Category Archives: Guest bloggers

Guest Blogger – Anna Glennon – Change Starts With You

In wake of recent news spreading across the country of rallies, protests and Facebook comment fights, it’s important that you prep yourself in order to effectively try and further the causes and issues you are passionate about. How you present your topic is how many people will decide whether or not your issue is a serious matter. Here are 5 simple tips to help raise awareness for important issues that are close to your heart.

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Guest Blogger – Colbren Thompson – Distraction?

Colbren Thompson is a Senior at the University of Central Missouri majoring in Digital Media Production with an emphasis in audio. He is also a devoted fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, a creator of quality content, and a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

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San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has football fans all over the world discussing his actions within the last couple of months. If you have been hiding under a rock and don’t completely understand Kaepernick’s actions allow me to explain. Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players have started protesting about the social injustices in America. Colin Kaepernick was the first player to start this protest, and he decided to sit down during the national anthem at his football games.

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After being asked why he decided to sit during the national anthem Kaepernick responded, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Nonetheless there were some Americans who were furious by the acts of the young quarterback even saying that he was being extremely disrespectful to the country. Even after all of the negative comments and reporter questions Kaepernick never apologized for sitting during the anthem, because sometimes you have to make others uncomfortable to prove your point. Other NFL players wanted to join in on Kaepernick’s protest, but they weren’t too hype about just sitting during the anthem away from their teammates. After taking suggestions from other players, NFL staff, and activist Kaepernick and other NFL players decided not to sit down during the anthem. Instead they decided to be right next to their teammates on the sidelines, and just take a knee while the national anthem played. kaepernick_reid_kneel

I personally agree with Colin Kaepernick and his protest because he is ironically standing up for people who feel like they aren’t being heard. There are protest going on in America every single day about the social injustices, but they aren’t being televised. Kaepernick started sitting/kneeling for the national anthem to make a statement, and he immediately made that statement because everyone wanted to know why he wasn’t standing for the anthem. One thing I do find very frustrating though are the people who just completely look over his reasoning, and says Kaepernick should just stand for the pledge of allegiance like everyone else. That seems kind of confusing to me though, because if America is the land of the “free” why is it such a big ordeal that an athlete sits/kneels during the national anthem? Shouldn’t athletes be able to do whatever they want to do during the anthem because its their constitutional right?

Guest Blogger: Tanner Pinkerton

Land Use and its Impacts on Social Justice

As the issues of responsible land use, and ethical management practices remain at the forefront of many discussions, the impacts on the environment, and communities affected by irresponsible policy, continue to strike a chord of discontent among many.

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Photo credit: http://www.mashable.com

As noted during past protests regarding the TransCanada-Keystone XL Pipe-Line, mining, construction, and refining of ‘tar sands crude oil’, have the potential to displace many Native North American Indigenous Peoples. Large fossil fuel industry has maneuvered its’ way into once pristine Native Peoples’ forest land, and is now beginning to devour an area the size of the State of Florida. Environmentalists like Sierra Club, and 350.org, stand in unity with members of the Native American Communities on both sides of the U.S., Canadian Border, as this development project utilizes, removes resources, and passes through several regions of Cree First Nations homelands.

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Photo credit: gdb.voanews.com

This strong-arm development policy drastically effects the ability of these peoples to survive according to their cultural histories, and forces an adaptation to assimilate once again to Western ideals and cultural values. Not only does this policy have lack of respect for the earth and its’ people, this domestic resource will be sold over-seas, thus out-sourcing our energy security. This is not a strategy, it’s a tragedy.

Since April, hundreds of representatives from numerous tribes across the United States have been gathering in North Dakota to stage a passionate protest. What they are protesting is the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The 1,170-mile project starts in western North Dakota and goes all the way to Illinois.

Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s land lies just next to the planned path of the oil pipeline. The 8,000-member tribe is vehemently opposed to the project’s environmental and cultural impact. The tribe sees a strong potential that the pipeline would cause a catastrophe if it leaks or breaks, ruining their water supply and sacred sites.

