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:

Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Black Femmes

February marks the 11th year the US is observing Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. It is also popularly known as Black History Month, or as young Black activists have renamed, Black Futures Month. What does love look and feel like for young Black femmes who are living in rape culture, when police brutality targets you, those you love, and those who look like you? How do Black femmes find, identify, and build love and respect in a world that doesn’t want them to survive?

These are the same questions I ask myself today and last year when writing our curriculum What’s the REAL DEAL about Love and Solidarity? Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. The good thing is that these questions, I believe, have more than one “right” answer. At Scenarios we choose to use media, writing, and facilitated dialogues with youth to examine and attempt to support youth in understanding these questions and finding solutions that work for them when they need them.

“Love makes your soul crawl out of its hiding place.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Lani Pringle, writer of the film with the 2 teen actresses

When we asked our winning writers how they wanted their stories to be used and featured in our new curriculum, youth writer Lani Pringle, who wrote Aleah, said she wanted us to discuss love. How often do we discuss love with young people in a way that doesn’t focus solely on what not to do, or what not to experience? What are the conversations youth really wish to have about love? Lani guided us to discuss love as its own phenomena, and also to explore how violence and power sometimes impact love in a tragic way. This is why there are two lesson plans on love and relationships in our new curriculum.

Aleah is a film that discusses how violent poverty is for young girls in the US, especially young Black mothers. She experiences domestic violence by her boyfriend, then by her mother when she shares she is pregnant. Aleah is homeless, committed to being a young parent, and unsure where to look and find the support and resources she needs. The film is ideal for the observances of February because the lives of young Black girls in the US is not a single issue; it is one that must be understood and honored as intersecting and beyond one-dimensional. This is why we are offering the film Aleah, and two others Man In the Mirror and Bittersweet, for free for the month of February. Watch our Teen Dating Violence Awareness Playlist on YouTube here. 

“I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.” –  June Jordan

We are also offering the two lesson plans on Love and Relationships for free as well. This first lesson plan centers the film Aleah and are created to have youth interact with the themes of love, explore their definitions of love, and identify the characteristics they wish to have in a partner. The second lesson plan centers Aleah as well and introduces the Power and Control Wheel as well as the Respect Wheel. It is so important to discuss both of the Wheel’s with youth and not only focus on the power and control aspects. Lani wanted us to discuss love, so discussing respect is vital the spirit of which we created the curriculum. (Check out more from

How will we show up for Black femmes this month and for the rest of the year? How will we remember young Black femmes during March observances, and at every other local and national space? Let’s begin together by centering the stories and lives of young Black femmes in our classrooms, homes, and own lives.

The films in our YouTube Playlist for #tdvam or #teendvmonth are also available for purchase or for stream on Vimeo Video on Demand. The Love and Solidarity Curriculum is also available for purchase here

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

Learn more here.

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Rembering Maurice White, Musical Innovator and Voice for Harmony

Maurice White (via Wikimedia Commons)
Maurice White (via Wikimedia Commons)

In a scene from the 1980 golf-comedy Caddyshack, a loud-mouthed and obnoxious Al Czervik, played by Rodney Dangerfield, walks up to the house band in a country club dining hall, flinging a fistful of dollars in their direction and telling the band leader to “play something hot.” The band abruptly stops the languid jazz piece mid-performance and bursts into something electric and upbeat. The well-to-do crowd spontaneously starts dancing to the lively number.

The spirited tune was “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

On February 4th, Maurice White, founder and creative force behind Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away in his sleep in Los Angeles, leaving behind a towering legacy of over half a century of songwriting, performance and production, both for his own projects and for other artists such as Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder.

Born in Memphis in 1941, White began his musical life early, singing in a church group at the age of six. In his early teens he began playing drums in local bands and was a childhood friend of Booker T, of Booker T. & the M.G.’s fame. After relocating to Chicago as a teen, he received formal training at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and worked as a session drummer at clubs and in the studio. He later went on to work for Chess Recording Company. It was during these years that his musical and stage savvy was reinforced by exposure to a myriad of styles and musical groups, many of which he performed with. It was this diverse working experience that would later find expression in Earth, Wind & Fire, shaping a sound that would go on to sell close to 100 million records, making them one of the best-selling musical groups of all time.

Maurice White & Philip Bailey (via Wikimedia Commons)
Maurice White & Philip Bailey (via Wikimedia Commons)

Upon re-locating to Los Angeles, White formed Earth, Wind & Fire, naming the band after the elements included in his astrological sign. Releasing their self-titled debut in 1971 along with The Need for Love later that year, they embarked upon their steady musical progression. Over the next decade, the band would refine their sound with each album. While still staying true to their lineage of funk, soul, R&B, and jazz, the band’s real strength was their ability to not be bound by genre, instead developing a more far-reaching sound, accessible to the masses through its stellar arrangements, joyfulness and unique energy. That they were the first African-American act to sell out Madison Square Garden as well as the first act to perform at the White House under the Obama administration provides ample testimony to their widespread influence.

