Online Workshop:  Using Media For Social Justice

In an unprecedented partnership between two educational organizations that believe student led classrooms are crucial in actively engaging students using a social-emotional learning approach, Bank Street College of Education and Scenarios USA have collaborated to present a four week online workshop titled: Using Media for Social Justice. Beginning February 24-March 20, 2015, this workshop will feature Scenarios USA films, curricula, activities, and utilize Bank Street’s world renowned online learning environment for a dynamic course for educators! Successful completion of the course results in 2 CEUs for participants.bankstreet finalFINAL copy


Registration instructions are below:

2. click register online at center of page
3. find #24 “Using Media for Social Justice”
4. click “enroll” the blue button to the right of the workshop with the price
5. go to the top of the page and click “checkout”
6. select “i will pay the total” from the drop down menu below the grid
7. to get a discounted fee of $275, type in the coupon code “susa1″ and click “add” (late fee will be waived)
8. complete the information requested (i.e. address, name)
9. click “continue”
10. complete information requested (i.e. address, name, payment)
11. click “continue”
12. You are registered!

It’s a New Year and We Have a New Look

Illustration by Vin Ganapathy

Last year was a big, ugly year. We felt angry that the deaths of black people went unpunished, that survivors of sexual violence were told they were lying, or worse, didn’t matter. Consenting people were told time and again that who and how they loved was disgusting. It was a year that forced us to realize that, for all the “progress” we’ve made, we maybe haven’t gotten all that far. We went to theaters to see a movie about events that happened fifty years ago and saw something that looked eerily relevant.

As we re-launch our new streamlined website with a focus on narrative voices, art and film for, by and about underrepresented youth in America, we bear in mind the struggle for social justice endured last year, but we also move forward with the next year in front of us. And we shine the focus on young people, because they are the ones who know what’s happening first, who are the changemakers, and who continue to fight the decades-old fight for social justice in new and unprecedented ways: harnessing the power of countless voices to help Nicole Maines win her fight against her school system or building movements like #blacklivesmatter and got people to listen.

But if there’s nothing else that 2014 taught us, it’s that the fight for equal rights is constant, complicated and nuanced with individual stories and struggles. It’s part of every day and every part of our lives. It’s calling out people you love for saying “that’s so gay”. It’s asking why mainstream media continues to ignore the notion of fully-realized characters of color, and why universities aren’t doing more about on-campus sexual assault.

So as we look forward into 2015 and beyond, we want to make the new a space where we’re going to keep talking. That’s what we do. We amplify youth voices, we fight for social justice, we make movies, and we keep talking. And we’re going to hear from all kinds of people within that dialog—filmmakers, writers, millennials (in all their history-making diversity as a generation)—and, of course, from young people. Welcome, have a look, stick around and stay tuned.

Through a Different Lens: This is How I See Me.

Throughout December, we introduced you to 3 remarkable teenagers. They shared who they are, they told stories about feeling invisible, and they spoke of the need to quiet the noise around them.

At Scenarios, our work creates a space for young people to be supported as they figure out who they are. We do our work in schools, out of schools and online. And when the young people are ready to speak and to lead, we give them the space to do so — loudly and authentically.


In 2015, Scenarios continues to listen and learn from young people with these featured projects:

STORIES – Our new website will be the space for millennials and influencers to be who they are and to share their vision. It will be lived, not told. Experienced, not observed. Site launches in February.

FILM – 3 youth-written, Hollywood-produced films on issues teens define as critical to their world are in production and will premiere on TV, online and on mobile devices together with youth-led advocacy campaigns. Films premiere in May.

EDUCATION – Our standards-based and arts-infused curriculum will be build around the 3 films we’re making now with teens. Our education cycle will roll into schools in Fall, 2015.

Make your 2014 contribution to Scenarios by December 31st and NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Thank you for being our partner in education and promoting youth voice.

Here’s to a productive, transformative, healthy 2015,


Through a Different Lens: Morriah

This is how you see me:
Walking down the streets of New York, people see me and forget me. Strangers see a girl who is tall and has short brown hair, brown skin, and is a little bit curvy and maybe depending on what I’m wearing, people judge my social class too.


