Buffalo teacher, author and filmmaker Kezia Pearson is exposing some of the challenges facing inner-city teenagers with the publication of her novel, “Covered Mirrors,” and its upcoming film adaptation of the same title.
Pearson, who teaches seventh- and eighth-graders at Hamlin Park School 74, said she was inspired to write the 85-page novel because of her own experiences and observations teaching mostly inner-city teenagers.
“When I first started teaching, I saw all these things that were going on with my students and the challenges some of them faced outside of school that were affecting them in the classroom. I thought, ‘Maybe I should write a book,’ but then my other thought was that people would never believe it,” Pearson said.
Despite her doubts, she pressed on and crafted a story loosely based on some of the revelations made to her by some of her students over the years. Pearson’s novelette, as she calls it, is told from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl named Lincoln after the girl and her family are illegally evicted from their home by a malicious landlord. Despite Lincoln’s relative poverty, she is a popular girl before she and her family lose everything, Pearson said.
“She’s [with] the in-crowd. She’s always the girl wearing the [coolest] clothes. But when she has to return to school [after her family’s eviction] without her gear being up to par, it forces her to re-examine many things, including her relationships with her teachers, the principal and her peers. She’s also observing their relationships with each other,” said Pearson.
Pearson self-published her novel in April and, after having written a screen adaptation of the novel, is in the midst of filming the story. Working with three other local filmmakers, Pearson has already cast the film with amateur actors and secured locations in the Buffalo area at local colleges that will stand in for high school classrooms and hallways in the movie.
“I’m rushing [to meet] a deadline,” she said “I’m expecting to be done with the film by January.”
In addition to rehearsals and filming, that would include completing post production and editing. A trailer for the film has already been produced and can be viewed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr0Sw8S95y4.
Rather than seek to release the film for immediate distribution, Pearson plans to enter the film in as many film festivals as possible to create buzz. She, of course, wants people to see the film and read the novel on which it is based.
A 1993 Seneca Vocational High School graduate, Pearson has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University at Buffalo and a master’s degree in film and performance from the same institution. She has been teaching for 14 years.
“Not every inner-city child goes through what the characters in this book experience, but a significant number of them do,” said Pearson.
“As teachers, we need to get involved in their lives. Before we can educate them, we have to deal with their basic needs, or they are coming in unprepared to learn. If you let them know that you understand where they’re coming from, you can teach them. They’ll listen to you,” she said.