I Don't Want My Brother to be a Hashtag

by Ashley Johnson

For the past few weeks, I have been helping my parents and fourteen-year-old brother get ready to move from their small town in New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina.  As we packed up fourteen years' worth of memories into cardboard boxes, I felt a wide range of emotions: nostalgia, as I looked at my middle school report card; amusement as I stumbled across an embarrassing photo of my older sister; and a tinge of selfishness as I wondered how life would be different now that my parents would no longer be ninety minutes away.

But tonight, as we shared one last dinner together before their car ride south, I felt an overwhelming sense of fear – not for being alone, but fear for my little brother as he leaves the home he has always lived in, the friends he has always had, and the small town where nearly everyone knows who he is.

I do not want my little brother to become a hashtag. And I am terrified of what could happen to him somewhere else.

We’ve all seen the headlines: Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice. John Crawford. Freddie Gray. The message has been made clear. Black people, especially young black men of color, are feared. They are looked at as threats. And they are not safe.

Black people in this country suffer from historical scars whose effects can be seen in the systematic failures that plague many today. It’s well documented how people of color, especially young Black men, are systematically under-educated, disproportionately targeted by police, and over-represented in the criminal justice system. Combined with the deep-seated, widespread expectation of black criminality, too many people in this country simply can’t, or won’t, recognize the entrenched racial undertones that permeate our society, and struggle to see any kinship or shared humanity with strangers who don’t look like them.

As I watch the news and see a crowd of mostly Black community members gathered in Ferguson—t-shirts covering their faces to protect them from tear gas as law enforcement officials greet them with rifles, tear gas canisters, pepper spray, and at one point, military tanks—I can’t help but think how little we’ve progressed. There may no longer be fire hoses spraying protestors, but the response to Black citizens seeking justice and equality is the same, and it is terrifying.

As I spoke to my brother one last time before boarding a train back to New York, I tried to let go of my negative thoughts. But I can’t help but worry how the world sees and will treat my little brother. To me, he is the jokester, the athlete, and one of my best friends. It just doesn’t seem fair or rational that a stranger could view him as a threat.

The constant cycle of police violence and racial conflict is emotionally draining.  And it is hard to maintain positivity and hope when skin color still determines so much of what we will experience in day-to-day America. I can only hope that our nation takes a good, collective look in the mirror, and recognizes the senselessness of inequality before any more young Black men have to pay the price.

Ashley and her brother in 2007

Ashley and her brother in 2007

Changing the Face & Future of Tech

Van Jones, who you will likely recognize as a CNN political commentator, has launched a national initiative to train 100,000 young people of color to become the best computer coders in the world. We had the opportunity to interview Van recently about when, where, why and how. 

Watch On the Loudspeaker with Van Jones, and read Producer/Director Kelly Amis' article, In Oakland, it's Either Code or Be Coded.

Director's Statement: Code Oakland

I was invited to write a Director's Statement about Code Oakland for a film festival submission, so I thought I'd share it here:

Code Oakland
Director's Statement by Kelly Amis

A Note from the Director:

I knew I wanted to do a film about technology's potential to increase equality and social justice-- especially for urban youth of color -- and that I wanted to do a film about the city of Oakland, CA. When I met Kalimah Priforce, I realized these were one and the same.

Kalimah embodies the evolution of Oakland, which many compare to Brooklyn, NY (where Kalimah grew up -- in Bedford-Stuyvesant) or believe will be the next great technology hub. But Oakland is its own city, one of the most diverse in the U.S., with an unique history including as the home of the Black Panther movement.

As Silicon Valley spreads into Oakland, Kalimah is part of a vanguard that is fighting to make sure the black community benefits from the tech industry's growth; he is using his tech skills and leadership to prepare Oakland youth to change both the face and future of technology.

What happens in Oakland at this point in time is, I believe, incredibly meaningful: is Silicon Valley's mostly white and male-dominated world going to steamroller through Oakland, keeping profit as the primary motivator in every/all decision as it physically moves outward (and grows in power exponentially across the globe)? Or is Oakland going to redirect its momentum to expand and change the definition of "success": in the tech industry? Could the "code" of Oakland help shape the industry so equality, diversity and community become as important, if not more so, than profit?

