Hampton, VA - What’s in a name? That famous question, raised by William Shakespeare, intended to prove that a person should not be judged by their name. Howard University Professor and Hampton University Alumnus Phil Branch, puts Shakespeare's question to the test in his short documentary “Searching for Shaniqua.”
After graduating from Hampton University, Branch did what many film writers do. He packed his bags and headed to Los Angeles, California. Like most aspiring artist, Branch needed a “day job” to pay the bills. A friend of his was substitute teaching and recommended Branch do the same. Branch and his friend would joke about some of the names they would come across in their classrooms.
Branch explained, “She said, ‘the girls name was Cashmonia.’ Branch said, “She was just like, ‘this poor child’s name is basically cash money.’ That conversation prompted Branch to create a short documentary on the well known name among African-American communities, “Shaniqua.” Branch found that those with the name “Shaniqua” often faced prejudice.
“This film makes people deal with their own internalized racism and classism issues. We can not progress unless we get honest about these things. This film furthers that dialogue,” said Branch.
“Searching for Shaniqua” has premiered in several film festivals including Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival. The film also won an award from HBO for best documentary.
“This film project was a collaboration between current and former HU Film Studies faculty and alumni from across disciplines and current students. It serves as an excellent example of the great things we all can do when we support one another,” said Eleanor Earl, Producer for “Searching for Shaniqua” and Associate Professor at HU.
Branch says the film has mainly received positive feedback.