Morriah Lisowksi, 17, Brooklyn, NY

This is how I see me:
I fight for what I stand for and stand by what I think is right. I’m a girl, and I’m strong, my appearance accounts for a small percentage of who I am.



In 2015, our three new youth-written films will become part of the next Scenarios curriculum, amplifying their messages and helping hundreds of thousands of young people to see their lives through a different lens.


Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Through A Different Lens: Fatimata

Fatimata Sylla, 17, Bronx, NY      
This is how you see me:
The world sees me as a happy and energetic, but reserved girl. The world sees me as someone who is shy.

This is how I see me:

I see myself as someone who is strong. After my father was killed we moved to the United States from our home of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Even though I miss him, as the oldest child, I stay strong for my mother and my brothers.


 Support Scenarios Youth Programs Here.


Fatimata participated in the Scenarios curriculum about Place & Power in her high school English class, and is now part of the Scenarios Media Corps, a group of youth working to create a digital campaign for our NYC film that addresses intimate partner violence. At Scenarios, we work side by side with young people to provide them with the analytical skills to connect knowledge with their lived experiences and the world around them. This holiday season, support the perspectives of young people like Fatimata by bringing Scenarios’ films and curricula to classrooms across the country.


Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters. 

Scenarios USA Roundup of the 10 Most Important Reads on Ferguson

Last night a grand jury decided there will be no trial for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO. In the 108 days since Brown was killed, too many of the news reports have centered around vilifying Brown and the community of demonstrators who have dared to demand justice for the unnecessary taking of black life by police. News outlets have prioritized looting over coverage of peaceful protests, Brown’s past over his once possible future. By demonizing black bodies and black communities, news coverage continues the dangerous narrative that contributed to Brown’s death, and the taking of black lives across the country.

‘Justice’ in Ferguson: The politics of the protests

Despite this, there are those who have managed to report on Brown’s death while honoring his humanity. These are the pieces that have impacted us at Scenarios and we encourage you to read.

Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down.

      By Dexter Thomas, Jr

“Because we know that it’s common knowledge that white killers get treated like little lost lambs, while black victims are immediately demonized. Hell, there are now even listicles about this sort of thing. But we also know that any small flaw, any trace of humanity, will ruin the whole thing. That people, too many people, will be positively giddy at the sight of our blood.”

Ferguson: Injustice Still Hurts When You See It Coming

      By Kara Brown

“We knew many would care more about the destruction of property and inanimate objects than the destruction of black people’s sense of safety in this country. Still, it was hard not to be taken aback by the downright comical degree to which CNN lamented over a burned pizza chain instead of the dejection of a black community.”

      By Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Among the many relevant facts for any African-American negotiating their relationship with the police the following stands out: The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” 

Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by the Police

      By Mia McKenzie

“Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.” 

Ferguson is an occupation in plain sight and words aren’t enough to change that

      By Roxane Gay

“In truth, the media rarely seems well equipped to write about tragedy and trauma ethically, particularly when race is involved. It does not know how to report on Ferguson’s grief and anger without resorting to the most facile – and often most damaging – language that only perpetuates the ever-present racial divide in this country.” 

Mike Brown Dies, A Generation Comes Alive

      By Roland Martin

“The fight for a fair justice system has gone far beyond Ferguson. We see men and women of various backgrounds coming together to demand justice …. They are marching, protesting, organizing, registering voters, running candidates for office, training up the next generation of civil-rights lawyers. They are largely young people who have decided that, in the words of Black Freedom Movement leader Fannie Lou Hamer, they are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’” 

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.

      By Carol Anderson

“A little more than half a century after Brown, the election of Obama gave hope to the country and the world that a new racial climate had emerged in America, or that it would. But such audacious hopes would be short-lived. A rash of voter-suppression legislation, a series of unfathomable Supreme Court decisions, the rise of stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality make clear that Obama’s election and reelection have unleashed yet another wave of fear and anger.”

Officer Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.