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Photo credit: http://www.foxnews.com

One particular issue is the involvement of Enbridge Inc., a stakeholder in the pipeline. Enbridge has a mixed record on oil spills. In 2010, one of its pipelines had one of the worst inland spills in American history, spilling 1.2 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.

The Sioux tribe blames the US Army Corps of Engineers for failing to properly review cultural and historical factors before granting the pipeline federal approval. For their part, the Corps says it did consult the tribes and no one described specific cultural sites that the pipe would damage.

As the struggle to become self-sustainable in a growing world becomes more of a challenge, development of vast areas of land for the express purpose of profit, continue to impose unreasonable amounts of change on indigenous cultures. As many tribes and other ‘nomadic’ societies can easily fall through the cracks of established legal processes, or become victims of a marginalized political policy, the United Nations had established the, ‘Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples’-on Sept. 13, 2007. This declaration makes certain accommodations to ensure for the humane and respectful treatment of all tribal cultures considered to be native. However, as water and other resources become scarce, the concept of fair and just treatment seems increasingly unlikely.

Guest Blogger: Tanner Pinkerton

Tanner Pinkerton is a digital media student at the University of Central Missouri. He has a passion for audio production and marketing. He is excited to graduate with his B.S. in Communications in the Spring of 2017.

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Just Films, a free film series tackles social justice and gender equity

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Photo credit: Yemanjá: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil, Donna C. Roberts.

Film has long been a powerful medium for social justice. For the next 10 months, Pittsburgh will play host to a first-of-its-kind film series that uses cinema to spark conversations—and inspire action—around social, political and economic change.

Teaming up to present the new Just Films series are four regional organizations deeply committed to women, girls, gender equity and social justice—the Chatham University Women’s Institute, New Voices Pittsburgh, Women and Girls Foundation, and Women’s Law Project.

Free and open to the public, the monthly series features 10 new social justice films—most showing in Pittsburgh for the first time and many made by women.

Accompanying the films are post-screening panel discussions and talk-back sessions featuring local and national figures.

The inaugural film festival explores a wide range of issues—from immigration and human trafficking, to trans families and paid leave—all selected to educate, inspire, challenge and empower viewers.

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Photo credit: EQUAL MEANS EQUAL, Kamala Lopez.

Don’t miss the kick-off on September 26 at 6:15 p.m., when the series presents Mikaela Shwer’s poignant documentary, Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie). Focusing on 24-year-old immigrant activist Angy Rivera—who shares her “parallel journey of coming out of the shadows as undocumented and a survivor of sexual abuse”—the film premiered as part of PBS’s 2015 POV series.

Audiences will follow Angy’s personal story from poverty in rural Colombia to the front page of The New York Times, as she becomes “a beacon in a movement for national change.” Featuring verite footage and candid interviews, the film helps to give voice to real struggles faced by nearly 11 million undocumented people in America.

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Photo credit: Finding Dawn, Christine Welsh.

Don’t Tell Anyone will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Christina Castro (Women’s Law Project), Maria Duarte (Chatham student), Monica Ruiz (Casa San Jose Latino Community Organization), and Sister Janice Vanderneck (Casa San Jose).

Not to miss is a special Just Films event on Thursday, October 27 featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. Taking place at 6:30 p.m. in Chatham’s Campbell Memorial Chapel, the event will feature the Pittsburgh premiere of the new award-winning documentary film, Yemanjá: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil, made by local filmmakers Donna C. Roberts and Donna Read. Narrated by Walker—the fascinating film documents the Candomblé spiritual culture of Bahia, Brazil. In the stunning film, elder women leaders share stories exploring Candomblé’s history, social challenges, triumphs, strong sense of community, and Earth-based wisdom and practices. Joining Walker and Roberts for the event’s special post-screening panel discussion will be Dr. Rachel Elizabeth Harding, a scholar of Indigenous spiritual traditions and Candomblé priestesses at the University of Colorado.

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Photo Credit: Dreamcatcher, Kim Longinotto.

