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Oct. 31, 2016

Documentary on Flint hero’s life debuts Friday

A documentary on the remarkable life of Hubert Roberts, a Flint man who overcame prison time and a life-threatening illness to become a mentor to young men in his struggling hometown, will debut Friday in Flint.

“Hubert: His-Story,” directed by Flint native and Michigan State University journalism professor Geri Alumit Zeldes, will debut at 9 a.m. at Hamady High School.

Zeldes, Roberts and members of the film crew that consists of undergraduate and graduate students from the MSU School of Journalism and the Department of Media and Information will be on hand for the debut.

Roberts’ story is unique: Born and raised in Flint, he spent nearly 15 years in prison on charges of conspiring to kidnap and assault a man who had stolen money from him.

Shortly after Roberts’ release from prison, doctors diagnosed him with a pituitary tumor and gave him about three years to live.

Now, 15 years later, Roberts volunteers as a mentor to young high school men in Flint. He uses theater, props and a good dose of humor to teach, among other things, African-American history.

He also takes students on “field trips” to places such as prisons and universities, giving them a taste of life at either end of the spectrum.

The film project also has another component – a comic book. Designed by Stacey Fox, a transdisciplinary artist-in-residence in MSU’s School of Journalism, the comic book follows a young student by the name of Marcus who, while working on an assignment for school, is taken on a journey through his family's history and what each generation faced while growing up in Flint.

The book will be distributed to Flint high school students in both print and digital formats later this year.

The city of Flint plays an important part in the history of Michigan, Zeldes said.

“I am so pleased to produce a documentary that emphasizes a positive part of my city’s history,” she said.

“Mr. Roberts’ story is a story of redemption,” Zeldes said, explaining that Roberts has made good of bad. “During an ugly part of Roberts’ past, he educated himself. In prison, he read hundreds of books about African and African-American history. He’s worked nonstop to share his knowledge in hopes that young people will learn more about their heritage and stand taller because of it.”

The project was made possible by the Heritage Grants program, sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and funding from the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the School of Journalism.

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By: Tom Oswald

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