From the beginnings of the band, White steered their subject matter to focus on love, spirituality, and brotherhood. Even a cursory review of the band’s output shows a constant pleading for people to put aside their differences and realize a more harmonic calling. “Let man join hands” the band sings on “Open Our Eyes,” “the old and the young, and let every heart, now beat as one, in this world today.” And in a 1985 interview with The Chicago Tribune, White tells of his goal to “put the emphasis on the positive aspect… [s]eeing how far we can go as a people in an unlimited sense. We are all reaching for the same thing, and the creator looks at each of us in the same way.”

It’s a fitting testament to the message that Maurice White spent his life promoting through music—that someday “the world will smile again, someday all brothers will be friends.” It’s a message that’s as relevant as ever.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1992, White ceased touring with the band but remained active as a songwriter and producer, continuing to work into his later years. The group would go on receive such honors as induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and six Grammy Awards.

A few years ago, I worked in a pastry commissary and deciding on music to play in the workplace was a contentious issue, with employees often complaining about the musical tastes of others. One of the few occasions when these differences of opinion would be stilled was when someone would put on Earth, Wind & Fire. It was the only sound so universal that it could overcome the petty differences between our musical preferences and that universality has helped their music stand the test of time. It’s a fitting testament to the message that Maurice White spent his life promoting through music—that someday “the world will smile again, someday all brothers will be friends.” It’s a message that’s as relevant as ever.

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

Learn more here.

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Befriending While Woke Is A Trust Exercise

Janaya Greene

Just as Dating While Woke was a difficult task, I’m finding it hard to keep friendships with folks who insist on saying harmful things about disadvantaged groups outside of their own personal identities, despite professing to be aware of the socioeconomic institutions that disadvantage women, people of color, queer-identified people, and everyone else who isn’t a cisgender, heterosexual, white male. It’s one thing to engage and converse with people who hold harmful or destructive views; I’m finding that friendship, though, is a whole different ballgame.

It all started when I began identifying as a woke individual about two years ago after attending the Scenarios USA Youth Conference in 2014. Since then, I’ve gained more knowledge and have become more active in engaging with social justice issues in conversation with others, through writing, protesting, and so on. Of course, being “woke” is a continually evolving process—for me, at least. In no way do I believe that I know everything about social justice or that anyone necessarily can, but I make it my duty to learn all that I can about the trials people from disadvantaged groups face and ways that I can contribute to lessening their struggles. As a black woman myself, I understand that striving for the equality of all people, not just those who are black and a woman like I am, is the only way that any of the previously stated groups can truly be treated equally in society.

Through the process of learning and attaining “wokeness”, I never expected that I would have to second-guess friendships but lately, I certainly have.

As a black woman myself, I understand that striving for the equality of all people, not just those who are black and a woman like I am, is the only way that any of the previously stated groups can truly be treated equally in society.

A few months ago, two friends and I were going to see a movie. My friend who was driving, who I’ll call Bianca, had gotten a flat tire, so we stopped to wait at a local gas station for AAA to come and replace her tire. My other friend, Tasha, saw a person whom she perceived to be a masculine-presenting woman returning to her car from inside the gas station. “How come every time women become lesbian they let themselves go?” she said. I sat in silence and in total shock. Firstly, it was none of our business to define whether there was nothing wrong with this person’s appearance. Secondly, she had made an assumption about the woman’s sexuality. Lastly, I didn’t understand how people “letting themselves go” related to lesbianism.

As I sat in shock, trying to gather how I’d rebut against what she said, Bianca chimed in, saying, “If that’s what makes her happy, then it’s fine with me.” My sense of shock did not let up much. I saw the effort Bianca had tried to make, but it didn’t seem genuine. I hoped for something along the lines of “How do you know that she’s let herself go?” or “Why does it matter how she’s dressed?” or simply “Why do you care so much?” All in all, Bianca’s response didn’t make me feel any more at ease in their company.

I want my circle to be full of open-minded and loving individuals, not people who feel the need to put down others. The latter only serves to perpetuate the cycle of hate that built this country.

A few months prior to this, I had stopped communicating with a new friend only a few weeks after we first met. At my university, I moved in early to help people in my building move into their dorms. During orientation I met the other students who were also serving as dorm helpers. One girl, who I will call Sabrina, was a transfer student in the process of adjusting to our campus and making new friends. I invited her to hang out with me and to eat with me in a campus-dining hall a few times. During one of those meals, she told me about how she didn’t feel comfortable eating salads or working out in public because she was heavier and people always looked at her oddly. She felt that people assumed she was attempting to lose weight, which made her feel uncomfortable.