The compelling film series concludes June 15 with Sharon Shattuck’s documentary, From This Day Forward. The moving portrayal chronicles the experiences of an American family coping with a highly personal transformation—when the director’s own father comes out as transgender and transitions to female.

Guest Blogger: Britni Strong-When Life Gives You Lemons

Britni Strong is Mass Communications Graduate student at the University of Central Missouri who previously got her Undergraduate degree in Marketing. She has in interest in social media movements and looks forward to making a splash and working in the world of advertising in the future.

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Photo credit: http://7thandlotus.com/2016/02/beyonces-formation-is-protest-art-deal-with-it/

The most disrespected women is america is the black woman” -Malcolm X, May 1962

This speech, given by Malcolm X, is referenced in the latest Emmy nominated “Lemonade,” a visual film by the Queen Bey, Beyoncé. Instead of releasing the traditional music videos months apart, and keeping us on our toes wanting more she gave it to us all at once and has us in awe of the statement she was making on behalf of her community, supporters, and of course, her “BeyHive”. She told a story, not just any story, but that of a black woman in the south experiencing the hardships of daily life. She takes us through Intuition, Denial, Anger, Apathy, Emptiness, Accountability, Reformation, Forgiveness, Resurrection, Hope, and Redemption. With each song representing a different emotion and time in her life. Experiencing the real and raw emotions felt when your significant other becomes adulterous and in turn turns to infidelity and the self righteous moment when you have to continue being you and being the best version of yourself there is out there when the haters are commenting negatively on the texture of your hair or the color of your skin.

There are other artists who have attempted to portray the life of a woman and are in favor of celebrating the greatness that there is in being a woman; Taylor Swift, Lena Duncan, and Lily Allen are just a few of the well known feminists who are celebrating the positives and are right there with you at your lowest of lows belting out anthems.

Beyoncé is breaking that stereotype and empowering black women of all ages and giving them a voice and giving them something that they can directly relate to that applies specifically to them; Taking pride in the color of your skin, the texture of your hair, where you have come from, and embracing the power, courage and bravery that is associated with that. By offering up a prayer first, Lemonade is poured into your glass from the pitcher of the unrelenting hate-consumption of black women’s hurt and anger that other media, notably reality television has encouraged. Lemonade is Beyoncé’s intimate look into a multi-generational making and the magic of black womanhood. By featuring her daughter in portions of “Formation” and stating:

“I like by baby heir with bay hair and afros”

Lemonade can only be viewed on iTunes and Tidal. Links to some of the individual videos can be found on YouTube, like the one above. Her Superbowl performance  with Bruno Mars and Coldplay, which was squeezed, mixed with sugar and delivered in a tall refreshing glass was served to every home on Superbowl Sunday during half-time. This sparked the initial conversation of inequality, but also offered a specific side to the story in light of recent social injustices, such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement, in the United States that have been highlighted in the media.

Guest Blogger: Náthalie Wiltinge

Náthalie Wiltinge is a Dutch international exchange student at UCMO, studying Public Relations for 1 semester.

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Social Justice through music

Nearly two weeks ago on the 22nd of October, Usher released his new song “Chains” featuring Nas and Bibi Bourelly . With over one million views on YouTube, Usher and Nas decided not to just bring out a new song, but to address an important issue within this song, namely racial injustice. The song starts of with a short, but strong message: “While racial injustice keeps killing, society keeps looking away”.
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The music video of “Chains” centers around black lives lost due to police brutality, showing the victims full name, age, face and story on the screen as the song plays on the background. With the release of the song, Ushes and Nas demand society to stop ignoring the police brutality within America, to look up and face it. “We got a problem that needs some acknowledgement” is what Nas raps as gun shots sound in the background. On top of the strong lyrics and the video, Usher also released an interactive video on the website of Tidal. The site asks for your webcam permission to detect your eyes as you watch the video. The goal of this is to make people stop looking away, every time you look away from the screen or look on another tab, the music stops and the text “Don’t Look Away” shows up.

