Our Documentary Film named Official Selection of Toronto Black Film Festival in Black History Month
Defining US documentary captures and elevates student and educator voices on social justice
It’s been a long road – fraught with fits and starts due to COVID – to finally be able to share some great news during the on-going pandemic, and it couldn’t come at better time because it’s Black History Month for 2022!
I’m pleased to announce that our Defining US, a feature documentary film, has been selected for at least two film festivals already! Specifically, we have been selected for the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) which is held from February 16-21 (stay tuned for the public announcement of other festivals to come)!
It’s a special feeling to be celebrating with the TBFF on its 10th anniversary as we are commemorating having our first documentary film selected as an all women-led team! Please follow our work and check out our resources at Defining US. As an Executive Producer on the film (along with three other amazing women Suzanne Morris, Sara Rea, and Director, Stacey DeWitt of CWK Network, Inc., it has been my honor to support lifting voices and telling the story of a growing school-based civil rights movement that is helping historically marginalized students of color.
It’s my hope that they will have more voice through this documentary in the shaping of America’s future. Against the backdrop of the current national dialogue and debate around social justice and race, Defining US takes audiences inside the nation’s largest school districts and reveals what our children and our educators are saying about their experiences and how those lived experiences are defining us (thus, the title of the film).
Several years ago, Director Stacey DeWitt asked me to join a group of national educational leaders in a documentary about boys of color and educators who support them. As a mentor to several young Black and brown students over the course of my career in education, I was happy to lend my voice and did so over the course of several interviews. Since then, as we all know, the world has experienced many challenges and shifts since the original documentary work began, and, as with any creative project, the documentary narrative evolved as well with our students and educators informing that direction. In the end, I am proud to be a part of this growing network of educators who are coming together to support student voice and experience.
Defining US is a non-partisan, point of view documentary film that tells the stories of our nation’s minority students navigating the complex challenges of race and poverty and the educators who are preparing them to lead.
America’s two largest school systems – New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) –along with other systems that are wrestling with supporting vulnerable children were gracious with their time and access as we facilitated and documented these compelling perspectives. Equity, diversity, and inclusion experts from the University of California Los Angeles, New York University, Yale University, and Columbia University are also key participants who informed the research. For me, I was glad to see that our Atlanta youth could lend their voices and experiences to the film as well my beloved mentee, Qwantayvious Stiggers!
The amazing educators and students who have been in these systems share their real-life stories and observations which are unpacked by national experts. Together they provide another narrative that reveals how to create belonging, change hearts, establish caring communities, and build trust. They are showing America a another way to define us.
Black History Month is recognized as the opportunity “to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” This year, I want to honor the students and educators who have accomplished so much during this time in our American history. And, this is why I am so excited to share Defining Us with you.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
There are several things you can do to support this important work and film. Below, I’ve listed some concrete ideas and I encourage you to visit the Defining US Take Action page for more information on these items. There are many ways to be involved!
- Watch the film with friends or family members February 16-21: Tickets are available at the TBFF Defining US page.
- Have a conversation about the film using many of the Defining US resources, such as the critical conversation guides, facilitator guide, and more.
- Share and sign up for our weekly newsletter here.
- Host a Youth Voice Event engaging students in discussion around film shorts. (Request information here.)
- Follow Defining US social! DU can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or on LinkedIn. Keep abreast of the latest news and remember, your voice matters!
MORE ABOUT THE TORONTO BLACK FILM FESTIVAL
The TBFF is celebrating its 10th anniversary, February 16 – 21, with a bigger and stronger ONLINE programming! Created by the Fabienne Colas Foundation, TBFF commemorates this important milestone with a record number of 200 films from 30 countries. Part of the TD 2022 Black History Month Series, the Festival will present 18 World premieres, 28 International premieres, 60 Canadian premieres, 18 Ontario premieres and 25 Toronto premieres. The TBFF All Access Passes and individual tickets are on sale now on the festival’s website.
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