STAFF PICKS

What We're Watching

These documentaries caught our attention—and deserve yours.

A child rests on another's shoulder
Photography by Michèle Stephenson & Conrad Louis-Charles

America by the Numbers With Maria Hinojosa

America by the Numbers With Maria Hinojosa* examines dramatic demographic shifts across the United States and what they mean to our national identity. With award-winning news anchor and reporter Hinojosa at the helm, this eight-part documentary series captures how “a new American mainstream” composed of people of color, immigrants, women, youth and LGBT individuals is changing social, political and cultural landscapes. Each episode employs a combination of interviews, reporting, infographics and statistical analysis to tackle topics ranging from the high dropout rate among Cambodian-American youth to the inadequate health care services provided to Guamanian veterans. As suggested by the series tagline—“Behind every number, there’s a story”— America by the Numbers focuses on the human face of demographic change, offering educators a dynamic way to address modern currents of inclusion, equity and diversity with students. (eight 30-min. episodes)

middle and high school

 

Waking in Oak Creek

On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist named Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, with a loaded gun and murdered six people. Waking in Oak Creek, a film from Not In Our Town, documents the aftermath of this harrowing event as the Sikh community and their allies grieved the attack and found solace in standing together against hate. At the time of the massacre, the U.S. Justice Department did not track hate crimes against Sikhs, prompting Sikh activists to push for greater visibility. In one scene, Harpreet Singh Saini, a young man who lost his mother in the temple shooting, speaks at a congressional hearing. “Senators, I came here today to ask the government to give my mother the dignity of being a statistic.” His voice—along with those of fellow community members in Waking in Oak Creek—highlights the role everyone can play in building safe, inclusive communities. (34 min.)

middle school and high school 

 

The T Word

Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, an MTV and Logo TV documentary, details the lives of seven transgender youth ranging in age from 12 to 24. Actress Laverne Cox is best known for her role in Orange Is the New Black and is the first transgender woman to be honored with the GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award and an Emmy nomination. Her narration weaves together the stories of how these youths navigate school, love, friendships, discrimination, identity, sexuality and day-to-day life. The T Word brings much-needed visibility to young transgender individuals, who are not only excluded from the mainstream media but also experience harassment, violence and economic hardship at overwhelmingly disproportionate rates. The T Word is a call for action—a call for complete justice, respect and inclusion. (41 min.)

high school and professional development 

 

American Promise

American Promise* follows 13 years in the lives of two African-American boys: Idris Brewster (son of directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson) and his best friend, Oluwaseun “Seun” Summers. The film documents Idris and Seun’s first steps into a kindergarten classroom at the Dalton School, an exclusive private school in New York City, and takes viewers all the way to their respective high school graduations. As black males, Idris and Seun encounter barriers and biases inside and outside of their elite, college-prep classrooms. Seun eventually transfers out of the Dalton School, while Idris remains. American Promise situates their divergent stories in a larger conversation about how boys and young men of color are systematically pushed out of the U.S. education system. (120 min.)

professional development

Teaching Tolerance has developed professional materials to help educators make the most of these documentaries.

Find them at tolerance.org/lesson/america-numbers and tolerance.org/american-promise.

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