Kelly Amis

Are you a techie who is passionate about education equality?

We are SEEKING a TECH ANGEL! Are you a savvy html coder & website developer looking for a way to contribute to social justice and race equality? We need a new "tech angel" to provide 3-5 hours per month helping us with email updates & press releases (on Vertical Response) and website improvements (Squarespace and Wix). Must know code (we'll write the content)! Our websites our TEACHED.org and LoudspeakerFilms.com.

In return for your time, we'll lavish you with gratitude, good karma, VIP treatment at our film screenings and all the TEACHED swag you can handle. Please email Ashley Johnson at ajohnson@loudspeakerfilms.com if you'd like to support our work with your expert pro bono tech help.

Your assistance will help us get more voices "on the loudspeaker," like the voices of these youth tech stars who are preparing to change the world:

TEACHED Update July 2015

Don't miss the latest! Oakland Youth Challenge Silicon Valley, Code Oakland receives awards, upcoming film festival screenings, and more.

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Loudspeaker Films News

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Hey Silicon Valley! Are You Listening?

As you may know, we created theTEACHED series to put more voices "on the loudspeaker" through cinematic film and digital media, so we are happy to announce a new collaboration with Education Post, an online site providing candid commentary on education, race issues and "the belief gap."

Today Education Post published our first collaborative work: a multi-media op-ed: "It Shouldn't be a Privilege to Learn How to Code" (quote by the fabulous Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code). It includes a short essay by Kelly Amis and this video of Bay Area local up-and-coming tech stars. Inspired? Watch the full-length discussion moderated by Cedric Brown of the Kapor Center for Social Impact

Thanks to Education Post for your partnership, to our youth tech stars for your words of wisdom, and to you all in advance for Tweeting, Facebooking, emailing and commenting on this video! Please help us make sure Silicon Valley sees it too.

Isaiah Tech Panel Screen Shot

Screening Code Oakland

Back in April, Code Oakland was featured in the 48th Annual Houston International Independent Film Festivaland the Humboldt International Film Festival....and won awards in both! Code Oakland won the Bronze Remi Award for Social and Economic Issues in Houston and Best Documentary at Humboldt. We appreciate both these festivals for this kind recognition.

Code Oaklandwas also recently featured in The Justice Film Festival in Chicago, Oklahoma's deadCenter Film Festival, the San Francisco Black Film Festival, the Madrid International Film Festival and the Manchester International Film Festivalwho included some great clips from Code Oakland in this promotional video

In addition to these great festivals, we were invited to screen Code Oakland at Salesforce (twice!), a tech company we admire for its commitment to improving the world as part of its business model, and also LinkedIn, thanks to an event organized by the Hidden Genius Project. We are excited to work with these and other Silicon Valley companies to inspire diversity in tech industry hiring practices.

For information about upcoming events in Breckenridge, COBoise, ID; and Joshua Tree, CA, go to our screenings page.  Want to organize your own screening? Go here

Justice FF laurels

New Talent!

Please join us in welcoming two new additions to the Loudspeaker Films growing team of talented professionals, Shaka Jamal Redmond and Natacha Giler.

Shaka is the founder of OLU8 and a talented indie filmmaker and artist from Oakland, California. A graduate of both Tuskegee University and San Francisco State University, Shaka was the first filmmaker from Oakland to win the Game Changers FellowshipNatacha is a director, cinematographer and editor from Paris, France, who has produced and directed both narrative and documentary films, sometimes collaborating with one of our "veteran" team members, Sergei Krasikov in New York. Read more about them and other Loudspeaker Films' team members here.

Shaka JNat G

Farewell, Dear Friend  

Late last month, the world mourned the loss of James Horner, a wonderfully talented, well-known and prolific movie composer who could make an audience cry with his music alone. While famous for big-budget, Oscar-winning films' scores (Titanic, Glory, Braveheart, etc.), James was also a supporter of small, independent films and a fan of TEACHED. James donated editing equipment and laptops to our interns and shared his valuable time watching our films in progress. His was a gentle, beautiful soul and we send our prayers and best wishes to his family and loved ones. Rest in Peace, James. We will miss you.

