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.
Registration instructions are below:
1. go to http://bankstreet.edu/cps/
register/2. click register online at center of page3. find #24 “Using Media for Social Justice”4. click “enroll” the blue button to the right of the workshop with the price5. go to the top of the page and click “checkout”6. select “i will pay the total” from the drop down menu below the grid7. 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
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 ScenariosUSA.org 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.
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
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.
Through A Different Lens: Fatimata
Fatimata Sylla, 17, Bronx, NY
This is how you see me:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.’”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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 SAW, Beer 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
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.
P.S. Please share our current Facebook Indiegogo Update on your Wall!
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?
COMING IN FALL 2013 TO NYC, CLEVELAND AND CHICAGO
Scenarios 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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Fall2013preregistration.
Franchesca Ramsey, Liz Plank, Michaela Angela Davis Among “Scenarios Influencers”
Central to the work we do at Scenarios is our belief that young people are the cultural prophets of widespread social change. The winning films at this year’s Scenarios World Premiere & Celebration address the following issues: intimate partner violence, transgender identity, and homophobia within the Black community. All of these stories were written by high school students in the fall of 2013 — before Ray Rice dominated the headlines for punching and dragging his then-fiancé Janay Palmer out of an elevator; before Laverne Cox was on the cover of Time or posing nude in Allure, before TV audiences enthusiastically embraced “Transparent,” before the Trans Tipping Point; and before “Empire” became the sixth-most watched series in broadcast TV, and has been both applauded and criticized for how openly it puts on blast the issue of homophobia within the Black community. The young people who wrote these films knew, and know, what is happening in mainstream media, in conversations both intimate and far-reaching, before anyone else does.
And although these films all stem from the same question in response to the Scenarios REAL DEAL Curriculum—What is the REAL DEAL about Place and Power?—each one addresses different ways in which we can redirect the narrative and raise awareness around social justice and injustice.
On May 12th at New York’s iconic Angelika Film Center, we will screen our three newest films at a premiere hosted by Issa Rae: “Aleah,” written by Lani Pringle and directed by Laurie Collyer; “House Not Home,” written by Skyler Edge and directed by Josh Butler; and “Veracity,” written by Janaya Greene and directed by Seith Mann. We have also invited a handful of cultural shape-shifters to attend the VIP pre-screening cocktail hour to provide inspiration and encouragement, and to extend the reach of these films and their creators. These people we call “Scenarios Influencers: Role Models of Possibility” are media makers, activists, actors, creators, journalists and doers, all of whom discovered their desire to create social change early on – and then did it.
We are thrilled and honored to announce the Scenarios Influencers for the Scenarios World Premiere & Celebration, and who* were also kind enough to share their personal memories of when they first became aware of the need for social justice as young people: Michaela Angela Davis, Franchesca Ramsey, Martha Plimpton, Alexander Chee, Elizabeth Plank, Trymaine Lee, Bevy Smith, Aura Bogado, and Thomas Page McBee.
*Michaela Angela Davis will share her memory as part of a separate component to the evening for ticket holders only!
Click Here to buy your tickets now.
Michaela Angela Davis, Image Activist
Michaela Angela Davis is an image activist, a writer, conversationalist, editorial director, feminist, fashionista, community servant, and CNN contributor. The NAACP of New York distinguished her with the Phenomenal Woman Award at their centennial celebration in TK. The city of New York deemed her a “Trailblazer” and the Feminist Press has honored her “empowerment” of women.
Davis has advanced the images of people of color at nearly every major media outlet targeting the African American market. She came to her cause through her first editorial position at Essence magazine under the mentorship of Susan L. Taylor in 1991. She was the Essence fashion editor, and the magazine’s first and last executive fashion, beauty, and culture editor. She was the first fashion director at Vibe and the editor in chief of Honey. She was a creative consultant for the rebrand of BET, and is currently the network’s editorial brand manager.
