Alumna Stars in ‘Memoirs of a Black Girl’

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Elle Rosier, Staff Writer

“I [am] the real Black girl magic.”

This line features in “Memoirs of a Black Girl,” the feature film about Aisha Johnson, played by Khai Tyler ’15, who faces challenges to her dreams of getting out of Roxbury, MA, and into a prestigious college.

Ms. Tyler considers her character to be determined and hardworking, she said, similar to herself in high school.

“A major part of Aisha’s journey is trying to get a scholarship to go to a prestigious college, and I vividly remember feeling that pressure of trying to get into college and the uncertainty about the future,” Ms. Tyler said.

“Recommendation letters, SAT scores, grades, extracurriculars—it’s a lot to deal with, and I remember that challenge and pulled from that feeling of anxiety to play the character.”

Ms. Tyler said she specifically enjoyed shooting a scene in Frugal Bookstore, a famous landmark of the Greater Boston area.

“There’s a banter between me and the character who plays my best friend, Marcus, and I think it’s really cute,” she said. “The characters love to read, and you can really get a sense of their dynamic in that scene. It reminded me of fun times with your friends when you’re young.”

Shooting for the film was tedious and intense, Ms. Tyler said, and almost nonstop. The cast and crew shot, on average, six or seven scenes per day over the course of 20 days. This schedule made it arduous for Mr. Tyler, she said, to keep up with her lines and memorize stage directions, as she appears in nearly every scene.

Nevertheless, Ms. Tyler said, she was passionate about the film’s message.

“This story is one of resilience,” Ms. Tyler said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on the challenges of being a young person of color and having to face difficult circumstances. The story tackles issues such as financial troubles, lack of resources, and gang violence.”

For example, the movie challenges the negative stereotypes and narratives about young Black teens typically portrayed in mainstream media.

“It shows a young Black girl that is incredibly bright, has loving friends, and is destined for success,” Ms. Tyler said. “It is still rare to see a young Black girl showcased for her drive and intelligence. That’s what I love about the project.”

The film, which won Best Feature Film when it premiered at the Roxbury International Film Festival, became available October 5 on cable and satellite on AT&T, DirecTV, iN Demand, and Dish as well as various digital platforms such as Amazon Prime, Vudu, Google Play, Xbox, and iTunes.

Ms. Tyler said she’s proud of the movie and her overall work as an actress. “It’s a surreal feeling,” she said. “Any job in the arts can be challenging, but it’s very fulfilling as well. I love storytelling, and I’m blessed to be working.”

Ms. Tyler studied theater at Ithaca College, where, she said, her love for film, television performance, and writing grew. She now works as an actress in the Boston area in commercials and films.

“I’m constantly learning about myself in acting,” she said. “I like that there’s a chance to channel a different side of myself on screen,” she said.

Former Upper School (US) Theater Director Mark Lindberg remembers her as a diligent student and talented actress at the US, he said.

“She played multiple roles with deft adjustments of rhythm, movement and affect,” Mr. Lindberg said. “At every rehearsal, she combined focus and discipline with her very good actor’s intelligence, and she invariably brought good humor and energy to the work.”

Ms. Tyler will also be featured in an upcoming Whitney Houston biopic to be released in December 2022.