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BURN Documentary Debuts for Season 3

From a small idea on a bike ride to selling out a 200-person venue, “BURN,” a student documentary series, celebrates its third and final season.

Models, designers, Olivia Nzang (creative director) and Quaran Ahmad (director) stand on stage with a sign that reads “Each One Pull One Into the Sun.” (Taylor Swinton/The Hilltop)

The student documentary series “BURN” debuted an episode of its third season at a sold-out creative exhibition entitled “The BURN Experience” at Dupont Underground. 

The series encapsulates the lives of Howard students, focusing on their purpose, goals at the University and personal experiences. Some students have shared their experiences throughout all three seasons, while others were interviewed as new characters sharing their perspectives on life at Howard. 

Quaran Ahmad, a third-year architecture major from Chicago, said he came up with this series on a bike ride around two years ago and recruited his friends to help him bring this project to life. 

Ahmad said the word “burn” is significant because it refers to the burning bowl ritual, a tradition Ahmad performed with his family during the new year. During this ritual, they eliminated fears and negativity by writing them down on paper and throwing them into a fire. They also manifested good habits and goals for the upcoming year. 

“‘BURN’ has grown a lot. It’s evolved since the last event – that was six months ago. It’s been helpful towards my growth as a person… as a leader. To the quality of the show, quality of the event, everything about this third and final season was just about going out with a bang and proving your worth,” Ahmad said.

The third season, which was released on March 31, includes 13 episodes and stories. In the past seasons, Ahmad and his crew focused on the lives of students considered “ordinary people.” They also interviewed students with a large following.

“We wanted to go out and tell the stories of [them] as well. It led me to think, ‘How can we push this further, and how can we tell even more stories,’ because who’s to say that these people who just so happen to have a big following don’t live ordinary lives, too?”

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The BURN Experience commenced with a fashion exhibition creatively directed by Olivia Nzang. It featured models and designers at Howard, including High Roller Club, Uncommon Ones, Harmon.e, Truce L’Officiel, Xi$ and Waisted By Mae.

The March 29 event featured a live painting exhibition by D.C. artist Joesf Isaiah Keyes as well as live “BURN”-like interviews by Destiny Ojeh. 

After watching the first episode of the new season featuring one of the interviewers, Keith Stokes, there were live interviews with Ashanti Ash and Diamond Ojeh and panel discussions with crew members Kenya Chestnut, Temitope Creppy, Chase Lincoln, Jon-Edward Stokes and Keith Stokes, moderated by Eliana Lewis and Branson Brooks.

During both discussions, the overarching theme for the entire series was growth and evolution. 

“For me, ‘BURN’ has been an evolution, growing and running away from your fears. I’ve grown with this documentary… moving from each season, there has always been a concept or theme of growth, and I think that is one of the most important parts of life,” Lincoln said. 

Creppy, a senior biology major from Chicago, said even the size of the venue and the number of people attending represented growth from the first premiere just a year ago. 

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“This is definitely the biggest venue we’ve had ever. Y’all walked in and it probably took like five minutes to get up here. It is an insane twist to what we’ve done so far, it’s amazing to see,” Creepy said.

Ash, a junior architecture major from Fairhope, Alabama, said she is proud of herself for having the courage to say yes. She said she was very hesitant, knowing that the interview would be recorded. After seeing what “BURN” has become and connecting with crew members, she said she wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Ashanti Ash speaks to Keith Stokes during her live interview. (Taylor Swinton/The Hilltop)

“Being in that space is amazing and is not comparable to anything I’ve experienced before, so that in itself was wonderful. In terms of my own personal interviews, “BURN” has been good about keeping me accountable for my own goals and helped me rethink things,” Ash said.

Although “BURN” is ending, Ahmad said he hopes the series will leave a legacy and inspire other creators to create their own versions of it.

“Art is about sharing and community. It would be beautiful to see people watch it and understand… we all have a story and we can all stand to learn from each other a bit more. I just want “BURN” to have a legacy after its moonlight,” Ahmad said.

All seasons of “BURN” are now published on YouTube @BURNDocumentary. 

Copy edited by Jalyn Lovelady

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