Davis is the creator of MADFREE: Liberating Conversations About Image Beauty and Power, a multi-platform conversation project with revolutionary women. She is frequently seen with Anderson Cooper on CNN where she is a regular contributor. While Davis’ work is grounded in the politics of image, beauty, culture, race and gender, her roots are in theater and fashion: She was a National Arts Scholar from Duke Ellington High School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. and trained at the Stella Adler Acting Conservatory through the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and The New School (For Social Research). She apprenticed for legendary photographer Richard Avedon, and became a legend herself as one of the few black women stylists in the 1990s. Her list of celebrity styling clients includes Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, and Prince. She was a frequent style critic on FUSE TV’s Full Frontal Fashion.
Davis is a mentor to many young women of color and is a volunteer with the Black Girls Rock! and Imagenation organizations. She is the recipient of the Brooklyn Community Service Human Spirit Awards and sits on the BCS board of directors.
Franchesca Ramsey, Vlogger
“I think when ‘Shit White Girls Say…to Black Girls’ first went viral in 2012 is when I realized how powerful comedy and social media could be when it came to talking about social issues in a creative and easily digestible way.”
Franchesca Ramsey is a New York-based actress, comedian and video blogger. Her two Youtube channels combined have over 150K subscribers and over 23 million views. Her Chescaleigh comedy channel has a mix of song parodies, impersonations and original characters along with socially conscious and topical comedy sketches. Her Chescalocs channel focuses on beauty, natural hair care and styling. Since her 2012 viral hit “Shit White Girls Say…to Black Girls” she and her videos have been featured on MTV, The New York Times, NPR, Ebony Magazine and The BBC.
Martha Plimpton, Actress and Co-Founder of AisFor
“I’m proud to say that I come from three generations of strong, independent, single, working women. From earliest childhood, I grew up in the knowledge that all women and men are equal, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and with a keen distaste for all forms of unfairness and inequality. There were examples all around me of principled women speaking openly about the vital importance of being an engaged and responsible citizen, doing the right thing by others, and speaking up and out against injustice. Discussion of Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, feminist principles, and the rights of our LGBTQ friends and family were frequent and normal, and participation in volunteering and marches and the like were common for us.
So when I was in the first grade, frustrated by bullying and the isolating behaviors of some of my classmates toward others of us, I ran for class president on the adorably naive ‘Anti-Bullying Platform.’ I remember starting to cry during my ‘campaign’ speech out of sheer vulnerability and emotion, and hearing my teacher snickering behind me. My classmates, some of whom were pretty tough neighborhood kids who’d seen a lot of difficultly in their young lives, were laughing, too. It was so confusing to me that they should laugh. I didn’t understand what was so funny. To me, bearing your heart and speaking openly and without fear was a good thing. But for them, I guess I was embarrassing them. Of course, I didn’t win the election. But I learned a larger lesson: that being honest and vulnerable is not always easy, and will sometimes make you lonely. But it will forge your spirit into courageousness, humility, and willingness to fight for what you truly believe is right.”
Martha Plimpton is an actress, activist and sometime writer based in New York. She has appeared in over 35 films, dozens of television programs, and on stage in theaters both large and small for over 30 years. She has been politically active since she was a teenager, marching for women’s reproductive freedom in the ’80, ’90s, and now, unfortunately, the ’10s. Martha has lobbied Congress on behalf of Planned Parenthood and has spoken out for women’s reproductive rights at campuses and rallies across the country. She will workfor as long as it takes to see that a woman’s right to physical self-determination becomes the standard in America. Martha is the co-founder of AisFor, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing women’s reproductive rights and ending the stigma against abortion.
Alexander Chee, Novelist
“I was raised by a feminist activist mother, and an environmental activist father Korean immigrant father. I remember things like my dad coming home from the bank laughing as he’s been denied a minority business loan because Korean wasn’t yet a recognized category– ‘There are too few of us to be an official minority yet!,’ he said. Or how he was the first non-white member at his golf club. Or going to the beach with my mother and her telling my brother and sister we could buy candy with all of the money we earned from returnables if we picked up the litter. My sister still picks trash up at the beach. So do I.