JH Abbey Rd



The "Silent Holocaust"

I recently watched President Obama giving his beautiful eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of those dear souls shot in Charleston, and it inspired the following writng. I'm not feeling very eloquent after two weeks of deep sorrow about what's happening in our country (there have been so many horrific tragedies, but what happened to those in Charleston.....it's impossible to fathom what those innocent people went through) plus personal reasons (suddenly losing a very dear friend, also in a way terrible to imagine). I can barely remember what day it is. But maybe that's why I want to speak honestly and without filter and challenge myself and others to consider the following.


At this moment in history, I believe that many Americans need to stop and take a deep look at their own thoughts and behavior and decide to drop passivity and instead take action in their daily personal and work lives to help transform our society into an equal, just and inclusive one  (at last). I truly believe this means checking your words and actions every day, in every way, to be sure you are not defaulting to a legacy of thought you didn't create or behavior patterns you inherited. 

For some white people in the U.S., there is a strong need to rationalize or forget or diminish the impact of how our ancestors first decimated the native people on this land and then ripped others from lands far away to come work it for them as slaves. We purposefully destroyed entire families and communities as we did this -- ripping people not just from their homelands but apart from each other to reduce their ability to communicate and organize against their captors. Imagine. We also purposefully prevented people forced into slavery from learning how to read. It was even illegal in some states to teach slaves how to read (12 Years a Slave- a must-see movie--goes into this issue).  While not all whites were directly involved in perpetrating the atrocities of enslavement, and many fought it, we are all now living in its wake.  If you CAN'T SEE how we are still living the legacy of this history, and actively living YOUR life to help change it, then your passivity is helping it to continue along.

I strongly believe there are too many people in our nation who are living in denial about entrenched, institutionalized, and heart-held racism here, and this allows fear to rule and sustains ancient and tired myths about who has value on this earth. It results in a million messages sent every day to people of color, especially black males, most profoundly to boys, that they are "lesser-than," not virtuous or moral beings, simply criminals-in-waiting who do not experience love and pain or deeply yearn for peace. I guess this denial of racism continues because, without it, people will have to acknowledge what role they have been playing in perpetuating the cycles of hate and injustice.  

If you've ever heard me speak at screenings, I often bring up what author Michelle Alexander calls our nation's "silent holocaust": we are systematically under-educating, over-arresting, over-sentencing and over-incarcerating black males to a horrific degree. My guess is there are plenty of people in our nation who would be happy for this to be even worse than it is (those who inspire or perpetrate acts like Charleston), i.e. to see this turn into a holocaust in the more historical sense, but I think many non-black Americans either can't see or are actively ignoring the symbols, precursors, actions and rhetoric that allowed an atrocity such as the Holocaust to extinguish the lives of eleven million people in total (and that allowed genocides to occur in the more recent past in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda and Burundi). In America, our "holocaust" started with slavery and continues today in different forms. Perhaps it is slower and less blunt than what is considered to be a genocide, and fortunately it exists alongside another enlightened reality in which we have as a people twice elected an African-American president and integrated ourselves in most aspects of life. It is different, but it runs along the same atrocious lines. 

So I am going to share a challenge with you that I have made for myself, which is to ask the question: if I were able to go back in time to Germany in the 30s (or Bosnia or Rwanda in the 90s) , knowing what was underway, what would I do? Then ask, what am I doing now?

San Francisco Black Film Festival

We are honored that our latest short film Code Oakland (the first to be released for TEACHED Vol. II) will be playing this weekend at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.  Check out our beautiful film page on the SFBFF site HERE.  Producer/Director Kelly Amis will join other filmmakers for a Q&A after the screening.

For tickets, go HERE




Go to OAKLANDSUMMER to a find a free program to learn skills and design your future career or company.

Oakland is a dynamic, diverse and ever-evolving city, with a strong history of activism and protest (it's where the Black Panther Movement began, for one) and a love of technology as a social justice tool.