      By Ezra Klein

So Brown is punching inside the car. Wilson is scrambling to deflect the blows, to protect his face, to regain control of the situation. And then Brown stops, turns to his left, says to his friend, “Here, hold these,” and hands him the cigarillos stolen from Ferguson Market. Then he turns back to Wilson and, with his left hand now freed from holding the contraband goods, throws a haymaker at Wilson. 

How to Deal with Friends’ Racist Reactions to Ferguson

      By Jenee Desmond-Harris

“But here’s what Facebook comments are good for: revealing data about whether you want your ‘friends’ to be your friends any longer. That is, of course, if you believe, as I do, that the way someone responds to other people’s pain and mistreatment—including the systemic mistreatment of entire groups of people—is a perfectly fine way to decide whether he or she is someone you like or want to continue to interact with.”

Get on the Bus: Inside the Black Life Matters ‘Freedom Ride’ to Ferguson

      By Akiba Solomon

“Later on, the young St. Louisan sitting next to me starts weeping. I know she goes by @Nettaaaaaaaa on Twitter and that she has more than 13,000 followers, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt her tears to get her full name or ask her age. Along with two friends she stands up and tells us how they’ve been protesting since the beginning and that they are exhausted. She also informs us that an out-of-towner (who turns out to be an ex-pimp named Tariq Nasheed) has been tearing her protest work apart on Twitter. She and her friends tell us that they’re thankful that we’re there but feel possessive of their movement. They urge us to keep Ferguson and Michael Brown at the center, a sentiment I hear from local people throughout the trip.”

3 Amazing Films- Coming Soon!

It’s finally happening! 

You’ve waited patiently to hear about who won Scenarios’ REAL DEAL contests, who’s directing the films and what’s going on.  At long last, the wait is over!  We have three amazing young writers and three brilliant directors turning their stories into short films.  Please join us in person or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for behind the scenes and on set exclusives, sneak previews of post production and finally, to see the films at their world premiere in 2015!


Meet the writer: Janaya Greene wrote Veracity during her senior year of high school while attending Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in South Side Chicago. During this time the debate of legalizing gay marriage was at its height and many states were pushing for its legality. After many debates among friends, family and classmates, Janaya realized that the issue was not, “Is being gay right or wrong?” but rather “How do humans, gay or straight, deserve to be treated?”  With support from her film study teacher, Mr. Eugene Hazzard, and classmates, she proceeded to write Veracity, a story about an African-American girl named Olivia J. Brownstein, who gains the courage to tell her family and friends that she is a lesbian. The response she gets is not what she expected from those she loved most. Veracity explores the taboo of being gay in the African-American community.

Seith Mann

Meet the Director: Seith Mann is a Morehouse College alumnus and a graduate of the Grad Film Program at New York University. His thesis film, five deep breaths, premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, won Best Narrative Short at the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Finl Festival and 1st Significance at the 2003 New York University First Run Festival. Seith won the Gordon Parks Award for Emerging African-American Filmmakers in the Best Directing Category at the IFP/New York Market. Seith also received the Emerging Narrative Award, the Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting and the Richard Vague Film Production Fund Award for his feature screenplay, Come Sunday. To date, Seith has directed over thirty episodes of television including The WireGrey’s AnatomyHeroesBrotherhoodFriday Night LightsElementaryCalifornicationNurse JackieHomelandRectify and the Walking Dead. He has been nominated for a DGA Award, five NAACP Image Awards and won a NAACP Image Award for Directing for his episode of Friday Night Lights.


Meet the writer: Skyler Edge, a transgender male, wrote the story House, Not Home in his sophomore year at Facing History New Tech High School in Cleveland, OH. The story was born from his fears of coming out to his classmates as transgender after only a year of being out to family and friends. Out of his fear of rejection and violence, Skyler came up with the story of Terran, who is gender variant and does not conform to male nor female pronouns. Skyler wrote his story in hopes of bringing more visibility to transgender issues.