But my parents made that a way of life–this is how we live, these are our values, prepare to be the first one–it was all unspoken. One night I had to talk down a friend from killing himself–a friend who feared he was gay. He was my first boyfriend in high school, all in secret. He kept saying, ‘I’m not like you. Tell me I’m not gay.’ I wasn’t sure if it was true but I assured him it was–I wanted him to live. ‘No, you’re not like me,’ I said. ‘You’re not gay.’ And he is still alive. As for me, I knew then I never wanted the world to put people on sides like that again. I still don’t. And I do what I can to make that world.”
Alexander Chee was born in Rhode Island, and raised in South Korea, Guam and Maine. He is a recipient of the 2003 Whiting Writers’ Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in Fiction and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Ledig House, the Hermitage and Civitella Ranieri. His first novel, Edinburgh (Picador, 2002), is a winner of the Michener Copernicus Prize, the AAWW Lit Award and the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, and was a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year and a Booksense 76 selection. In 2003, Out Magazine honored him as one of their 100 Most Influential People of the Year. His essays and stories have appeared in Granta.com, Out,The Man I Might Become, Loss Within Loss, Men On Men 2000, His 3 and Boys Like Us. He has taught fiction and nonfiction writing at the New School University, Wesleyan, Amherst College, and in spring 2011 taught in the Fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in New York City and blogs at Koreanish.
Elizabeth Plank, Host of Mic.com’s Flip The Script
“I was bullied throughout junior high and had to change schools to escape the aggression and violence, mostly perpetuated by boys. Although it was a difficult experience, it was a formative one. I became acutely aware of the importance of awareness surrounding
bullying, and the importance of talking about it. It also shaped my passion for feminism and social justice. It made me want to fight for girls to be respected regardless of their age or standing in the social hierarchy.”
Trymaine Lee, MSNBC National Reporter, Pulitzer-Prize Winning Journalist
“I remember staring into the television as ball of flames rose high above a stretch of row homes in West Philly. The flames licked from windows and swept into the air, blossoming in the night sky in terrible hues of bright orange. It was 1985. I was all of about seven years old. I couldn’t understand what I was watching, what I was hearing, certainly not what I was feeling.Philadelphia police had dropped a bomb on a home occupied by members of a black nationalist group called MOVE. In the coming days, footage of children and adults, some naked, running from the flames would play on a loop. In all, 11 people were killed, many more were injured and dozens of families along that stretch of Osage Avenue were left homeless. It could have been a world away. But it was all happening just 35 minutes from my home in South Jersey. Watching my mother’s face, sad as stone as the carnage was revealed, stirred something in me.It was wrong, she said over and again. That was it. It was just wrong. I felt it, too, though at the time I didn’t know how or why it was so wrong. I just felt it. That feeling wasn’t shared universally. Some decried MOVE members as dirty militants, as radicals getting their just desserts. The brutality I saw heaped upon them that day was perhaps my first introduction to Social (In)justice. That incident represents everything that justice is not: the heavy hand of power, violence heaped upon the poor, the carelessness in which black life is often handled. The loss of innocence and trust by a whole generation of folks in that community. It still sits with me.”
Bevy Smith, Gal About Town
“Growing up in Harlem during the 1970s and 80s, it felt like there was always a march or a protest against social injustice. In the ’70s specifically, The Black Power movement was taught in our schools. I remember we had the option of taking off for Black Solidarity Day, we learned Swahili and I remember being very cognizant that the streets I walked were the same ones Malcolm X preached on. Those memories are the reason why I never thought about moving away from Harlem even when I was able to afford to. I knew it was important for neighborhood kids to see someone just like them, from their block ‘making it,’ being proud of where they are from and giving back.”
Aura Bogado, Native Rights Activist, Senior Editor of Colorlines.com
“The moment I realized–when I was probably 13 or 14–that some people could be deported because of something as trivial as a piece of paper, I became me keenly aware of how vulnerable some people’s existence is in the United States of America.”
Aura Bogado is Colorlines’ news editor and reporter, covering a range of issues including Native American communities, immigration and community organizing. Aura was the community journalism coordinator and an investigative reporter for Voting Rights Watch 2012, a partnership between Colorlines and The Nation to cover the attack against voting rights and the community response to it during the 2012 elections.
