February 15, 2018
Author: Darrius Doe
Seeds of Hope: The Andrew Jackson Foster Story premiered at Elstad Auditorium on February 14, 2018 to an enthusiastic crowd. Featuring students, staff, and alumni, this full-length film, produced and directed by Gary Brooks, ’95, Video Services producer and director, was inspired by two books: Dr. Andrew Jackson Foster: The Most Courageous Educator and the Most Visionary Missionary to Deaf Africans, written by Emmanuel Ilabor, and Movers and Shakers: Deaf People Who Changed the World ("Andrew J. Foster: Bringing Hope to Deaf Africans" chapter), written by Susan Mather, G-’86 and Cathryn Carroll, PhD ’04.
Seeds depicts the life of Dr. Andrew J. Foster, ’54, from his youth to his missionary and educator work in Africa. The film consists of a majority African-American cast, made up mostly of students and faculty from Gallaudet and Kendall Demonstration Elementary School.
Prominent roles were played by: Jimel Wright, ’17, as narrator; student Chukwudi Kalu as Foster; April Jackson, ’12, as Foster's mother, Veline Foster; Carolyn McCaskill, ’77, G-’79 & PhD ’05, ASL and Deaf Studies professor, as Foster's teacher, Miss Haughton; Evon Black, ’87 & G-’96, Recruitment associate director, as Foster's aunt; and Charles "Chuck" Bowie, ’84, Gallaudet Technology Services coordinator, as Foster's spiritual advisor, Walter J. Lyon.
"The film will teach people perseverance, and encourage them to keep on going and growing," said Wright. "Foster thrived during a tough time for black and deaf people. He did not let roadblocks stop him. It is up to us to uphold the legacy of Andrew Foster by emulating him, among other ways we can honor him."
"The filming process was fun and hilarious, yet tiring at some points," said Kalu. "I really feel like we all formed bonds with each other through the creation of this film. It was a really fascinating experience knowing what it feels like being in an actual film and seeing yourself on screen."
Brooks said directing the film was a fantastic experience for him.
"The cast of actors was fun, creative and supportive," said Brooks. "We all got to know each other better. During filming, we became like a small family."
Seeds is currently nominated for four 2018 Telly Awards, an international award honoring the finest film and video production, under the following categories: Best History, Best Editing, Best Sound Design, and The People's Telly Award. Brooks plans to submit Seeds to other film competitions as well and plans to use the film to promote Gallaudet and to recruit new students. The film will also be shared as an educational tool for schools, museums, and libraries.
Shortly before the release of Seeds, Berta Foster, Foster's widow, passed away on January 27, 2018.
"I met Berta a few years ago," said Brooks. "She insisted that Andrew was her rock and he taught her to be strong all the way. She was a sweet woman with a good heart and although she never got to see the film, she was delighted when I told her I planned to make a film about him."
The Fosters are survived by five children, 14 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Brook's next film will be The Legend of Veditz, a biography about George Veditz, who shared amazing stories of his early years throughout his well-known film, The Preservation of Sign Language. He expects to start filming in September. The film is on track to be released by Thanksgiving 2019.
Top photo courtesy of Gary Brooks. From left: Jackson; Brooks; Keivonn Woodard; Kalu; Akeisha Jackson; Black; and Aarron Loggins, ’08.
Photo by Andrew Greenman. More than 50 audience members came to support the premiere. Opening remarks were given by student Chelsea Hilaire and Dr. Elaive Ndura, vice president for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.