Indeed, just miles away from Silicon Valley, Oakland is where PROTEST meets PRO-TECH (yes we just came up with that!) and it is showing the world how the growth of technology could support and strengthen communities (which does not always seem to be Silicon Valley's priority...).

Our new film Code Oakland shows how skilled social entrepreneurs are teaching youth of color to become not only future tech leaders but also world-changers-- so they can transform the use of technology with the "code" of Oakland. Many local groups offer incredible, free programs for kids and teens to teach them tech and coding skills here (there are lots of other awesome and free programs for youth to learn other career skills too) and Downtown TAY is compiling a list of many that are coming up NOW and over the summer!

The time is NOW for Oakland's next generation to change the face & future of technology.

TELL LOCAL YOUTH: YOU ARE THE FUTURE. And share these opportunities with them....ASAP!




Code Oakland Screening Series for Youth!

We're so excited to launch our first youth screening series here in Code Oakland's hometown! The first event is at Impact Hub Oakalnd -- such a cool venue -- and one where we shot part of the film no less!  This will be a youth-centered event to celebrate the stars of Code Oakland, especially the young up-and-coming tech stars featured in the film. Organized in collaboration with Oakland Public Libraries, Youth Radio, Downtown TAY, Black Girls Code, #YesWeCode, Qeyno Labs and other great local organizations, this fun event will include food, entertainment (the local all-girl band, Sisters Keeper!), the short film screening and a taste of the hackathon experience. 

Then, we have two screening events coming up at Oakland Public Libraries, 81st Ave. Branch and Rockridge Branch. Some details on the flier below and more coming soon!

Thanks to the Kapor Center for Social Impact for sponsoring these great events for Oakland youth!

Go HERE to grab free tickets for the Impact Hub screening on May 9th, 6:30 pm. For the library screenings, just show up! We're going to give you an opportunity to see what coding & hackathons are all about -- NO experience required.

Haven't seen the Code Oakland trailer? Watch it HERE.

Baltimore 2015

By Kelly Amis

Last night as protests and riots were unleashed in Baltimore, 
I avoided Facebook knowing what would be out there. Someone actually tagged me in a ridiculous statement just to start a fight (I didn't take the bait).

These are tragic times -- and they are a consequence of generations (of CENTURIES' worth of an entire people) experiencing the same racism, injustice, belittlement, a million daggers at the soul and body, and the severe, relentless consequences of economic opportunity inequality (which I think is worse in a society when there is SO much wealth and so little concern for how anyone makes it -- for example, using loopholes and placing your "headquarters" offshore to avoid paying taxes. That's also looting, but it impacts everyone, everywhere.) 

I am GRATEFUL that I was teaching in South Central during the 1992 riots, because I knew the reality of what was happening there every day (though the media only focused on the Rodney King verdict, which was the match that lit the kindling): behind every insane story
we hear on the news, like the King beating and now the Freddie Gray murder, there are a million big to small injustices we the general public doesn't hear about. It is tragic that we are still seeing this, but the underlying causes haven't changes (maybe they've even gotten worse). 

Where does anger go when it must be swallowed for so long? I don't promote violence. But this is a reaction to violence, too.


deadCenter Film Festival

We're excited to be going back to Oklahoma's deadCENTER Film Festival, where we screened our first film, The Path to Prison, to a wonderful audience of indie filmmakers (and indie film lovers). It's run by great people who are committed to art and social justice.

It's interesting to consider the importance of films that bring issues of race equality to the forefront, especially with some of the news coming from Oklahoma in recent months, where a fraternity was exposed for its deep-seated culture of racism (fortunately caught on camera). It makes one wonder, how far away is "history"?

It was in Okahoma where George McLaurin, a black teacher, was admitted to Oklahoma's school of Education, but only under Jim Crow laws, meaning he had to sit in a segregated smaller classroom, work in a segregated private space of the library, and only eat in the cafeteria during designated times when white students weren't present. In 1950, two years later, his case was argued in front of the Supreme Court in George W. McLauren v. Oklahoma Board of Regents for Higher Education, where this segregation was proven unconstitutional.  But as we all know, changing laws and changing hearts and minds are very different things.