“In writing this song, I was motivated by the events involving prejudicial injustice that are still happening today. The reality is that racial bigotry diminishes the lives of too many people in our country. The pain and suffering that these victims and their families have endured is something we must never forget. When we look away from this problem it gets worse. To fix it, we have to face it. We have to come together as a country to solve these problems and this is one way I can contribute.”

~Usher

 

The lyrics together with the powerful message in the video left me speechless at first. I read every story, word for word, thinking how it even is possible for things like this to happen. One of the stories specially grabbed my attention, and it will probably sound familiar to fellow students of UCMO you as well… Michael Brown, 18 years old, Ferguson Missouri… As I read that name and see the place, chills run over my spine. And then suddenly it felt as if this issue is getting close to me too. Not because I know him personally, no, I didn’t know Michael or anyone close to him at all. But because it happened not very far from the place where I study, the place I live. A place where I feel safe, where it feels like these things can’t happen. Yet they do happen and reading it makes me get the chills. It kinda feels unreal, yet it is very real and happens too often.

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As someone from outside America, these forms of brutality are pretty much unknown to me, the police barely has to pull their gun. Our biggest fear in The Netherlands, no matter which color skin you have, is that our bicycle could be stolen, which results in buying a new one and that only hurts the wallet. Therefore news, or no, tragedies is a better word, as described in “Chains” just leaves me baffled, speechless, and above all, sad. No one should ever get killed over senseless violence while being unarmed, especially not by an entity who is supposed to protect civilians. Of course I am no where near a position to judge about the situations, I only read what others say about it and have to take their word for it, I wasn’t there, I don’t know these people. However I do know that these things are uncommon where I’m from. And no, I am not saying that my country is perfect, we also have our flaws just like anyone else in the world. But issues like these? They simple barely to never happen, and if they do happen, the officer in question gets put off duty until all the facts are on the table and justice is served when needed to whomever is responsible. For me that is enough to tell others to look up and put a stop to it. We can no longer close our eyes to these issues, and it doesn’t matter which skin color you or to whom this injustice happens too has. They won’t stop until people stop looking away. They won’t stop until people want to make a change. I believe Usher did a good job in creating awareness for this issue by using his music to send a powerful message to the world. A message that I believe should be listened too, looked at, thought about, and shared throughout the nation and even the world.

 

Here is the video, but if you want the full experience with all the eye detection stuff, go to https://chains.tidal.com/ and watch it there.

I hope it leaves you as speechless as it did to me. I hope it made you think about and realize the problem. Because that means the message came across and that we are one step closer towards change.

 

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Guest blogger: Leah Wankum

Leah Wankum is a graduate student of mass communication at the University of Central Missouri. Leah is also the managing editor of the Muleskinner/digitalBURG, a student-run publication that covers campus news as well as news in Warrensburg and Johnson County, Missouri.

The most compelling stories are often the true ones, but occasionally I come across a story that fills me to the brim with inspiration and hope. “The Help,” a 2011 drama set in the ’60s civil rights movement, did just that. I read the book first, which is almost always better, in my opinion, but the film was also wonderful.

The setting

The HelpSet in Mississippi in the 1960s, Skeeter, played by Emma Stone, is an aspiring writer who starts documenting the experiences of black maids who go through unfathomable hardships on a day-to-day basis. Skeeter is friends with some of the women who have hired the maids who came forward to share their stories with her, which creates tension among the white community and anxiety within the black community. The white community, for the most part, was keen on keeping its social status above blacks, and blacks were treated terribly for it. If Skeeter’s novel (and the creation of it) wouldn’t catch on and instigate change for the better, members of the black community were certain it would change for the worse because of Skeeter’s and the maids’ efforts.

Things are a lot more different from 50 years ago, but that doesn’t change the story’s message. Attitudes take a long time to change, and hearts take a long time to heal. Around the time my grandmother was of age to attend college, in the early 1950s, she couldn’t attend Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, because it was a black university only. Many colleges and universities across the nation were designated white-only or black-only, and not too long ago, at that. The thought sickens me, that people were treated so unfairly just a few years ago.