Meet the Director: Joshua Butler is a prolific film and television director whose recent work includes FOX’s The Following  starring Kevin Bacon, Pretty Little Liars for ABC Family, Crisis for NBC, Reckless for CBS, and Matador for Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network. Joshua directed the award-winning feature VLOG for Twisted Pictures and the producers of SAWBeer Money for USA Network, Deathlands for SyFy Channel, Saint Sinner for writer-producer Clive Barker, and the Christmas movie Prancer Returns for Raffaella De Laurentiis. He has just completed the Random Bench-produced short film Doghouse, starring Michael Maize and Erin Daniels. In addition to working with Scenarios USA this fall, Joshua will be directing Joe Carnahan’s new NBC thriller, State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl, and his 10th episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries.

New York City

IMG_9942Meet the writer: Nialani Pringle, is a rising senior at Brooklyn Collaborative High School. Pringle’s film, Aleah, tells the story of a 17-year-old girl living in East New York, Brooklyn. Aleah, like many young girls, has hopes and dreams, though her everyday reality revolves around a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, an unplanned pregnancy and few places to turn. The story is based on Pringle’s life, whose own mother is a domestic abuse survivor and whose father was killed in Linden Plaza a year after she was born.  When asked why she chose to write this script, Pringle said, “My story shows that a person’s physical and emotional place can make a simple situation ten times worse. Aleah is a pregnant teenage girl in a bad neighborhood with absolutely no power. This was part of [my mother’s] reality and continues to be the reality for many women.” Aleah, was shot in the Linden Plaza Apartments of East New York.


Laurie Collyer

Meet the Director: Laurie Collyer premiered her first film at the Sundance Film Festival, a feature documentary  entitled,  Nuyorican Dream.  Nuyorican Dream had its broadcast premiere later that year on HBO/Cinemax.  The documentary earned Collyer a DGA nomination and won multiple prizes at international film festivals.  Her second film, narrative feature, Sherrybaby, also premiered at Sundance and earned lead actress Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Collyer participated in the Sundance Filmmakers’ Lab and the Residence du Festival de Cannes to develop Sherrybaby.  In 2009, Collyer received a Cinereach grant to develop the script for Sunlight Jr., Collyer’s most recent film which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.  Sunlight Jr., features Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as down and out lovers, wrestling with pregnancy and homelessness.  Most recently, Collyer was hired by LD Productions to write a pilot based on the book, Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women, with partner Annie Marter.

Help Scenarios Redefine Place and Power in Chicago!

Scenarios USA has expanded our REAL DEAL program to Chicago schools.  Beginning this Fall, 39 dedicated educators in 9 public high schools are implementing the Scenarios curriculum addressing Place and Power.

Our excitement doesn’t stop there.  Today – Right Now – we’re launching our first ever Indiegogo Campaign to fund the Chicago REAL DEAL film.  REAL DEAL films are written by students as the final assignment of our curriculum and are made by some of your favorite Hollywood talents like Doug Liman (Bourne Identity), David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada), and Gina Prince- Bythewood (Love and Basketball).

Here’s what will happen: Nearly 1,000 Chicago students will submit their stories about place and power to our contest. (This theme is especially potent for the young people of Chicago who live in a city plagued by an epidemic of youth violence and immense cultural segregation.) One submission from Chicago will be selected to be turned into a REAL DEAL film.  The winning writer will be partnered with an acclaimed Hollywood director, shoot their story in their Chicago neighborhood with a professional crew, and bring their film to a local and national audience of 20 million!

We’ve been told that for teenagers to learn, you must talk to them.  But at Scenarios, we do something just as important as talking.  We listen.  That’s the mandate we began with when we started the organization 15 years ago.

As described by Scenarios REAL DEAL student, Terrance Ortiz, “Without someone showing you what’s possible, you don’t know what you can contribute to the world. When doors open, you can surprise yourself, and others.”

Help us open new doors – doors that are safe for young people to walk through, where, on the other side, they can be heard.

Please visit our Indiegogo page. watch our video, DONATE and HELP to make a film from Chicago.  This is more than a film, though – this is a chance to grow the creative spark in the teenagers we work with, many of whom had long stopped considering their own futures as bright or promising.

We’re honored to be invited into Chicago for this school year, and we’re thrilled to have you join us at this exciting start of our journey.  Thank you for visiting the Indiegogo page.