Hands in Solidarity, Hands of Freedom mural in Chicago, Illinois. (via Flickr user @atelier_tee)
Hands in Solidarity, Hands of Freedom mural in Chicago, Illinois. (via Flickr user @atelier_tee)

Knowing this made it much more difficult for me to read her Snapchat a week later that had the text “Gross” and “This is disgusting” over pictures of a married lesbian couple on her television screen. I asked her why it was “disgusting” and she responded by calling the women d-words and other rude epithets, adding that she’s Jamaican and that “it’s Jamaican culture” to disrespect gay couples. I told her that I respected her culture but that I know Jamaicans who think otherwise. I settled on letting go of the new friendship, as it became clear that she was not open to dialogue—she mainly tried to dominate the conversation and silence my point of view. In the end, she suggested that she and I could agree to disagree, just as Alex did a few months prior.

Ultimately, though, I’m just not interested in pursuing friendships with people who fight for fairness for people who align with their own identity while rejecting or disrespecting those who don’t. It’s nonsensical and frustrates me to no end. Friendship involves safety and trust and I’m realizing that I can’t feel either of those things around people who are not willing to work constantly toward awareness and understanding in all contexts. I want my circle to be full of open-minded and loving individuals, not people who feel the need to put down others. The latter only serves to perpetuate the cycle of hate that built this country and continues to hurt non-white, non-cisgender, non-heterosexual folks every single day.

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

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Jamil Smith’s Podcast Emphasizes Importance Of Intersectionality In Body Image

Intersection with Jamil Smith
Intersection with Jamil Smith

Body image is a heavy topic for many of us who have either been shamed for having the wrong type of body in our culture, felt like our bodies don’t fit into the norm of what is acceptable, or wished that we could change our bodies to reflect those that we see most often in the media. Creating an intersectional conversation that examines body image through the lenses of other identities such as gender, race, and class is important to understanding how these issues affect all people, especially those whose voices are not as widely heard as others.

That’s why the thirteenth episode of Jamil Smith’s “Intersection” podcast, “Body Image From All Angles,” is so significant. For the episode, he invited guests Lindy West, a writer and performer whose work focuses on body image, Erika Nicole Kendall, who runs the blog Black Girls Guide to Weight LossAndia Winslow, a fitness activist and trainer, and Isaac Fitzgerald, editor at BuzzFeed Books, to discuss this subject from their varied points of view.

Lindy West (via Planned Parenthood)
Lindy West (via Planned Parenthood)

I was glad to hear Smith bring on a guest like Lindy West who has experienced harassment, body shaming, and hostile fatphobia as a result of her groundbreaking work. She discussed navigating her summer nuptials as someone who falls outside of what is considered to be the acceptable body type for brides. Instead of going on a diet, she exercised and ate nourishing, healthy foods that made her body and mind feel good. “I didn’t want to throw all of that away for a day that’s supposed to be about love,” she told Smith.

West chronicles her journey to self-love, which for her is very much tied to body image. Growing up fat, she explained, she had no figures she could look up to in the media and internalized the message that she was unlovable because of her size. “Suddenly, when you don’t hate yourself anymore, you allow people to love you in a different way,” she told Smith.

Andia Winslow (via
Andia Winslow (via

Andia Winslow, who Smith describes as “on the other side of this body image spectrum” when it comes to fitness, is a personal trainer and one of the most fit people he knows. For Winslow, being black has been a definitive factor in her journey with fitness. She grew up with a love of being active, which led her to becoming a professional golfer after playing at Yale. Throughout, she faced racism as a female student athlete of color and as a black person participating in predominantly white athletic spaces.

“In communities of color, we die more from heart disease and related issues than any other thing, and that’s preventable…but nobody is talking about that,” she says. That’s why she views fitness as a form of self-love and self-care, since it can empower those who are the most marginalized in our society. “We need to reclaim what it means to be healthy…we glorify everything else so let’s glorify ourselves.”

Erika Nicole Kendall (via A Black Girl's Guide to Weight Loss)
Erika Nicole Kendall (via A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss)

Erika Nicole Kendall is also a black woman and a trainer who feels passionately about fitness. Her relationship to body image differs somewhat from the others, as she lost a significant amount of weight and runs a blog on weight loss for black women. “I started the blog because my background is in research and I wanted to keep notes on what I was learning [about fitness] and I accidently picked up an audience,” she recalls. The reason she focuses on black women is because of the similarities black women often experience in regards to their body image. “Our experiences with our bodies, to our bodies, and the way the world interacts with our bodies, they’re similar. I think we all feel a similar kind of stress and pressure.”