We look forward to bringing Code Oakland to Oklahoma and having some of the candid conversations with audiences that TEACHED is all about. For screening details, go to:   http://www.deadcenterfilm.org/

Posted on April 21, 2015 .

What would you do?

Have you ever heard a white person say something like: slavery is over, why don't blacks ____ (fill in the blank)? I wonder the opposite: how does anyone continue to have spirit, strength and hope in a country where this story can happen (and where Trayvon can happen, and Walter Scott can happen, and millions and millions of stories known or unknown to the public can happen...over centuries)?

I know. I talk about this a lot. It's because I have had the honor of teaching and working in black communities (not to mention being "adopted" by my second family in DC) but also because I know HISTORY. On the black-white issue, we have comparisons to make to South Africa's apartheid, but another comparison we need more people to see has to do with Germany and the Holocaust. Michelle Alexander calls what is happening to black men in America a "silent holocaust," and I agree. (Read her book The New Jim Crow if you haven't).

The important question is, I think: if you could go back to Germany in the 1930s, recognizing what was happening around you (or to you), what would you do? Today is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. what a good day to reflect on history and change the future.

What will you do?


Here's the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/15/closing-the-book-on-jon-burge-chicago-cop-accused-of-brutally-torturing-african-american-suspects/?tid=hp_mm&hpid=z3

Yom HaShoah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_HaShoah

Upcoming Code Oakland Screenings!

Our newest film, Code Oakland, is already getting into film festivals not just around the U.S., but the world! We have screenings coming up in St. Tropez, Canada and even one in India (not on the list yet -- stay tuned for those details). Meanwhile check out the dates for the Art of Brooklyn, Julien Dubuque, Humboldt Internat'l, "(In)Justice for All" in Chicago and more.

Go to our screenings page for dates & details.

Also, if you're in the Bay Area, save the date of May 9th, 6:30-8:30, for a very special screening of Code Oakland at Impact Hub Oakland! Details coming soon.

Art of Brooklyn laurels 2015.jpg

We ♥ NYC!

Thanks to React to Film, NYCAN & its Exec. Director Derrell Bradford, the Museum of the Moving Image and the staff of Loudspeaker Films, we had a fantastic premiere screening of Code Oakland in NYC. Read the details here, the press release here and watch the student presentation and panel discussion HERE

Our Producer/Director Kelly Amis and Code Oakland film star Kalimah Priforce also got to join React to Film in ringing the Nasdaq bell! Thank you to React to Film founders Dennis and Coralie Dennis for this amazing opportunity.

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Working seven out of six hours!

This is interesting, from Education Week (article follows):

"One in 4 (American) teachers report leading class longer than the length of the school day, according to a new analysis of a national survey"...."That's only possible...if teachers are lecturing in empty classrooms, have no lunch breaks, team-teach, or teach students in overlapping shifts. While the last two do happen—rarely—the first is ridiculous...and the second would typically run against teachers' contracts."

So American teachers have been over-reporting how many hours they spend in front of a classroom (over-reporting to a degree that can't be argued: 25% claim they are working longer than the actual school day itself). And these numbers don't even begin to look at the massive variation in what teachers are actually doing when "leading class," only how long they say they are doing so.

We love good teachers. We honor good teachers. Good teachers and schools are arguably the most direct way to eliminate inequality and promote democracy in America. But we also see that the profession has become one dominated by a culture of non-accountability, negativity and refusal to acknowledge reality that is sometimes, as this article reflects, truly unbelievable. How did the research mentioned below get used so much (U.S. teachers were supposedly teaching class up to 73% more than in other countries?!)?

Posted on March 18, 2015 and filed under by Kelly Amis.

Code Oakland: Screening and Celebration


NOW POSTED: PHOTOS & VIDEO FROM THE CODE OAKLAND PREMIERE! Check out the PHOTO GALLERY and a great video our intern Vanessa made from the event: Code Oakland Premiere Party.


Please join us for the premiere and celebration of Code Oakland, a new TEACHED short film by Kelly Amis. 

