By Derrick C. Lewis
Up to 700 people were in attendance at the first showing of the 10-part docu-series “America to Me,” held in the Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRF) auditorium on Sunday, August 26th. The series follows students who attend OPRF, and records their experience attending an integrated suburban high school, focusing on issues of race and inequity. The 10-part series was directed by Academy Award-nominated director Steve James. After each episode, audience members are encouraged to participate in group discussions on how to take action on local race and equity issues within their community. At least 200 of the audience participated in the group discussions after the first showing at OPRF.
As reflected in the racial diversity of Oak Park, Illinois, 56 percent of OPRF’s 3,400 students identify as white, while 44 percent identify as African-American, Hispanic, multiracial, or Asian. OPRF states that its mission is to ensure that all students, regardless of race, have the resources and support they need to achieve their full potential. One of the challenges faced by OPRF is the difference in student outcomes, with white students, as a group, outperforming students of color. The disparity isn’t a unique feature to OPRF, as it is experienced by schools throughout the United States, but OPRF is focused on trying to eliminate these differences.
OPRF School Board Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams stated of the discussions, “What I really hope to gain from this is a heightened level of awareness for our community. While some of the experiences . . . shown in the episodes don’t reflect the experiences of all of our children, . . . it does reflect the experience for some; and for some people in our community it will be an eye opener, because they will say ‘This is not the Oak Park I know,’ and then for some it will be, ‘See, this is what I live every day.’ So I am hoping that it will give us an opportunity over the 10 episodes and at the end, to come together as a community and say enough is enough, and craft a plan collaboratively that will remove the barriers that currently exist for our kids, but it has to be a community effort, because some of the biases for blacks and for whites go far beyond this campus. So, we can do everything in here, but until it permeates outside into the community, we will just be banging our head against a rock.”
SIGN UP LOCAL DISCUSSION GROUPS
In addition to the kick-off event, local groups are encouraged to sign up for “viewing parties: in person or online to discuss the specific content and themes of each episode led by the America to Me: Real Talk Experience. This digital toolkit will include episodic discussion guides, weekly activities and frameworks for action that will help identify and address structural inequities within a viewer’s own school and/or community.
BRING AMERICA TO ME TO YOUR SCHOOL OR COMMUNITY AT:
CONTACT THE AMERICA TO MEA SOCIAL IMPACT TEAM HERE:
Join us for weekly viewings of each new episode, followed by discussion.
VIEWINGS – 7:00 P.M.
DISCUSSION – 8:00 P.M
201 N. Scoville Ave.
Sunday, August 26
Tuesday, Sept. 4
Monday, Sept. 10
Monday, Sept. 17
Monday, Sept. 24
Monday, Oct. 1
Monday, Oct. 8
Monday, Oct. 15
Monday, Oct. 22
Sunday, Oct. 28