Maura Minsky
Executive Director/Co-Founder

P.S.  Please share our current Facebook Indiegogo Update on your Wall!chicago scenarios banner

Announcing the 2013-14 REAL DEAL Teacher Workshops, Curriculum and Contest

Love. Money. Family. Friendship. Power. Violence.

Do your students think and talk about these issues? Do your students love watching movies?

Are you looking for interactive, engaging, Common Core-aligned activities that will get even your most reluctant students thinking critically and writing creatively about sexual health and social justice issues?

Are you interested in exploring how the arts can take critical thinking to a whole new level?

Do you aim to create a safe space for your students to build their social and emotional competencies?


Cleveland-WorkshopScenarios USA’s professional development workshops, for all educators grades 6-12, where we tackle these questions and more. These workshops are for educators who teach in our three REAL DEAL regions: New York City, Cleveland and Chicago.

Every teacher who attends our workshops will receive a free REAL DEAL curriculum and the new Scenarios USA movies, which are written by teens for teens.

Workshop participants will also learn about the 2013-14 REAL DEAL contest, where student winners are partnered with Hollywood directors and make short films.

REAL DEAL Curriculum Lessons:

  • Common Core-aligned
  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies
  • Creative, interactive and democratic

Please register here to receive more information about the workshop dates and locations as they are set:

Spike Lee: “Chiraq” Is Not Yours For the Taking

Chicago has long been known for its violence, from Al Capone and the Italian mob to present day gangs and gun violence. As a Chicago native, I have awakened to find that many of my high school classmates or friends were shot and killed. That is why it pains me to know that Spike Lee’s film on Chicago gun violence will bare the title “Chiraq.”


“Chiraq” is a term that was coined by the youth in some of the toughest areas of Chicago. For youth facing daily community violence and occupational forces of Chicago police, the name is a way to define their experience. To some, the name is a badge of honor representing survival in some of America’s harshest inner-city conditions. For others, it signifies a cry for help from Chicago youth who identify so closely with the level of extreme oppression and violence experienced in Iraq.

Spike Lee has directed some of the most powerful films of our time spotlighting issues in the Black community through the lens of an unapologetically Black man. However, Lee has rightfully faced backlash from community leaders and residents over the title of his documentary on Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood. Most agree Lee’s film is an opportunity counter the dehumanizing narrative played out in national media about Chicago’s youth. Using “Chiraq” as a film title is essentially clickbait — a way to attract attention by using a name Chicagoans developed from a place of loss and oppression. The word has been used to sensationalize Chicago violence while ignoring the root cause of state violence depriving Black communities of resources.

Today, Chicago is the most segregated city in the country with an unemployment rate consistently higher than the national rate. Although overtly racist housing and employment discrimination policies were repealed decades ago, the ramifications still impact the city today. Segregated and underfunded school districts, food desserts, over-policed communities, and the effects of mass incarceration are all results of policies instituted to purposefully subjugate Black communities. These policies created generational institutional barriers, blocking Black people from participating in mainstream society.

Using “Chiraq” as a film title is essentially clickbait — a way to attract attention by using a name Chicagoans developed from a place of loss and oppression.

Chicago Now reports that in 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a list of 129 Chicago schools for possible closure — 54 of those schools were in underserved Black and Latino neighborhoods, leading to the protest of 7,000 parents, students and teachers. Mayor Emanuel continues to cut down the city’s budget by revoking what little resources still exist in impoverished communities.

flickrHeather Phillips
flickr/Heather Phillips

Most recently Chicago police are under fire for operating Homan Square, a black site used to violate civil rights and abuse “suspects.” Months after Homan Square was unearthed, Chicago was ordered to pay police torture victims $5 million in reparations for abuses between 1972 and 1991. The American government is also responsible for institutional torture of Iraqis including the Iraq prison abuse scandal and the CIA torture report.

Much like Chicago, media coverage of the war in Iraq has erased the narrative of citizens’ lives being impacted by American’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Author Mark Kukis published a book in 2011 titled Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009, which details how Iraqis lives are gravely affected by the war.

In an interview with TIME, Kurkis describes the impact the Iraq War has had on quality of life in the country.

