If there’s one thing that NCCU alumni Edward Harris Jr. wants HBCU students to know, it is that they are the “elite of their people,” and that “they need to act like it.”
When Russell Robinson, assistant professor of the mass communications department invited the NCCU alumni to his “American Pop-Culture” course, Harris had some encouraging words for students.
“I’ve come up with an idea, where I wanted to come back and see where my alma mater was. To see what kind of students were going there, what teachers are like now,” he said.
“When I got here I was like WOW, I think there is something I can do here, there’s something I see missing.”
Edward Harris spoke about some of the issues concerning NCCU’s curriculum and urged students to think about life past college.
“You got brilliant professors, but there’s no continuity. There’s no holistic approach,” he said.
“We should be pushing HBCU students toward entrepreneurism, not just getting a job, especially since there’s a racial and gender pay gap,” he said.
“If you look at the world right outside of Central’s gates as it were, there’s a world that needs help from Central,” said Harris.
If you create a business, start a business then you create your own culture and that’s what’s needed,” he added.
Harris also pointed out that the “lack of social developments establishments” surrounding NCCU has been a problem since he attended the school in the 1990s. Because of this, he said some students lack common courtesy and social skills.
To make his point, he recounted an incident that led him to meet Harry, a guy who had been harassed occasionally by students during his time at NCCU 25 years ago.
“There used to be two or three people who were mentally challenged that would walk around on campus. I told the students one day, “you’re not going to disrespect Mr. Harry,” Harris recalled. “After that me and him just became tight.” “We used to talk all the time.”
Harris served in the military before he arrived at NCCU where he was apart of the 382 Public Affairs Detachment in Raleigh. Harris earned his B.A degree in English with a concentration in media journalism in spring 1992. Two years later he was recruited to work for the African Heritage Movie Network, the country’s first African American syndication company.
He said that during his time at AHMN “they syndicated over 150 markets, mostly films from the Black exploitation era.”
Harris has over 20 years of experience in television and has produced for Source: All Access and Weekend Vibe.
He also traveled and worked with Rev. Al Sharpton in the Middle East to make the critically acclaimed documentaries, “Moon Over Sudan”, “A Promise Fulfilled”, and “Trek to the Holy Land”.
In 2013 Edward Harris won the Hi-Award for best documentary for his film “The Lessons of Hayti” which aired at the Harlem Film Festival.
The same year he joined forces with independent film production company ALVA Pictures based in Los Angeles and New York.
The Washington D.C, born and raised documentarian is currently working on his upcoming film “1 Dream 2 Ride” in Raleigh.
“He’s an extreme realist, he’s a pragmatist, he’s definitely become an agent of change with his camera lens, and I think we need more brothers like that,” professor Robinson said about his longtime friend.
“Ed is someone who I look up to, I looked up to him when I was an undergrad here and even now to this day. The work he does is provoking, purposeful, conscious raising, and it’s nation building.”
Harris has traveled thousands upon thousands of miles across the states and overseas. He calls himself a “griot” to encapsulate his experiences around the world.
Edward Harris Jr. seemingly adds another element of what it means to be an alumni.
About every other week on Tuesdays and Thursdays you can find him working with the NCCU History Department Chair Jim C. Harper on short-documentaries for Harper’s Black Experience class.
When describing his experience with talking to students about life after college, Harris spoke about how he used his time at Central to prepare him for the world outside University life.
After graduating in 1992, he says he earned more than $100,000 in grants.
“I wanted to graduate a professional,” he said. “One of the main reasons why I was prepared for life, period, is because I took advantage of my time here. On top of my schoolwork, I wrote plays, danced with Chuck Davis, and traveled to China.”
Mass communications department instructor Brett Chambers said Edward Harris’ success as a professional is a result of him taking advantage of the opportunities that existed at NCCU.
“A lot of the students here wait for somebody to tell them what to do or wait for somebody to do it and hook them up,” he said. “He didn’t do that, he developed his opportunities and prepared himself by taking the initiative,” Chambers said.
Harris, who spent most of his early childhood with his mother, Jeannette Field Harris, credits his father for being the driving force in giving him the principles he would apply for his transition into society.
“Clear communication is something he was really focused on.” He said “understanding” how its very important to always to contextualize your conversations and arguments, so that you can clearly communicate was his goal.