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The Hilltop

Variety

BET’s ‘Diarra From Detroit’ Receives a Resounding ‘Yes’ From Howard Audience

Howard University’s UGSA hosted a screening for a new BET+ show, panel, and Kash Doll performance at Cramton Auditorium.

Arkisha Knight, Phylicia Rashad, Kenya Barris, Dominique Perry and moderator during a panel discussion at Cramton Auditorium (Darius Osborne/The Hilltop).

Through the Undergraduate Student Assembly (UGSA), Howard University organized a screening of the new BET+ show “Diarra From Detroit,” followed by a discussion panel by the producers and a performance by Kash Doll.

The event, held at Cramton Auditorium, attracted a crowd of students and faculty alike, eager to gain a producer’s perspective following the latest original series from BET+ and engage in discussions about the series’ plot and future developments.

“Diarra From Detroit” follows a recently divorced school teacher, Diarra Kilpatrick, as she sets out on a personal quest to locate her abducted Tinder date while finding herself in the process.

Executively produced by Kenya Barris, the show’s plot is continually progressed by the detective theme, which drives the audience to keep coming back for more. Barris’ extensive writing experience, combined with the mysterious elements and light-hearted quips, helps define the genre of dark comedy within the realm of Black media.

The production, filmed in Detroit, retains the culture of its setting while seeing it through a new-age lens. The main character’s unique perspective sheds light on the societal impact of communication breakdowns in relationships, inviting viewers to reflect on the consequences. 

The theme is introduced through the socially implicative spectacle of “ghosting” as the main character grapples with the unexpected silence from her Tinder date.

Lauryn Mwara, a sophomore advertising major from Seattle, Washington, expressed her approval of the show and the last Wednesday event. 

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“I didn’t really know exactly what to expect, having never seen the show, but it was pleasantly surprising to see a new story being told for us by us, especially in this different kind of way,” she said. “It was pretty cool to see a new take on mystery and investigation they could be kind of stale sometimes.”

As the screening ended, the audience stood in applause and got ready for the discussion panel directly after. 

Aisha Burke & Kenya Barris during the panel discussion, responding to a question from the moderator. Photo Courtesy of Darius Osborne.

During the discussion panel, Kash Doll, Phylicia Rashad, Kenya Barris and Dominique Perry took the stage. The audience returned to their seats as the segment began. 

As the discussion began, BET’s Executive Vice President of Creative Aisha Summers Burke was asked about her perspective on the show’s production.

The Howard alum responded, “Diarra came to us with a very clear vision, and anytime artists are that transparent with their intentions, it makes it that much easier to see everything through and tell the story.” 

In an interview with the Hilltop, Burke discussed this in-depth.

“I don’t think we ever “sought out” to make a dark comedy, but as soon as we were pitched the idea, it was an immediate yes for BET+. We were looking for content that was more surprising and unexpected, and “Diarra [From Detroit]” fit all of those boxes.”

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Barris, known for his creation of the “Black-ish” based series and role in “#blackAF,” progressed this thought as well.

“At first, I was kinda skeptical of producing a mystery series, but Diarra’s unique vision of this story was so strong that it helped the writer’s room layout this whole production and tell a story that black people usually don’t get to tell,” Barris said. 

The conversation segwayed into working on set as a character and the progression of the actual show. Perry and Rashad delved into the nuances of the series and highlighted the authenticity of the setting and the modern themes explored in the show.

“This whole show was shot in and stayed authentic to Detroit, we all felt a need to make the show relatable, but there are accents of Detroit culture that help it stay true to the city it was shot in, Perry said. 

Barris advanced this thought, explaining how important it is for the audience to be able to see themselves through the lens of the production. He added, “As a writer, I’ve realized the only way I can even write is if the film is reflective of my own experience.”

“Look at Interstellar, for example, Christopher Nolan’s never been stranded in the vacuum of space. However he has loved and he has lost; the best and only way to write is through relatability,” Barris said. 

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After the panel ended, the event concluded with a lively performance from Kash Doll, also playing Maisha in the show, proceeding to the discussion panel. She performed her hit singles, “Ice Me Out,” “Big 1” and “For Everybody” to conclude the panel.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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