My takeaway

I have colleagues of all skin colors, and they’re all so smart, admirable people. I can’t be more grateful for the opportunity to live and work alongside them. But the blessing that is my college life isn’t the case everywhere. The time to tell stories of social injustice is never over, which is a sad truth but, at the same time, a remarkable opportunity to do life together, share our experiences and, hopefully, enact positive change toward a better life for all of us.

Reminders like “The Help” show me where we once were, and where I hope we never go again. I hope we never stop listening to each other, and never stop sharing our stories.

–Leah

Guest blogger: Leah Wankum

Leah Wankum is a graduate student of mass communication at the University of Central Missouri. Leah is also the managing editor of the Muleskinner/digitalBURG, a student-run publication that covers campus news as well as news in Warrensburg and Johnson County, Missouri.

Prostitution is the act of engaging in arguably the most intimate activity for money. And we all think we know something about prostitution. That was certainly the case for me, so I didn’t expect any surprises when I got on Netflix and watched a film on prostitution. I was very wrong about that.

whores glory“Whores’ Glory,” a 2012 documentary, shows the lives of prostitutes from Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico, taking viewers on a journey through the commodity of sex. The stories of these women force you to come to grips with their everyday realities. I wrestled with a wild variety of emotions as I watched the documentary, from anger at men for their powerful sex drives, to sadness for the women who don’t know life any different from this kind of work, to awe as all the people in the films go on living each day, no matter how dire the circumstances got.

“I come here to buy myself a little happiness,” said a man who was a customer at a brothel in Thailand.

This is their way of life. This is their reality. Men visit the brothels seeking respite from their daily toils or personal problems. Women work the brothels as a way to make enough money to survive.

I began watching the film full of judgment and disgust. I kept thinking, “How can these women endure through such degrading circumstances? Have they no self-worth?” But I listened to what they had to say, and then I began to understand.

“Men don’t realize how we sacrifice our sense of shame for money,” said a woman who worked in a brothel in Bangladesh.

And then, as their stories unfolded in front of my eyes, I realized how little I knew about these women and what life was like for them on a day-to-day basis. Shame on me for not first trying to understand the circumstances before I label them as degrading!

“We have to enjoy what we do,” said a woman who worked as a prostitute at a brothel in Thailand. “Otherwise, it would make us unhappy.”

As I mentioned before, some of these women don’t know life outside of prostitution.

“I’ve been working in this job for more than 20 years,” said a woman who owned and operated a brothel in Bangladesh. “This is our whole life. What else do we have?”

The images you see in this film cannot be unseen, nor should they be. My heart breaks for these women because of their situations. Their stories are so important to hear. It’s a daily contradiction between hate from the outside of the brothels to lust on the inside.

“Outside, they’re disgusted by us. In here, they love us and our bodies,” said a woman who worked at a brothel in Mexico. “The outside world pushes us out of the way to make room.”

I hope everyone will take the time to see these stories, because they are as much a part of reality as ours. And I hope to see more films like this in the future.

–Leah

 

Guest Blogger – Philipp Glauner

The week is finally here! The Show Me Justice Film Festival is this Thursday (4/9) and Friday (4/10) on the campus of the University of Central Missouri. Please check out our website for more information. Our guest blogger series continues with a post by Philip Glauner, the director of FAST AND CHEAP, an official selection of the 2015 Show Me Justice Film Festival.

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FAST AND CHEAP is a fake commercial in which giant androids on a construction site are exploited by humans.

I love commercials because they have to communicate an emotion which is psychologically linked to a very capitalistic message in a very short period of time. To achieve this, commercials use very direct tools like clichés, hyperboles, simplifications and a broad palette of manipulative aesthetics.

Because of this, I think commercials are a great genre for satire because everything is so over the top and so much cotton candy that some incoming bitter notes make a strong contrast.

I come from Germany where we had a lot of changes within the last 15 years regarding the social welfare system: There have been big financial and social cuts for people who lose their jobs combined with a lot of pressure. One the one hand, Germany has become a lot more successful economically because of these reforms, but on the other hand there is a growing gap between rich and poor, between people who make it and people who fall by the wayside.