“The impact the U.S. intervention had on Iraqi society was heavier and more widespread than I had fathomed before undertaking the book. So many people had their lives torn apart in Iraq because of the U.S. intervention. As I mention in the introduction for the book, the war directly affected more than 6 million people in Iraq, where the population is around 30 million. About 2.3 million Iraqis fled the country. Another 2.7 million were internally displaced as of 2008.”

Chicago and Iraq are thousands of miles apart and yet they both suffer at the hands of white supremacist imperialist United States policies. These policies kill communities and create conditions in which oppressed youth turn to violence seeking control over their own destiny. If Spike Lee intends to lay this out in explicit narrative and visual terms in his film, only then might the use of “Chiraq” for its title be deemed appropriate.

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

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That Time My Film Screened in NYC at a Premiere Hosted by Issa Rae

Seith Mann, "Veracity" director, and Janaya Greene
“Veracity” director Seith Mann with writer Janaya Greene

As a 17-year-old high school student, I never thought that anything I wrote would go “big time”—at least not for a few more years. From a young age, my parents and teachers always told me that I could achieve anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. But who knew an idea that I had about a story would blossom into what I called “Veracity” and have an amazing organization like Scenarios USA believe in it enough to bring it to life.?

The awe that I felt when “Veracity” was chosen as the Chicago winner of the REAL DEAL about Place and Power contest (and that I still feel now) was at an all-time high at the Scenarios World Premiere and Celebration last week at the Angelika Film Center in New York City.

Initially, I was very excited for the attendees to see my film and I was even more excited to see the two other Scenarios films written by Skyler Edge and Lani Pringle. But as more guests arrived, my nerves began to build. Many of these nerves grew from my admiration of Issa Rae, who hosted the evening, and Franchesca Ramsey and Michaela Angela Davis, who were there as Scenarios Influencers.

Issa Rae with winning writers
Issa Rae with winning writers (l-r) Skyler Edge, Janaya Greene, Lani Pringle

Out of all of the shows that I watch on Youtube, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” is my all time favorite. I never thought of myself as acutely “different” from my peers until my sophomore year in high school when a guy in my class pointed out how “weird” I was for freely wearing an afro and dressing in clothes that weren’t “in” or even mildly considered as designer.

Though I did not let that remark define me, it was one of the first times that I truly realized that I didn’t fit in with one crowd, and I embraced it. This was not always easy, as it always feels harder to stay true to yourself than to follow the crowd to gain more popularity points. This is why Issa Rae’s “Awkward Black Girl” was so pivotal to my understanding of being who you are because, well, being yourself is the most essential way of happiness.

Michaela Angela Davis has been a tireless advocate for more representation of young women of color in the media, which is everything that I hope to accomplish in my career.

With all of this in mind, knowing that I would meet Issa Rae soon made me excited and all the more nervous. But when I met Issa, all my nerves withered away as she was very down to earth and maybe even as nervous as me to present for Scenarios. Meeting Franchesca Ramsey and Michaela Angela Davis were also very significant moments for me. I’ve watched Franchesca Ramsey’s Youtube videos on activism and allyship countless times. Michaela Angela Davis has been a tireless advocate for more representation of young women of color in the media, which is everything that I hope to accomplish in my career. Meeting these three exquisite women meant a great deal to me, and it meant even more that for the first time something I accomplished could influence them as their work has always influenced me as an African American woman.

Michaela Angela Davis, Janaya, and Franchesca Ramsey
Janaya Greene with Scenarios Influencers Michaela Angela Davis (l) and Franchesca Ramsey (r)

My remaining nervousness came from being unsure of how the attendees would receive “Veracity” — Scenarios USA, director Seith Mann, and myself worked very hard on making the film as outstanding as possible.  But when my lead character Olivia appeared on the screen, my worries transformed to enthusiasm and it was as if I was viewing “Veracity” for the first time all over again.

To hear that something I wrote brought people to tears, reminded others of what high school was like for them, and made even more people empathetic to those around them, touched me in a way that I will never fully be able to explain.

The most gratifying part of the entire Premiere and World Celebration was the feedback that I received. To hear that something I wrote brought people to tears, reminded others of what high school was like for them, and made even more people empathetic to those around them, touched me in a way that I will never fully be able to explain. I am eternally grateful to Scenarios USA for making “Veracity” possible. I now know that anything really is possible as long as you believe in what you’re working towards, and have a remarkable group of people backing you up.

