The fly buzzed, circling the cup of pure white buttermilk. Curious, he slowly flew towards the cup holding the milky substance. The more curious he got the closer he would fly, soon getting swept up completely in the sticky buttermilk.
Ashley Norwood, creator of the short film “The Fly in the Buttermilk,” uses the metaphor of a fly being swept into buttermilk to express the minority population at the University of Mississippi.
Just that imagery of being the fly in the buttermilk describes the minority experience, not by impact or value but by presence,” said Norwood.
The Jackson, Mississippi native graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from Jackson State University. She then started the master’s program at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media at The University of Mississippi.
Norwood said she wanted a new campus experience aside from her alma mater. “As a minority, it’s important that I exchange my culture for another because for me to progress I need to be knowledgeable of other groups, races and cultures outside my own,” Norwood said.
Ironically enough, the sole reason Norwood attended Ole Miss was also a reason she decided to film her short film. With failed idea attempt after failed idea attempt for her grad school thesis, Norwood took a break to watch Union Unplugged featuring the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) members. Unaware of those listening, a young white student expressed to her friend negative comments and there Norwood’s idea for the film was born.
“She was very dismissive, but then I realized that this was a teachable moment,” Norwood said. “It’s not about chastising someone for what they don’t know, because there is plenty I don’t know.”
With her thesis underway, Norwood reached out to NPHC members far and wide going back as far as the 1970s to present day. Being that Norwood herself was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority incorporated, a NPHC organization, she believed that it was up to her to explain the own unheard story, specifically at Ole Miss, a predominantly white institution.
Jackie Certion, Alumna and Campus Advisor for Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., was one of many interviewees featured in the short film. Unlike Norwood, Certion joined an NPHC organization at a predominantly white institution which gave Norwood a good perspective in formatting her film.
“I have been a part of the Greek Life system at the University of Mississippi since 2001 as an active member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc,” Certion said. “Many outside our Greek community sometimes have negative connotations in regards to our Greek culture; and Ashley’s documentary highlights our service, how scholarship is emphasized and our eternal bonds of sister and brotherhood.”
During the interview process, Norwood had a special moment that stayed with her throughout the process- a learning moment.Realizing the day of the interview, Norwood’s interviewee called his line brother of 40 years to commemorate the day the two joined the fraternity.
“To dedicated our lives; we sing these songs, like for me ‘All my life I live for AKA,’ it’s not just a song, literally this commitment was all my life,” Norwood said. “But to hear him say that and see how overjoyed he was with his brother, they still had genuine brotherly love and that was aspiring to me.”
The showing of Norwood’s short film will be Monday, April 25, 2016, and Thursday, April 28, 2016. Both showings will be at the Overby Center open to students and faculty as well as the Oxford community. After the showing, there will be an open discussion for NPHC members as well as audience members to chime in about the perceptions and misconceptions of black Greeks.
“This wasn’t made to target white people or other big organizations; it was made to educate present Greeks and aspiring ones,” Norwood said, “and knowing this history but also understanding the perceptions and realities that come with it.”
Jasmyn Brown is an intern for HottyToddy.com and is a current student at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Jasmyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.