Bogado has reported in Spanish and English from Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and the United States. Her work has been published in Mother Jones, Newsweek Argentina, AlterNet, and The Huffington Post. With the support of the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, she conducted an in-depth examination on the consequences of immigration enforcement by local police in Arizona.
Bogado has worked as a national host and producer for the Pacifica Radio network. While there, she also coordinated a media literacy and training program for youth of color in Los Angeles with a grant from the California Technology Foundation. She was a founding member of 33+1/3 Books Collective, an independent bookstore and gallery in Los Angeles. In 2006, City Lights Books published The Other Campaign, which featured her exclusive interview with Subcomandante Marcos, his first in five years. She earned her B.A. from Yale University, majoring in American Studies. An immigrant from South America of indigenous (Guarani) decent, she is currently based in New York, and plays son jarocho music in her spare time.
Thomas Page McBee, Trans and Gender Rights Activist, Author
“My gender identity has always been intertwined with feminism. When I was a teenager I read a lot of queer critiques of gender that challenged my notion of what being a man or woman or as, the great Kate Bornstein says, ‘something else entirely’ really means. Of everything I read, Kate’s “Gender Outlaw” and “My Gender Workbook” struck me the most. The idea that I could define my own gender was startling and powerful. There hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t reflected on that.”
Thomas Page McBee was the “masculinity expert” for VICE and writes the columns “Self-Made Man” for the Rumpus and “The American Man” for Pacific Standard. His essays and reportage have appeared in the New York Times, TheAtlantic.com, Salon, and Buzzfeed, where he was a regular contributor on gender issues.
ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.
Learn more here.
Reprinted with permission from Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence.
Scenarios is an activation partner with Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence in the Emotion Revolution. The Revolution begins with a survey listening to high school students about their social emotional lives in school. Please take it and share it: www.emotionrevolution.org.
As a Black girl growing up in poverty, getting to and from school was an act of courage, an act of resilience. On my way, I passed drug-dealing and street-harassing men. I passed candlelit memorials in front of brick buildings for those lost too young—reminders of the violence that colonized my city block. I passed hard-working men and women, mostly immigrants like my mother, who struggled to provide their children with better lives despite the systemic injustice that kept them marginalized and voiceless.
Yet, in many ways, school was my salvation. I excelled in school because I had to. It was my ticket to a better life. It was there where I found my passion to be a lifelong learner and educator, where I persevered despite the obstacles, where I was grittiest.
I cannot speak about grit, which can be defined as passion and perseverance for long-term goals, without referring to the many ways I have had to be gritty to get to where I am today. As a panelist for the discussion “Got Grit? Examining Links Between Non-Cognitive Skills and Academic Achievement,” at the Education Leadership Conference organized by Yale’s School of Management, I spoke of those experiences as a student—and later as a middle school teacher—in the Bronx. At that conference, panelists and participants explored the relationship between grit and academic achievement and discussed ways to teach grit in our nation’s classrooms.
Importantly, we also discussed the dangers of being too narrowly focused on grit, as well as other tensions associated with grit. For example:
- Is teaching character skills going to solve the problems of low-income students of color?
- Do we want gritty youth who lack emotional intelligence skills?
- How do we support a child who is gritty but does not experience success?
- How do we guide a student who is gritty but lacks the metacognitive awareness to determine that they are not so good at something?
- How do we teach youth to experience failure if we are teaching them to be gritty?
These questions mark the beginning of an ongoing and necessary discourse about grit and pedagogy. Yet, as we learn more, it is important to realize that grit is only part of the equation. What is grit in the absence of compassion, kindness, and emotional intelligence? What are we not focusing on when we focus on grit? Should we concentrate our efforts and mental capacities more on shifting the unjust system that requires that some youth be grittier than others just to make it to high school—or simply to their eighteenth birthdays?