Stream our three newest films on Vimeo.

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

get involvedsupport us copy copyfilms button




That’s What We Said: Sex Ed Is Better with Discussions of Gender and Power

It’s always good to hear when other people confirm that you’re on the right track — that’s how we felt when we read about a recent study which


found that students who went through sex ed programs inclusive of gender and power dynamics in relationships were much less likely to experience planned pregnancies or to develop STIs. Our REAL DEAL curriculum does this, and by “this” we mean that it looks at sex education as more than condoms on bananas.

Nicole Haberland, the study’s lead author, told NPR: “In the past, study after study has found that young people who adhere to harmful gender norms have worse sexual and reproductive health outcomes.” Those gender norms emphasize aggression in men and the pressure to be available in women. With intimate partner violence affecting 23 percent of young people between ages 11 and 17, it’s about time these discussions become more common in classrooms. Of course, students need to know about contraceptive use and testing, but it’s just as important for them to understand what a healthy romantic relationship looks like. 

“The idea here is that sex is a relationship issue — you don’t get HIV by just sitting there by yourself, nor do you get chlamydia or gonorrhea, nor do you get pregnant,” explained Emory University public health professor Ralph DiClemente. Knowing how to have the conversations about testing and contraception is what helps young adults make decisions — not terrifying disease statistics. (The study makes no mention of teaching students to discuss pleasure, but we hope that will be the next big shift in sex education.)

This is something to celebrate. And maybe, just maybe, it will change politicians’ minds about abstinence-only sex ed.


The Princess of North Sudan: A Fairy Tale

The magical story of the Princess of North Sudan starts thousands of years ago, in a Kingdom known as Kush. Older than Egypt, the Kingdom of Kush was a powerful force in the Sahel region of ancient Africa. Their pharaohs at times ruled Egypt and their influence spread throughout the continent. Later known as Nubia, this kingdom survived multiple invaders over the centuries.


This dynasty came to an end with colonization by European powers. In 1898 Britain joined the great “Scramble for Africa” and claimed Nubia as a territory, naming it Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The name Sudan comes from the Arabic bilād as-sūdān: “land of the black peoples.” It was not easy to conquer Sudan, but British forces brutally oppressed any opposition to their rule. In the battle for control over Sudan, there were over 30,000 Sudanese casualties.

Once they had established power, Britain held onto power by dividing the Sudanese people. Sudan was separated into North and South. They were only interested in the north, so the bulk of infrastructure, government and resources were centralized there. The south was left to its own devices and the imperialist void was soon filled by Christian Missionaries. As a result, the north of Sudan remained Muslim, spoke Arabic, and had an established government and trade relationships with the Middle East, while the south became Christian, spoke English and kept nomadic and feudal systems of government.

As extra insurance on their hold on power, the British government prevented any unification of the Sudanese and Egyptian people. Throughout history, porous borders had intertwined the histories and culture of the Sudanese and Egyptians and they had often combined to form powerful kingdoms. The British leveraged their control over both Egypt and Sudan to limit the potential of successful uprisings.

But this story has a happy ending, because on June 16, 2014, just two days after the United Nations announced that 1.4 million Sudanese people had been forced from their homes in the last six months of conflict, Jeremiah Heaton traveled from Virginia to this disputed land and, like the British had done in 1898, claimed it for himself.

anglo sudan

When colonizing Africa fell out of favor, Britain set up a transition government of self-rule in Sudan. All government officials were appointed by Britain and were chosen with the same preferences with which they had ruled Sudan. Of the 800 positions given to Sudanese officials, all but four were from the north.

This imbalance of power and resources, along with the cultural incompatibilities built and nurtured by the British, led to decades of brutal war between the north and south Sudan which led to millions of deaths. These disputes over land and power are not unique to Sudan. The arbitrary division of land and peoples by the colonizing powers has ensured decades of devastating conflict and famine throughout Africa.

