While filmmaker Andre Robert Lee may not have had the same dreams as a MLK or a Frederick Douglass, his dream is no less noble. As a pioneer in his own right, Lee has a dream to help people find comfort in who they are despite life’s circumstances.
In his film The Prep School Negro, Lee tells the story of how dramatically his life changed after he was given the opportunity to attend one of America’s most prestigious prep schools. Although it seemed like the chance of a lifetime, Lee soon learned that it would come with many struggles. In the film, he shares these struggles, allowing viewers to see exactly what he and his family faced throughout his adolescence. Lee also follows the lives of a few teens as they candidly speak about their experiences as black prep school students.
Born and raised between north and west Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the ’70s, Andre Robert Lee grew up in a single parent home with his mother and sister. Considering his low-income lifestyle and being raised without a father, many would assume that Lee would not amount to anything. However, Lee’s mother refused to settle for less.
While attending a basketball summer reading clinic, Andre was chosen to be a recipient of a full scholarship to Germantown Friends School, a Quaker-run day school in Philadelphia. Upon his arrival to this strange, new environment, Andre began his journey to The Prep School Negro.
“When you go into an environment where you feel so different, you have to find your inner strength to be strong and believe in yourself,” said Lee. Today, he shares that message through his film and when he speaks about his experiences. Not only that, he encourages those from all walks of life that they can succeed despite the cards they were dealt.
Andre stresses that in spite of the economic divide in our society, we should look in the face of our “differences” and be proud of who we are. It is what truly matters, he says. The Prep School Negro is now inspiring many viewers and changing the way they view the school system.