In sum, in any discussion about education, particularly education reform efforts, it is important to ask ourselves: education reform for whom? We cannot speak about opportunity and achievement gaps without a nuanced discourse of the history of white supremacy in our nation. When we begin to break down the barriers and bring humanity and culturally responsive and student-centered pedagogy back into our schools, we might see some improvement—even if just a little—in our educational system. We just have to be gritty, persevering at whatever costs to ensure that all youth, gritty or not, have the opportunity to be successful in school and in life.
ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.
Learn more here.
Walking While Trans a Crime in Arizona? Really?
You read it correctly people, something as simple as just being yourself can get you locked up and charged in some places in our supposed “free” country. The trans community has made great strides in a short amount of time this past year and in recent months, but clearly some people are struggling to keep up with the times. It is now officially acceptable to be openly transgender. Who didn’t get the memo? Don’t they know we’re trending on Twitter? Arizona, I’m talking to you!
It is now a common fact that trans women as well as cis women are being targeted by police and getting arrested on charges that require no more proof than an officer’s word all over Arizona. The police officer’s word against yours, no witnesses required. Think about that for just a minute…now tell me that’s not the worst thing you have ever heard from people you are supposed to trust to serve and protect you? I think I speak for a vast majority of minorities when I highlight the true colors currently being revealed by these men and women of the badge. Isn’t it sad that I don’t even have to reference examples? Go ahead and consider that fact for a second…still feel safe?
Chilling iPhone videos, body cam footage, and obvious racial profiling have been running amok in police departments nationwide for too long with no clear signs of slowing. And with many of these cases ending without justice served for the accused and/or attacked, even with proof, I’d have to observe that a cop’s word is virtually worthless in court. But maybe that’s just my opinion? Yeah, I think not.
I made out with a guy I’d just met outside of a bar just this past Saturday. Is that illegal? Does that make me a prostitute because I’m trans and it was dark outside?
Monica Jones, a Phoenix native and transgender woman of color, was arrested for “manifesting prostitution” because she accepted a ride from an undercover officer in May 2013. She was “manifesting prostitution” for accepting a ride from a stranger outside of her favorite bar. Seriously? If that’s a crime, then I should get life in prison. I made out with a guy I’d just met outside of a bar just this past Saturday. Is that illegal? Does that make me a prostitute because I’m trans and it was dark outside? I don’t know about Miss Monica, but my Taser is always on hand for safety, so if a hot guy wants to give me a ride home, I know how to handle myself. That makes me a criminal? Being a consenting adult and meeting a cute stranger can get you arrested for “manifesting prostitution.” Can I at least know what my going rate is before I’m cuffed? I had no idea I was being paid!
In some cases, it’s been reported that police will bait actual sex workers, exchanging information online and meeting up with them for a sting operation. Some don’t even arrest the girls until they have already finished having sex with them, claiming that they needed proof that the act would actually ensue. Disgusting right?! This is just another solid case for my good friend, Feminism. This is a clear abuse of power by men, feeling entitled to these women’s bodies and then their actual freedom. It’s a disgrace and it must be stopped!
On top of that, I’m tired of society putting god-like superhuman trust in appointed officials or authoritative persons. People see them like they have more honor or have a more respectable presence than the rest of us. This is false. All human beings deserve respect; no human being deserves blind allegiance. Hell, I have a problem with people blindly following anything. Cops are not gods, religious officials are not gods, college professors are not gods: we are ALL human beings equal of all of the same sins and mistakes. Lying to cover your own ass is not any different for anyone, it’s called being human. So the crimes of everyone, I repeat EVERYONE, should require evidence before conviction or judgement.
Monica’s case has been appealed thanks to her attorney’s successful argument that the arrest (“manifesting prostitution”) was in fact, “unconstitutionally vague.” This is one victory for how many of these misdemeanors though? I’m happy for Monica, but how many times will this happen to more trans women this week? This month? People need to understand that trans living is normal and real, and recognize that we walk among you, no matter what hour of the day it may be.
ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.
Learn more here.