The evening will include a performance by local girls band Sisters Keeper, music by DJ Oracle, and a chance to meet the stars & director of Code Oakland.
 It is brought to you by West Wind Artists, Youth Aid (both founded by performer & music producer D'Wayne Wiggins) & Loudspeaker Films, and is generously sponsored by the Kapor Center for Social Impact, the Salesforce Foundation and the Port of Oakland

We'll have scrumptious food (including veggie options), a hand-crafted cocktail created by local mixologist Danny Ronandelicious organic teas provided by Numi and tastings of fine wines from Clos Pegase, the Clif Family Winery, Cal Vin & Hocks and other generous donors.

This is an invitation-only event; please RSVP by Jan. 27th.  

Parking is limited: please use public transportation, a ride service, taxi or carpool. The nearest BART station is Coliseum. You can walk from there (10 -15 min.) or grab a taxi to Mindseed SoundStage.

Haven't seen the Code Oakland trailer? Watch it HERE.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Posted on January 28, 2015 and filed under Screenings.



The United States now bears the ominous title of being the world's most prolific jailer: with only 5% of the population, we represent 25% of the incarcerated. The vast majority of our prisoners are functionally illiterate—even if they went to school—and an inordinate number of them are people of color. In The Path to Prison, a former gang-member and felon from South Central Los Angeles shares his own path, helping us understand how so many capable and intelligent young men—especially African-American males like him—end up uneducated and behind bars in the 'home of the free.'  (8 min.) Featuring: Jerone Shell

The discourse around education reform—especially on issues involving teachers—lacks nuance, thoughtfulness and, often, commonsense. Political rhetoric is distracting from efforts to improve teacher quality, especially in schools serving urban, minority children. It has become virtually impossible to fire a teacher in America, and when incompetent, absent or even abusive teachers can’t be fired, they are shuffled to the schools where parents have the least power to do something about it. Meanwhile, qualified candidates go through the steps to become teachers only to be knocked around and sometimes out of the system by the same rules. In this short film, teachers themselves ask whether the system is serving students’ needs…not to mention their own. (17 min.)

Featuring: Howard Fuller, Pearl Arredondo, Virginia Walden-Ford, Steve Hill, Michelle Rhee, Amber Pierce, Batia Oren, Dan Gerstein, Lisa Raymond, Barrie Weiss

Charter schools have been around for over twenty years, yet many Americans are still unclear about what exactly these schools are and everyone wants to know why some are so great and others…not so much. Unchartered Territory looks at the advent of charter schools offering urban, minority children new school options while also providing new staffing models centered on results and accountability. Interviewing some of the most successful 'pioneers' of this still-developing frontier, this short film provides an insider’s look at both the opportunities and obstacles presented by charter school reform in America. (15 min.)

Featuring: Kevin Chavous, Deborah Kenny, Irasema Salcido, Steve Barr, Jason Epting


In production. Planned for release in early 2015

This short film examines the evolution of Oakland through the eyes of social entrepreneurs who are determined that youth of color not be left on the sidelines as Silicon Valley spreads across the Bay and into the home of the second largest black community in California. Kalimah Priforce, whose first success as a social justice rebel was a hunger strike at the age of eight, and Kimberly Bryant, a successful electrical engineer turned founder of Black Girls Code, are organizing large-scale hackathons to prepare youth to redesign the future through the power of digital coding. Joined on the national stage by #YesWeCode founder and CNN Commentator Van Jones, their work represents the cusp of a growing movement to change both the face and use of technology in America. But is Silicon Valley ready to be hacked? (22 min.)
Featuring: Kalimah Priforce, Kimberly Bryant, Van Jones, Yes We Code, Qeyno Labs & Black Girls Code, Isaiah Thomas, others (tbd)

In this short film, we follow Tyzjae (Tie-zhay) Monroe from sixth grade to his junior year in high school as he and his mother struggle to find him a school that acknowledges—let alone nurtures—his obvious intellect. As a black male growing up in urban America, Tyzjae has already encountered his share of obstacles and set-backs in his quest to follow a direct path to college. When it is discovered in junior high that he is an exceptionally good quarterback, suddenly his value to area schools increases exponentially and the path seems all but certain. So what happens when a serious injury at the end of ninth grade keeps him off the field for a year?  (Coming soon)
Featuring: Tyzjae Monroe, Tequaila Monroe, Curtis Monroe, Catrina Brown, Marco Clark, Alisha Roberts.