West, Winslow, and Kendall’s perspectives each underscore why intersectionality is so necessary in examining body image, since people of color, size, and especially women of color are so often marginalized within the body love movement. The traditional ‘faces’ that we often see representing the voice of those calling for better body image depictions are often thin, young, able-bodied, cisgender white women. Everyone’s voices deserve to be heard, but often those voices are being heard in place of others, as if they were representative of all experiences.

Isaac Fitzgerald in conversation with Hanya Yanagihara (via Instagram)
Isaac Fitzgerald in conversation with Hanya Yanagihara (via Instagram)

Last but not least, Isaac Fitzgerald joins Smith to discuss his participation in a BuzzFeed article that featured men on staff recreating a Calvin Klein underwear ad. Men occupy an interesting intersection when it comes to body image, since they have male privilege, which interacts with other aspects of identity, but have been under increasing pressure in recent years to meet evolving standards of male attractiveness. For example, according to a 2014 study from TODAY/AOL, many men worry more about their appearance than their relationships, family, jobs, or health.

Fitzgerald has dealt with body image issues for as long as he can remember. “It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I was a pretty chubby kid, but then around age 16 or 17, I actually lost a ton of weight. I became what I would now consider incredibly skinny. But back then, it didn’t matter.” He emphasizes the need to overcompensate, since men are pressured to uphold their masculinity by never seeming weak. “I think it’s something that men have a difficult time talking about it…we’re taught that the way we present ourselves has to be confident,” he says.

Intersectionality is about bringing more perspectives to the table and he managed to do it in a very engaging, thoughtful way with his choice of guests.

In this episode of “Intersection,” Jamil Smith brings a powerful perspective on body image from an intersectional lens, as he wanted to showcase voices that are not always the norm of what we see and hear from the body positive movement. All of these stories go to show how nuanced our stories of body acceptance are, as well as how universal certain aspects of our struggles with weight, health, fitness, and body image can be. Intersectionality is about bringing more perspectives to the table and he managed to do it in a very engaging, thoughtful way with his choice of guests. Certainly, there are even more perspectives out there, so I hope to see this approach echoed in as many future body image conversations as possible.

Take a listen to the episode for yourself to hear more of the stories of Isaac, Andia, Lindy, and Erika.

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

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Grand Jury Indicts Anti-Abortion Activists Behind Misleading Planned Parenthood Videos

via @cecooper (Flickr)
via @cecooper (Flickr)

Attacks on the services that Planned Parenthood provides are sadly nothing new, but a recent development in a case against the two individuals who created undercover videos suggesting that the family planning clinics were selling fetal tissue illegally represents a step towards denouncing the smear campaigns. The individuals, who belonged to anti-abortion organization The Center For Medical Progress, were indicted by a grand jury in Texas for one felony and one misdemeanor charge, the former for tampering with government records. The duo created and presented fake California driver licenses, which they used to gain access to the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic. The violators could face up to 20 years in prison for the felony charges.

“It’s great news because it demonstrates what we have said from the very beginning, which is that Planned Parenthood is following every rule and regulation,” a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast told Chron.

The defendants, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, pretended to work for a company that purchases body tissue in an attempt to frame Planned Parenthood for selling the organs of fetuses, which the organization does not do. The videos created from their undercover ‘investigation’ made it appear as though Planned Parenthood intended to sell tissue to their company, using what the reproductive rights organization declared a “highly edited” depiction of the interaction between their staff and Daleiden and Merritt. However, what Planned Parenthood actually does is preserve donated fetal tissue for research purposes, which is a legal procedure.

“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda. As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable,” Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement about the case.

However, even though the video makers were indicted by a grand jury, Texas politicians aren’t standing up for Planned Parenthood.

However, even though the video makers were indicted by a grand jury, Texas politicians aren’t standing up for Planned Parenthood. Texas’ Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and State Governor have all released statements saying that the videos demand investigation into their “horrific” nature and Planned Parenthood’s “disregard” for life. Planned Parenthood wasn’t fazed, however, as they were happy with the outcome of the case. “It’s great news because it demonstrates what we have said from the very beginning, which is that Planned Parenthood is following every rule and regulation, and that these people came into our buildings under the guise of health when their true intentions were to spread lies,” a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast told “Chron.”

David Daleiden on CNN
David Daleiden on CNN

Unfortunately, this kind of propaganda hasn’t gone without consequence for both Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Aside from creating additional fodder for conservative backlash against the services they provide, this incident has been said to have increased rates of clinic violence in the past few months. The shooting at Colorado Spring’s Planned Parenthood clinic back in November is just one of many instances of violence and harassment at abortion clinics, according to the National Abortion Federation.

This case shows how important it is to support providers, whose work is constantly under attack from anti-abortion activists like Merritt and Daleiden. Let’s all #StandWithPlannedParenthood, which is bravely providing necessary reproductive healthcare for millions.

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

Learn more here.

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