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Though many aspects of these German job market reforms may have probably been necessary, its problems and negative effects were always sold to the public by the politicians like a used-car dealer would sell a piece of trash to a naive customer: While there is a lot rotting away in the dark, you just present a glittering surface.

That’s the reason why I made this film. We have old used-up robots doing hard and dangerous demolition work on a decaying construction site while the company CEO Mueller with the shiny smile is telling us about a bright reality. We can see that a lot of stuff is going wrong in the background while Mueller is showing us around but he just keeps on talking exchangeable phrases to sell his product.

This contrast was also the basic visual concept for the film: Mueller (played by the wonderful actor Stefan Nagel) should always be the shining centre of the commercial, that’s how we dressed, lit and cinematographed him – everything else in this world is rusty, instable and used-up. Mueller doesn’t care if his machines collapse or “die” because they are cheap and can be replaced easily, he doesn’t see individuals in them – it’s a bit like factory farming, isn’t it?

I hope you enjoy FAST AND CHEAP on the Show Me Justice Film Festival!

Best wishes from Berlin, Germany!

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~Philipp Glauner

Guest Blogger – Annie Walsh

The Show Me Justice Film Festival is on April 9th and 10th at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri. As the start of the festival approaches, guest blogger Annie Walsh discusses GLOW and the making of the film that documents this laudable social justice organization. GLOW is an official selection of the 2015 Show Me Justice Film Festival.

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I think one of the challenges about social justice issues, and social justice films, is how inured we have become to them. Though we as Americans can fairly be accused of apathy—when one looks at voter turnout, for instance—I believe most people do care about justice. But so many of us feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of need, the expanse of injustices perpetrated around the world—from Selma to Syria—that we don’t know where to begin. Though we want to be “part of the solution,” we feel ill equipped to make a dent in such seemingly insurmountable problems.

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When I was approached by Cynthia Saddler, co-founder of Girls Leading Our World, Inc. (GLOW), I, too, felt hesitant to commit. Cynthia reached out to me because she knew I was on the board of Kansas City Women in Film & Television (KCWIFT), a dynamic group of men and women, which works to empower, promote, and mentor women in film, television, and new media. Cynthia was drawn to KCWIFT because of all the organization was doing at the time to encourage female screenwriters, and she was hoping KCWIFT could help her make a movie, too. Her movie, however, would not require a script. Her movie would instead document part of story that was already playing out in the heart of Kansas City’s urban core.

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I say I hesitated to commit to helping tell the story of GLOW not because I found it uncompelling but because it came with no budget. GLOW, which is sustained by an all-volunteer staff, uses every dollar it receives to serve girls in need. So money for a film simply was not in the picture. And, though I know many hardworking filmmakers who often donate their services at discounted rates, I don’t know many who can afford to work for free.

But…the seed had been planted. The more I learned about GLOW, the more I wanted to do anything I could to support its important work with young women in Kansas City. When KCWIFT decided to apply for a Missouri Arts Council grant, we included a short film about GLOW in our proposal because GLOW’s mission of empowering girls aligned so well with KCWIFT’s mission of empowering women. And, in the summer of 2013, we learned we had been awarded enough funding to make the film a reality.

Once funding was secured, I knew exactly who I wanted to direct the film. Cara Myers is well known in Kansas City’s film scene. She brings a unique artistic touch to every project she takes on, and she has another attribute that made her uniquely suited to the job. Cara routinely does work for non-profits in the KC area and is gifted at connecting with viewers on an emotional level. But, perhaps even more importantly, she also is a female filmmaker with her own successful business.

This was particularly important for the GLOW project because part of GLOW’s mission is to expose its girls to a variety of professional and educational paths and to introduce them to positive, successful women who have found ways to use their passions to pay their bills. Many of GLOW’s girls do not have positive adult role models; many come from families where no one has attended college; most live in impoverished areas; most lack access to accredited schools; several live in households where food is scarce and transportation is limited; and many have been sexually assaulted or abused.

