For Ahkeem: Coming of Age of Black Girl in Missouri

For Ahkeem, the relevant coming-of-age story of Daje Shelton, a black girl in North St. Louis, begins one year before the fatal police shooting of black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri,

Daje fights for her future as she is placed in an alternative high school and navigates the marginalized neighborhoods, biased criminal justice policies and economic devastation that have set up many Black youth like her to fail.

After being expelled from her public high school, a juvenile court judge sends Daje to the court-supervised Innovative Concept Academy, which offers her one last chance to earn a diploma.

Over two years, Daje struggles to maintain focus in school, attends the funerals of friends killed around her, falls in love with classmate Antonio, and navigates a loving-but-tumultuous relationship with her mother.

Antonio is drawn into the criminal justice system, events in Ferguson four miles from her home seize the national spotlight–and Daje learns she is pregnant, forced to contend with the reality of raising young boy.

Through Daje’s intimate story, For Ahkeem describes challenges that many Black teenagers face in America today, and witnesses the strength, resilience, and determination it takes to survive.


By Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest

For us, For Ahkeem is about an extraordinary young girl who never gives up. We capture Daje’s personality and experiences with astonishing intimacy—with all of her positive attributes, flaws, choices good and bad laid bare with artful nuance that resembles a fiction film. But Daje is neither Malala (the exception) nor Precious (the victim); she is one of the millions of Black women and girls who are somewhere in between, doing their very best to keep their heads above water, to not slip even though the weight of the world is on their backs. Daje exemplifies the awareness and insight many Black teenagers bring to the unique challenges of their lives; how they are in constant dialogue about how to process, survive, and transcend the violence and other systemic obstructions put in their paths. Through Daje’s inner world and day-to-day experiences, For Ahkeem provides an important window into the complexities of growing up with this trauma, and aims to highlight the urgent, devastating consequences of being a Black teenager in America today.

About the Directors:

Directors Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest are Emmy award-winning documentary filmmakers whose work explores social commentary through rich characters and cinematic stories. Their latest feature documentary, Good Fortune, about two Kenyans battling major foreign aid efforts that bring them more harm than benefit, was broadcast to millions of viewers in prime time on the PBS series POV. Good Fortune received a National Emmy Award in addition to awards for international reporting and promoting social justice from the Overseas Press Club, Fledgling Fund, and Witness. Landon and Jeremy co-founded Transient Pictures in 2005, a full service production company that produces independent films as well as original content for organizations like Facebook, UNICEF, Toyota, and Lincoln Center. The team also cofounded the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, a tight-knit community of professional filmmakers in Brooklyn, NY who are dedicated to innovative approaches to filmmaking.