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Last month, the United Nations Department of Public Information organized a screening of the film Selma as part of the Remember Slavery Programme and to help mark the International Decade for People of African Descent. Five Harrisites joined the 50 students from New York and New Jersey who gathered in the UN Headquarters with UN Ambassador Samantha Power and Selma director Ava DuVernay. The UN partnered with Paramount Pictures in their “Selma for Students” program, which seeks to bring the story of Selma and the Civil Rights Movement to young adults.
Selma chronicles the campaign for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Martin Luther King Jr. and many other activists through the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. It was released in January of this year, two months prior to the 50th anniversary of the Selma march.
“The film encourages us to recognize the importance and privilege of voting,” attendee senior Karen Su commented. “After watching Selma, I felt inspired to increase my political participation and to promote more awareness about this story through discussion with my fellow youth and members of the community.”
“The human being is able to do the best and the worst, and as potential voters, as immigrants, as foreigners, as citizens, we must acknowledge whom do we owe the rights we enjoy and take for granted, and do what is necessary to provide them, to keep them, to protect them,” Spanish teacher Beatriz Ezquerra, a chaperone to the event, commented.
Junior Jensine Raihan, who attended the screening commented, “we as young people need to truly understand the struggles of those who came before us so we can learn from them and build on top of what they have succeeded in doing.
History teacher Franco Scardino remarked, “I think of the injustices faced by young people today…yet I do not see a movement among young people to take on these issues which will affect their future. However, I am confident that strong youth leaders will emerge and start to contribute and direct the conversation because I see it happening [with] THHS alumni in colleges across the country.”
“Selma for Students” is part of a larger UN effort to educate people of human rights violations and improve human rights around the the world. The Remember Slavery Programme works to encourage people to remember how and why slavery and the transatlantic slave trade existed and raise awareness about racism today.
Whether it’s voting rights or marriage rights, DuVernay and the United Nations hope people, young and old, will continue to work in our modern day struggle for full rights. “I hope the film resonates with those fighting for justice,” the director stated. “The spirit of Selma must continue here in America.”