On a Friday night after a long week at work, Calvin Davis joined his family in Southwest Washington, DC for an informal gathering. Still wearing scrubs from his job at Children’s National Medical Center, Calvin caught up with old friends while his two boys rode their bikes around the block. When police followed his fifteen year-old home, pulling on gloves as they approached the teenager, Calvin intervened to ask “Why? What did he do?”  How these questions escalated into a night in jail for a father with no prior record will make you “Think of Calvin” next time you question racial profiling or how America has become the world’s most prolific jailer.  (Coming soon)
Featuring: Calvin Davis, Carlet Harris, Montae Harris, C.J. Davis

Injustice in America

Dear Readers,

Most of my writing of late has been on my Facebook page, and in discussions with friends & colleagues who are as outraged and saddened by the verdicts in both the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases as I am. Below are a few of the things I have written plus suggested articles by others:

Dec. 6, 2014

I am really honored to be mentioned in this article by one of my favorite writers, RiShawn Biddle, in his must-read blog Dropout Nation(.net): Silence of Reformers on Ferguson is Deafening

I worked in education reform for years before the term became politically-loaded; it meant anyone trying to improve our public education system. The traditional public system was in dire need of improvement then, and it is today, especially with regard to education equality: urban, minority students continue to be blamed (along with their parents & communities) for lower academic achievement instead of given the same educational opportunities, funding and expectations as their peers.

The parallel second-class treatment by U.S. law enforcement and our judicial system via racial profiling, harassment, unwarranted violence and even lethal treatment, disparate sentencing patterns and the over-incarceration of males of color (black males in particular) is the other side of this coin. In our public institutions and policies, we -- the U.S. -- are systematically under-educating and over-incarcerating people of color, but especially black males. Given recent verdicts, it appears that a police officer can do anything to a black male-- including killing him with his bare hands, on video, in front of witnesses-- and there will be no consequences.  

Please read the article below and also this one-- Stop Bad Cops & Bad Teachers  - by RiShawn, which discusses the lack of accountability that pervades both the law enforcement and teaching professions. These are both difficult jobs. Police officers put themselves at great personal risk. We all know that. But for our institutions to protect individuals no matter what they do once they enter those careers is insane. Nobody is forced to become or remain a teacher or a police officer, but the "cultism" that RiShawn refers to includes a sense of entitlement to keeping a job regardless of the outcome in the classroom or on the streets.

Please also read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow if you haven't, and watch my first short film, The Path to Prison. In the coming year, maybe you will consider organizing a community screening of The Path to Prison and a new film Think of Calvin (coming soon) about a young black father unduly arrested in front of his two sons and the unbelievable no-win situation he is then presented by our law enforcement and judicial systems. Synopses of all the TEACHED short films are here Volume I and Volume II (coming soon). 


Dec. 3, 2014

For anyone who thinks I or anyone else is overly consumed with race issues in our country, I just want you to watch the Eric Garner video. An officer literally killed this man with his bare hands, while several other law enforcement officials looked on, and all over whether the man was selling cigarettes or not. It is hard to watch knowing that he is going to die. These stories make the news because the consequences were actually lethal (e.g. Eric Garner, Mike Brown & Trayvon Martin), but for every one of these stories there are, what, hundreds? thousands? millions? of stories of race-based injustice in America that you don't hear about in the news, and that don't involve any hint of criminality whatsoever on the victim's part.

"Strange Fruit, Eric Garner Edition" by Rishawn Biddle.


