Sealth Black Student Union’s powerful film about race to premier at the Social Justice Film Festival on Oct. 25

Sealth Black Student Union’s powerful film about race to premier at the Social Justice Film Festival on Oct. 25
Posted on 10/16/2014
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Students in Chief Sealth International High School’s Black Student Union had question for their fellow students: What questions do you have for us?

They didn’t shy away from the provocative questions they got back – things like:

  • Are you treated differently because of your race?
  • What is ratchet?
  • Is there a difference between dark skin and light skin?
  • What is Ghetto?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • Are you proud to be black?

In a film project inspired by a project called Question Bridge, 13 students sat down in front of a camera and gave their raw, unrehearsed answers.

The end product is a powerful film called “Riffing on the Dream,” one that was accepted into The Social Justice Film Festival. "Riffing the Dream" premiers Saturday, Oct. 25 at 3 p.m., at the NW Film Forum. It is one of 52 documentary and narrative films exploring immigration policy, prisoner justice, and human rights around the world.

Question Bridge started in 2012 as a documentary-style video art installation by artist Chris Johnson. The aim is to facilitate an honest, healing dialogue between black men in America. One person asks a question, looking into the camera. Later, another person answers it. This method “reduces the stress of normal face-to-face conversations and makes people feel more comfortable with expressing their deeply held feelings on topics that divide, unite and puzzle,” according to the project website.

Members of the Black Student Union at Sealth used the same basic concept, soliciting and selecting questions, running the cameras and editing the final film.

The students are filmed close-up, speaking directly into the camera, giving their answers a power and immediacy.

Question: Are you treated differently because of your race?

“When you meet a black or African person don’t go off the assumptions that you see about them. Take the time to get to know them, because everyone has a different struggle and everyone goes through different things,” one girl says. “Take the time to really know the person and understand them and don‘t just, like, alienate them.”

Different students respond to different questions, ending with the final one:

Question: Are you proud to be black?

“I do feel pride in my race,” one student concludes.  “It definitely took me a while to find pride in my race, but now that I’m older and I understand what I want to do in my life, there’s definitely pride in my race.”

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