'Suit and Tie in the 217' has impact across country
CHAMPAIGN — A video by and about black male students at Centennial and Central high schools is making an impact across the country.
Take it from none other than Justin Timberlake, whose hit song "Suit and Tie" plays throughout their video.
"I'm honored to be a soundtrack for this type of positivity," Timberlake posted on his Twitter account last month.
Here's the video on YouTube.
Google "Suit and Tie in the 217," and you'll get thousands of results — from a clip on Black Entertainment Television to endless social media shout-outs.
The students say they used the video to counter negative images of young African-American males sometimes found in the media. In the video, they dress up to counter those negative images.
"The negative stories told daily in the media and in our culture about our young African-American men tend to ignore their successes and don't tell the story about how young black men are becoming leaders within our community schools," said Unit 4 schools social worker and African-American Club sponsor Tiffany Gholson.
The video had more than 164,000 page views on YouTube by Wednesday night, and the teen participants have become local celebrities.
"Once the video hit social media, it grew and grew," Gholson said. "And after we posted it on YouTube, it literally went viral."
Some of the video's stars accompanied Sen. Mike Frerichs to the Illinois Senate in Springfield. Others spoke of their experiences at the University of Illinois.
The teen boys' made their latest appearance came Monday night before the Champaign school board, where they received a standing ovation from more than 60 people attending the meeting.
"The project really took off in a way we didn't expect," Gholson said. "We are so proud of them."