Friday, August 17, 2012

Fancy Rhino's Build Me a World and the Howard School

The Build Me a World poster by Fancy Rhino
Whether you are discussing tourism, neighborhood histories, industry, economics, race or any other aspect of Chattanooga and its long history, the common theme is revitalization. Though Chattanooga has had darker times in the past 150 some odd years of it existence, in the past 20 years the story has over and over become one of hope and exponential improvement. So is the case with Chattanooga's schools, as beautifully demonstrated on Thursday, August 16 at the world premier of Fancy Rhino's documentary on the Howard school, Build Me a World.

The Howard School of Academics and Technology has long been infamous in Chattanooga as one of the city's poorest, lowest performing, and most troubled schools. 2012 is the first year since No Child Left Behind was instituted by George Bush that it has moved off the priority list of failing schools. The documentary puts camera in the hands of Howard high school students to bring both the film maker and audiences into their tumultuous world, but offers a message of hope that shows how the school is turning itself back into the great school it once was.

The lobby of the historic Tivoli Theater,
where the Build Me a World premier was hosted
According to the documentary, Howard was the first public school in Chattanooga, established in 1865 and named for the same civil war general as Howard University in Washington DC. During its long history, the Howard school has been instrumental in the desegregation of schools and was a powerful source of pride for the African American community. 

Photo of the Howard School building by Fancy Rhino
During the 1960s and 70s, a tough economy, racial tension, white flight, and other factors that contributed to the dereliction of many historic downtown neighborhoods and struggling local industry also affected the Howard school. As areas in the school district like St. Elmo, Alton Park, Highland Park, Ferger Place, and Bushtown increased in poverty and crime, performance and hope at Howard decreased. Today, although Howard has a long way to go, graduation rates are increasing, as are college acceptance rates for grads. Fancy Rhino's film is the first step in a growing movement to rally the community and pull this lost school out of the cracks. 

Check back Monday for a whole post on the rest of Chattanooga's schools and where some of the best educational options are!

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