November 25, 2014

(from Omaha, Nebraska)

This is me, reporting from a corner of the world where the concept that you could be walking down the middle of the street in your own neighborhood, and a cop would pull up next to you and say "Get out of the f'ing street," is just not something you can fathom happening. Because it wouldn't. And where what happens next is your multiple-shooting death wouldn't happen (if you are white). Or if somehow it did, it would go to court. This is also where the media tells everyone (at least reading the primary newspaper) some parts of the story, but not all. Where the front page of this newspaper on any given day --- but especially today -- tells you all you need to know about race and equality in America. (And weirdly that paper is owned by Warren Buffett, who many people know is from Omaha....but somehow no one knows that Malcolm X was born here??....and there's no museum about it?! One of the most world-famous historical figures from the U.S.???). I'm just reporting at this point. It is easier and less frightening I guess to "believe in" the police, and "believe in" a race-blind and fair society (that doesn't exist in the view of many of us) especially when the media is making it easier for you to do so.



Posted on December 7, 2014 and filed under by Kelly Amis, Race Matters.

Getting to the Goal!

We are in the final three days of our Kickstarter campaign to finish TEACHED Vol. II. Please make a pledge today and help us get to the finish line!

We are asking for your help to:

-  Go to the TEACHED KICKSTARTER campaign and make a pledge,

-  Send a personal email to friends and encourage them to make a pledge,

-  Post your support on your Facebook page,

-  Make some Twitter magic happen (easy: retweet what we write as TEACHED)

Be sure to include the link to the campaign: kck.st/1CHKgUG and mention that pledges of $500 and up can be tax-deductible (choose "no reward" & email info@teached.org).

Some TEACHED facts you can share:

  • The TEACHED film series was created by Kelly Amis, a former South Central, Los Angeles teacher, Fulbright Scholar and winner of Teach for America's Social Innovation Award.
  • The first three TEACHED films, called TEACHED Vol. I, candidly examine the school-to-prison pipeline, teacher tenure, and public charter schools. TEACHED Vol. I premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival, won two film festival awards (Amsterdam and Williamsburg), was screened at SXSWEdu, the National Charter School Conference, the Black Alliance for Educational Options Symposium, the ASU-GSV Education Innovation Summit, and 70 more festivals and special events in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Since being picked up and streamed on SnagFilms.com about a year ago, TEACHED Vol. I and additional TEACHED online videos have received nearly 400,000 views.
  • TEACHED Vol. I was included as a trial exhibit in the historic Vergara v. California State Supreme Court case about teacher tenure and seniority, a case that may reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future. It was named as one TakePart's "10 Education Documentaries Not to Miss" and Online Universities "25 Best Movies About Education Ever Made," and also featured in such varied media as USAToday, the Harvard Law Review, the Huffington Post and One Day magazine.
  • The three new films, or TEACHED Vol. II, look at students both inside and outside of school to look at what urban minority youth accomplish when given the chance, and the forces that too often prevent black males in particular from fulfilling their potential.  The synopses of these new films, Code Oakland, Think of Calvin and Offsides, plus film teasers, are included on the Kickstarter page.
  • Questions? Contact us at info@teached.org. Need more background or details? Look at our website: www.teached.org. Now let's make this happen! Three days left and then we can get these films in front of audiences!
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Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under Supporting TEACHED.

What you can do

We have less than two weeks to go in our Kickstarter campaign to finish TEACHED Vol. II: three new short films about race, education and equality. You can watch the trailer for two of themon Kickstarter: Code Oakland and Think of Calvin.

Many independent film projects like ours rely on crowdfunding: lots of people giving what they can.

Please make a pledge today and share the news with everyone you know.

Other ways to help:

  • Send an email to 10+ friends! Copy, paste and send:
  • I made a pledge to this Kickstarter campaign for the awesome independent film project TEACHED, because I believe we need more ways to bring communities together for candid discussion around issues of race, equality and opportunity. TEACHED short films, produced and directed by former teacher and long-time education equality activist Kelly Amis, focus on the experiences of urban youth in America today. Please join me in helping TEACHED finish three new films; you can watch the trailer for the first one, "Code Oakland," and read more about the project, HERE.
  • Tweet for us! Copy, paste and tweet:
  • I made a pledge 2 @TEACHED Kickstarter b/c I believe in #edequality & the potential of all children. Pls join me! http://kck.st/1CHKgUG
  • Like us on Facebook and join our mailing list if you're not already on it; go to www.teached.org and fill out sign-up form on the right column.

Everything you do helps us one step forward. Have a great day and thank you for your support. We can't do it without you!

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