Juneteenth Speaker Series: André Robert Lee

Although it was André Robert Lee’s first time on Gilman’s campus when he kicked off the Juneteenth Speaker Series on Friday, October 15, 2021, at an all-student event, he says he “feels very connected to the School.” Lee’s college roommate was Rob Marbury ’89 whose family had deep roots at Gilman, and embraced him as part of their family.

Lee started his talk by acknowledging his ancestors who survived and made it possible for him to be where he is today. He identifies himself as a filmmaker, director, producer, and activist. He said his mission is “to make an army of change agents.”

He spoke about his experiences working on sets as a novice in the movie industry. Despite having a graduate degree, he had to start at the bottom. However, he notes that “my ability to read, write, and think … helped me leap over certain positions on set.”

Lee spoke of Gilman’s Director of Community, Inclusion, and Equity Johnnie Foreman as a celebrity and a legend. Lee met Foreman at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (POCC), an event in which Foreman is intimately involved. “It was really great to pay tribute to someone who I respect and honor.”

Lee’s 2012 movie “The Prep School Negro” explores his experience growing up in the ghettos of Philadelphia while attending Germantown Friends School, a prestigious prep school made available to him through a full academic scholarship.

To conclude the assembly, Lee asked the audience, “What can you do as a student?”

He described an analogy that compares fixing systemic racism to trying to change the ocean with a spoon — tasks that are clearly impossible for one person to achieve but that would become conceivable if a million people lined up beside one another, each with a spoon in hand. He encouraged the students to ask themselves, “What is your gift, your power, your privilege, how can you use that for good? That’s where it starts. Find your path within that.”

Juneteenth Speaker Series

Watch Lee’s presentation