Beyond Body Cameras: A Documentary Examines Broken Windows Theory
Recently Melissa Mark-Viverito’s name was trending on Gothamist, nestled between New York City Football Club and “Game of Thrones.” Mark-Viverito, the Speaker of the New York City Council, is part of a contingent seeking to decriminalize several of the minor offenses that the New York Police Department has historically cracked down on in the name of broken windows theory—possession of an open container, public urination, littering, and biking on the sidewalk among them. As reported by the Daily News, if the proposals pass, these low-level offenses, which account for about 42 percent of NYPD summonses, would qualify as civil rather than criminal, meaning they would no longer lead to arrest warrants or required appearances in criminal court. If the proposals can withstand the inevitable pushback from Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and NYPD faithful, their passage would mark an enormous step forward in overturning the precedent that broken windows policing has set in New York City since the 1980s.
Broken windows, which encompasses the practice of stop and frisk, has long affected communities of color disproportionately and it is this reality that spurred Anre Garrett and Sheila Quann, the brother and sister filmmaking team behind Hard Headed Media, along with Howard Bowler, producer and owner of HoBo Audio, to begin work on their first documentary, “The Morris Justice Project: A True Story.” The film, which is produced for the CUNY Graduate Center, showcases research on police-community interactions in Morrisania, the South Bronx neighborhood that has seen among the highest numbers of innocent stops in the city. Garrett, Bowler, and Quann had been developing another documentary called “The Talk,” about how parents of color counsel their children about dealing with the police, when they were introduced to the founders of the Morris Justice Project.
“I’ve always loved telling stories,” says Garrett, “not just for the sake of telling them, but because they indicate where we are as a society, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed.” After getting to know the members of the project and working with the community for over a year, he and Quann saw the potential to harness the power of visual, narrative media to amplify the stories of these families whose lives had been shaped by the repercussions of broken windows policing, and to give outsiders a window into the stark reality of an over-policed community. The project began in 2011 when a group of mothers, overwhelmed by the treatment of their sons by police, formed a cell network to inform each other whenever any of their sons was being stopped and frisked. Soon after, they connected with researchers and together, they conducted surveys, interviews, and focus groups about experiences with the NYPD and stop and frisk throughout the neighborhood, collecting stories block by block. At each stage of data analysis, the findings were shared with community members in sidewalk science sessions.
“Ultimately, it reverts back to one central thing and that is fear. We as black males have become figures of fear in the media …and that speaks to the larger question of who controls the media and who controls the message.” — Anre Garrett
Initiated by CUNY professors Brett Stoudt and Maria Torres but catalyzed by the mothers, sons, and other members of the community, the Morris Justice Project hinges on the idea of participatory action research—an approach that urges researchers to connect, engage with, and prioritize the voices of community members affected by a given issue, instead of analyzing and interpreting data inside an academic vacuum. “Validated data and participation can be a really telling sign of change,” Garrett explained. I first found out about the Morris Justice Project by transcribing interviews for the film and I was struck by the potency of so many different voices—criminal justice professors, a former NYPD officer, students from adjacent neighborhoods who had never experienced such intense policing, young men who knew it all too well—placed side by side and focused on grounding statistics in lived experience and vice versa.
Speaking to the importance of filming the Morris Justice Project in the midst of the current escalation of police violence against black Americans, Garrett honed in on the power of media and narrative: “Ultimately, it reverts back to one central thing and that is fear. We as black males have become figures of fear in the media …and that speaks to the larger question of who controls the media and who controls the message.” Garrett and Quann hope to challenge complacency and stereotyping among New Yorkers and Americans who are distanced from discriminatory policing, as well as the aspects of police culture and training that continue to instigate tensions. They see the Morris Justice Project’s methods of participatory research as a type of solution that deserves more institutional attention than, for example, body cameras: “To me, that’s still not addressing the underlying issue, and that is the understanding of communities of color and that they have just as much right as any other community to be protected and respected. That’s missing from police training.” As conversations about decriminalization continue in cities nationwide, “The Morris Justice Project” seeks to help re-claim the phrase “quality of life” from the clutches of broken windows theory.
Learn more here.
No, Drake’s Sexual Violation Isn’t Funny
Madonna and The New Yorker once again diminish men of color? Quelle surprise!