Without the intervention of programs like GLOW, many of these girls might never know that they, too, can attend college, can have a profession, can live free of violence, and can lift themselves out of poverty. But each week GLOW reinforces for its girls that there are people in the world who care about them, who believe in their potential, and who are willing to help them set and achieve their goals. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong in girls’ lives, GLOW focuses on what’s right within each girl. The program is designed to help girls recognize and build upon their own strengths.

These kids are incredibly resilient, bright, and just as fun and frustrating as any of their more privileged peers. But what many lack is a “village” of caring, functional adults prepared to assist them in their journey to adulthood. GLOW bridges that gap. It provides the girls with a network of individuals who reinforce on a weekly basis that they have the potential not just to participate fully in society, but to be leaders of society.

Through weekly programming, the girls gain entrepreneurial tips from professionals working in a wide array of fields—from musicians to veterinarians, and from environmentalists to attorneys—and they often learn how under-represented women of color are in certain professions. Seeing examples of women at work in the world is essential to expanding the GLOW girls’ worldview, which is why I was delighted to work with Cara in the making of this film.

Throughout the making of the short documentary, Cara was creative, assertive, very much in charge, and communicated her artistic vision in a way that was sensitive to GLOW’s desire to highlight the girls’ strengths. It’s not easy to get teens to open up, even in the best of circumstances. Add a camera, lights, and crew to the mix and kids are even more likely to clam up. Yet Cara was able to coax the girls into conversations that weren’t always comfortable.

And most importantly, Cara was conscientious throughout production to address the challenges that the girls face in a way that ensures the girls are not defined by those challenges. By no means did we want to make a film about “disadvantaged girls in the urban core.” Rather, this film is about incredibly strong young women who are emerging from difficult circumstances to become future leaders.

Every time Cara gave direction to her crew, adjusted lighting on the set—literally called the shots—the girls of GLOW had yet another opportunity to see how they, too, can call the shots in their own lives. For me, that’s what social justice is about: empowering individuals and communities to gain agency in their own lives.

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The girls may not even realize they’re learning to be agents of social change. But every week they come to GLOW and hear from volunteers, mentors, and guest speakers about the need for more people of color to become veterinarians, how community gardens are established and maintained in their neighborhoods, how those neighborhoods have fought for environmental justice and equal housing opportunities, and, yes, every time they see a woman behind a camera, they take yet another step toward self-empowerment. They see their own potential reflected in the work of others who take time to invest in them each week.

And that’s the beauty of getting past “social justice paralysis,” that numb feeling that renders one unable—or perhaps just hesitant—to even try to make a difference. It’s not easy. But it’s also not as hard as one might think. The path to social justice just might mean making a relatively small investment in a kid’s life. A couple of hours a week may not seem like much, but the consistency of care that a program like GLOW can provide is essential for these girls’—for all children’s—continued success. Sometimes engaging in social justice issues means just showing up. Just showing up and showing you care. Showing kids you believe in them and want a bright future—for them and for yourself as well. After all, as we age, we will inevitably come to depend on the leadership of this generation. And a small investment now can pay big dividends in the future.

For those of us involved in the making of this documentary, we’ve already enjoyed a return on our investment. Seeing the girls’ faces light up when a packed house saw their story projected on a big screen at the film’s premiere last summer was all the critical acclaim I needed. And a few of the girls who were too shy to participate in the film have since told me that they wished they’d had the courage to speak on camera. Both reactions assure me that Cara and her crew truly did honor how strong and smart these young women are. It also reaffirms how important it is to keep showing up in these kids’ lives, with or without a camera.

I have become a GLOW convert. On any given Thursday night, you are likely to find me hanging with the GLOW girls, and I also mentor a girl one-on-one. Recently I also accepted a position on GLOW’s board and I look forward to showing up for those meetings each month as well. I still feel overwhelmed by the wide-ranging injustices in our world but, every time I show up for GLOW, I also feel like I’m doing what I can where I can to promote social justice for these girls. Hopefully, as they grow up, they’ll continue to show up for others, too.

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~Annie Walsh