When They See Us, the long-awaited limited series from Ava DuVernay, humanizes the targets of racist policing and prosecutorial discrimination through brutally honest storytelling. In this telling of the Central Park Five case, we learn how the New York City police, court systems and the media violently discriminated against five black boys—Antron, Kevin, Yusef, Raymond and Korey—and wrongfully convicted them of a sexual assault that sent them to prison for terms ranging from six to 12 years. Color of Change’s official discussion guide, available at winningjustice.org, encourages viewers to reflect on themes of anti-black racism, policing and incarceration. Viewers should also be aware of the challenging, painful and visceral depictions of state violence. (Four episodes, 64–88 min. each)
In Triggerfish Animation Studios’ Belly Flop, Penny is a young, fat girl of color who is very excited for her trip to the pool with her grandmother. When she sees another child impressing everyone with her effortlessly elegant dives, Penny only grows more confident in her own ability. Her journey offers children an important message of self-acceptance—and a model for finding it without tearing other people down. In the end, Penny makes a beautiful splash in her own way! (5 min.)
Elementary and Middle School
“It was the honesty of my own experiences that made room for me,” YA author Jason Reynolds muses in Dear, Dreamer. Interspersed with footage of students, the profile shares Reynolds’ love of the written word and makes a strong statement about the need for representation in children’s literature. The short film is packed with vivid imagery and serves as part biography, part celebration and part inspiration. It opens and closes with poetry, the work that pushed Reynolds to become an author, and serves as a call to action for students—to read, to write, to tell their stories and to connect with others. (10 min.)
Middle and High School
StoryCorps’ Animations illustrate interviews that speak to the power of shared conversation about a range of important topics. One short, “The Door She Opened,” tells the story of how a transgender teenager found acceptance while visiting an aunt who allowed her to dress as her true self in public. Another, “Common Ground,” highlights a relationship of understanding and love between a liberal woman and her conservative father-in-law. StoryCorps’ Animations bring you back to the heart of storytelling and human connection, while also serving as a model for students starting on projects interviewing members of their own families or communities. (2-3 min.)
Elementary, Middle and High School
Out of Many, One documents the often-unseen lives and sacrifices of naturalized American citizens. This short documentary follows a group of immigrants as they prepare to take the naturalization test and reflect on what U.S. citizenship means to them. It quietly shows the parallels between immigrants of today and yesterday by examining the hardships and sacrifices many face as they work toward citizenship. The documentary shows how its subjects are citizens in everything but name, many having built entire lives, careers and families in the United States before obtaining citizenship. Out of Many, One tells a uniquely informative story while reminding us of the hope and promise of the United States. (34 min.).