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Student-made Documentary Provides Insight into the Lives of Howard Students

The BURN Documentary, created by Quaran Ahmad, is a docu-series that focuses on students’ experiences at Howard and artists in the DMV area.

Quran Ahmad sits in front of a “BURN” promotional painting. (Emmarah Kouadio/The Hilltop)

Behind a small black door on M Street was a space filled with dozens of Howard creatives last Friday night, coming together to commemorate the second season of the “BURN” documentary, inspired by a nostalgic childhood experience. 

Quaran Ahmad, a third-year architecture major from Chicago, hosted a second season premiere of his documentary “BURN” on Sept. 15 in Georgetown. 

The documentary series shares the stories of Howard students and other artists in the DMV. Each episode captures their journey to accomplish set goals primarily through two interviews six months apart.

“BURN” is inspired by the burning bowl ritual Ahmad practiced in his childhood, he shared. During the first Sunday of the new year, he wrote fears and things to eliminate for the new year. The ritual also included writing a letter to himself with goals and aspirations that would be sent to him toward the end of that year. 

“I wanted to create something similar in nature for students and artists in the area. The title is a direct reference and reflects the nature of rebuilding yourself and burning negative traits,” Ahmad said. 

Quran Ahmad mingles with event attendees at the season two premiere of “BURN.” (Emmarah Kouadio/The Hilltop)

Kenya Chestnut, a senior honors marketing major from Philadelphia, is a videographer and editor for “BURN.” He gained a community during this project and appreciates the detail and concept of this series. 

“Everything was very intentional. Something I have realized during the process is how it has brought together both the people we interviewed and the people who have helped with this project. It is interesting we were able to interview people, hear about their goals, and then check up on them and see the development of their work,” Chestnut said. 

Last season’s premiere in March was started with opening acts, giving small artists in the area an opportunity to showcase their talents. Diamond Ojeh, a senior health science major from Staten Island, New York, who mentioned wanting to pursue a music career during her interview for BURN. Ojeh was allowed to debut her voice at the season one premiere in March.

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“I took that step, and it was exhilarating. I realized, ‘Wow, I can do this, and there are people that believe in me.’ I couldn’t thank him enough for that, and it made me step out of my comfort zone,” Ojeh said. 

Attendees observe an art exhibit at the season two premiere of the “BURN” documentary in Georgetown on Sept. 15. (Emmarah Kouadio/The Hilltop)

The season two premiere was held at Tour de Force in Georgetown. In one room there was an art exhibition with multiple artists from the DC area, most attending Howard. Another room hosted student vendors and their small businesses; Bead Love Jewelry, Endora’s Organics, Room 1607 and Over East Archived. Before stepping outside into the viewing area were refreshments and DJ Jam 2x playing HBCU classics. 

The first hour was reserved for fellowship and gave event-goers a chance to shop around and look at the art. Once it got dark, everyone made their way outside to the terrace to view the first two episodes of season two.

“I enjoyed it and it was a nice turnout. Quaran’s creative genius really came out,” Keith Stokes, a television and film major from Jacksonville, Florida said. “The first episodes were special. They captured why “BURN” was created in the first place. It was very touching.”

Season two of the “BURN” documentary will be available online on Sept. 17, with new episodes coming out every following Sunday. Season one is fully available on YouTube, and can be found by searching @BURNDocumentary on the platform.

Copy edited by Diamond Hamm

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