One such piece of disputed land is Bir Tawil. Bir Tawil sits between Sudan and Egypt and is unclaimed by both countries. This land is not unclaimed because nobody has used it or wants it — both countries attest that they have long histories occupying the territory. Bir Tawil is unclaimed because neither country can claim it.

Bir Tawil cannot be claimed because of a dispute over the Hala’ib Triangle. When Britain carved out its piece of Africa and named it Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, they drew a border. In 1899 Britain drew the border between Sudan and Egypt at the 22nd parallel. This gave Bir Tawil to Sudan and the much more valuable Hala’ib Triangle to Egypt. In 1902, Britain drew a second “administrative” border which gave Bir Tawil to Egypt and the Hala’ib Triangle to Sudan. Because the conflict between Egypt and Sudan lies in a debate over which boundary, the 1899 or 1902, is correct, neither country can claim Bir Tawil without ceding the Hala’ib Triangle.

This land, with history older than Britain, older than Egypt, older than Sudan, cannot be claimed because of two arbitrary lines drawn on a map by colonizing powers. This land was occupied by people with roots in both Egyptian and Sudanese history, because until Britain firmly separated the two states, the border over the area had never existed.

Emily Heaton, via
Emily Heaton, via

But this story has a happy ending, because on June 16, 2014, just two days after the United Nations announced that 1.4 million Sudanese people had been forced from their homes in the last six months of conflict, Jeremiah Heaton traveled from Virginia to this disputed land and, like the British had done in 1898, claimed it for himself. Why? Because his 7-year-old daughter told him that she wanted to be a princess.

“I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes and dreams come true,” Heaton said, after flying to Bir Tawil and planting a flag that his children had designed on the back of a placemat.

It was a treacherous journey for Heaton, 6,000 miles by plane and automobile, but with a little money, some gumption, and 100 years of oppression, warfare and famine, Heaton was able to show his daughter that dreams do come true – for some people.

Disney heard this tale of fatherly love and they bought the rights to the story, making young Emily Heaton the first African Disney Princess. And that, dear friends, is the magical tale of how a 7-year old white girl from Virginia became “The Princess of the North Land Of Black Peoples.”

dream hampton’s “Treasure” Helps a Community Seek Justice

trans doc dream hampton
The trailer for dream hampton’s “Treasure: From Tragedy to Trans Justice; Mapping a Detroit Story” opens with completely ordinary footage. A happy, self-assured girl talks to her camera, hoping you’ll enjoy her photos. Nineteen-year-old Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard is just doing what millions of girls with cameras do in the privacy of their bedrooms. And then, like that, the trailer becomes a eulogy for the young trans woman whose brutal 2011 murder has yet to be prosecuted as a hate crime. The story that hampton’s documentary tells is at once extraordinary and common, as trans women face an incredible amount of violence every day.

Premiering at the LA Film Festival next month, “Treasure” is a documentary less interested in the graphic horrifying details of Treasure’s death than it is in celebrating a vibrant life cut short. The Kickstarter-funded film is hampton’s attempt to bring healing to her hometown: “Shelley’s brutal murder affected our community deeply. There was grieving and soul searching and unbearable feelings of loss.”

While moved to do something, hampton also understands that her own position as a straight, cis ally means she doesn’t have all the answers, nor did she want to be another person highlighting transphobic violence without unpacking the broader issues at work:

“I was uncertain about directing a film. I am a cis gendered hetero woman. [Co-director] T. Miller, who approached me to direct this film she wanted to produce, is a lesbian, but also cis gendered. I didn’t want to be a part of another voyeuristic film about trans misogyny and  trans violence that provoked sympathy, but reinforced distance. I am an ally. A strong ally. A lifelong ally. And being an ally is about humbly submitting oneself to a life of learning. Being an ally is about taking direction, not having an agenda…I didn’t want to fetishize violence against trans women of color. So many of the reports in liberal media that detailed the horrific violence committed against Black and trans bodies seem like more trans phobia to me, where trans peoples’ deaths, not their lives, are the focus.”

There is no bringing Treasure back, and there is a lot of work to be done before we really understand transphobic violence, but hampton’s documentary is an enormously strong beginning. Watch the trailer below.