time where we really talk about the Carib- bean other than Haiti and Christopher Columbus. But there’s so many things that we just don’t talk about that impacts us tremendously and plays a major role.
JW: What is your end goal for this project?
DB: I do want as many as people as possible worldwide to be impacted by this. When I do showcase this, and people who know me know I’m not the type of person to just scratch the surface. It’s us experiencing the life of others everyday and we don’t know they experience these things. But my end goal is for the documentary to be seen by so many people and not because it’s my work, or my project, but because I feel like this could really change someone’s life. This could really impact someone in a positive way.