What began as a possibly staged kiss went off-book as she helped close out Drake’s recent Coachella set. Madonna near-wrestled Drake’s arms while kissing him on the mouth to the less-than-receptive audience. She breaks the kiss, and Drake looks disgusted as he covers his mouth.
The internet registered what happened as a make-out session that, to put it mildly, Drake hated “every minute of.” The New Yorker stepped into it with a cartoon of Drake in a childlike crouched position with a white male child psychologist asking him where Madonna kissed him. And quite a few folks, including Black women who self-describe as feminists, giggled at the illustration.
The shit isn’t funny.
To be clear, The New Yorker has been quite unfunny with respect to race and gender dynamics for some time. We can easily recall, for example, how the magazine portrayed President and First Lady Obama as caricatured Black radicals. But the situation here is bigger than a publication and its cartoonists; it is part of a larger and systemic currency of rape culture that renders male victims invisible, even impossible to understand.
This isn’t about ageism hurdled at Madonna, of her playing cougar to Drake’s strapping young stud—let’s be crystal: ageism isn’t funny, either. Madonna sexually violated him under the guise of the performance—she stated beforehand that she wanted to “only kiss” him if they ever went on a date. The rearranging of Drake’s arm while she stood and he sat—a more vulnerable position—and his grossed-out face suggested that somewhere the kiss ceased to be consensual. It is possible to be sexy without being sexist, racist, and violent….but that’s not what happened here.
Both Madonna and The New Yorker treat Drake’s consent as something to not regard—much like how so many people believe that an older woman violating a younger man is the stuff of pornified fantasies and something to congratulate him about—and something to minimize by mocking it, respectively. The magazine dismisses the possibility of Drake’s violation and, by extension, the trauma and shame of male sexual-violence victims and survivors.
But the situation here is bigger than a publication and its cartoonists; it is part of a larger and systemic currency of rape culture that renders male victims invisible, even impossible to understand.
We know that boys and men are victims of sexual violence: numbers suggest that one in six boys experience sexual assault; one in 33 will be sexually assaulted in his lifetime. We also know that one in three boys who experience such assault also attempt suicide. The cartoon punches down to play on the vulnerability of boys and men, and reinforces silence around sexual violence.
The kicker to both Madonna’s violation-as-performance and The New Yorker’s unamusing comic is they came on the heels of Barbara Walter’s interview with Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau, the white schoolteacher who lost her job because she raped and continued a ‘relationship’ with her then-middle school student Vili Fualaau, a young man of color. (She became pregnant while in jail and later married her victim.) The interview attempted to legitimized the relationship and further bound Vili to his abuser—much in the same way parts of the internet legitimized Madonna assaulting Drake by terming it a ‘makeout session.’ Indeed, Vili had few choices after he was assaulted, much like Drake. Vili has been valorized for “scoring” a “hot wife,” minimizing the reality that Mary Kay undisputedly raped him. Any thoughts or feelings he might have about being assaulted are dismissed. Similarly, Drake apologized for “publicly insulting” Madonna while she remains silent about her actions. Recall how Janet Jackson apologized after Justin Timberlake ripped off her top to expose her breast—another reminder of how Black people and other people of color are expected to atone for their own violation.
Histories of race and racism configure here. Madonna built her career on the visuals and bodies of Black and Brown men as her sexual playthings and professional props, from her “Like a Prayer” video to her Sex book to vogueing. What she did to Drake continues that. While it is much larger than her career, Madonna’s is emblematic of racialized and racist sexual violence.
Her rejection of Drake’s agency and her refusal to let him go from her grip even when he resists maintains the longer history of white women sexually exploiting men of color—from the accusations of rape that led to lynching to hiring Black male sex workers for “Mandingo cuckolding” to Letourneau Fualaau.
If we demand that feminism needs to be intersectional, then we need to ensure it encompasses the realities that men, particularly men of color, can be and are victims of violence. Such a feminism needs to stand up to all the perpetrators of rape culture, be they a female pop icon or a magazine.
Scenarios 2012 youth-written film Speechless tells the story of a young male survivor of sexual assault. Providing a platform for these stories and others is central to the work we do.
Learn more here.