The Measure of Our Success is How We Take Care of Our Children
Observations from Stacey DeWitt, CEO, Director and Executive Producer on the documentary Defining US
Defining US, Children at the Crossroads of Change is now available for download across all major VOD platforms, including Apple TV, Prime Video, iTunes, and many more. The film, distributed by Gravitas Ventures, is the first in a documentary series focused on improving the health and well-being of America’s children in changing times. The film takes audiences inside the nation’s largest school systems to see and hear the untold stories of educators and students who are the center of a culture war in our nation’s schools. The battle threatens over 3 million educators and 50 million students and potentially has the most harmful impact on students of color.
Historically part of a marginalized minority more likely to fail than succeed, our Black and Brown students have now become the majority of America’s youth, creating a seismic shift in numbers, beliefs, and culture. When the minority becomes a majority, it’s a revolution.
“We know that the browning of this county has caused anxiety among many people,” says Paul Forbes, CEO of Leading with Hearts and Minds and former Executive Director of Diversity and Equity with the NYC Department of Education. “We now have the power and the platform, and we are going to stand up,” says Forbes.
The film takes audiences inside the nation’s largest school systems to help us learn how to better understand each other and ourselves in complex and divided times. Through educators’ passionate, credible voices and students’ inspirational, persuasive stories, we learn why and how open, constructive conversations about race and other social issues are the lifeblood of our identity and fundamental to our humanity as both individuals and a nation.
“Are we in education to control and be in power over others or are we in education to liberate and empower others?” asks Alison Yoshimoto Towery, Chief Academic Officer of Los Angeles Unified School District.
I believe Defining US lifts teachers and students as a voice of reason in the divisive national dialogue that threatens America’s freedoms and future.
“This is the United States of America. Everyone is supposed to have the same opportunities,” says Bennett Lieberman, Principal of Central Park East High School in New York City. “If we are graduating an entire generation of teenagers out of high school that doesn’t believe they can be part of the American dream, then America is going to have a lot of problems down the road.”
The lot has been cast. America is at the crossroads of change. And our students stand in the crosshairs. The lines we draw, the silence we promote, and the division we perpetuate threaten to destroy them and us. At a time when people are trying to figure out who we are, the documentary challenges us and calls us to remember that our children will determine who we become.
The true measure of America’s heart, health, and prosperity will be determined by how we take care of our children. Their history is our history. Their future is our future. Students and educators intrinsically understand that connection as they try to create unity, hope, and healing in schools across our country every day.
The idea to produce the film began as part of a conversation between Paul Forbes, a black educator from New York, and myself, a white filmmaker from Atlanta who have different backgrounds and perspectives but share similar hearts and minds. It was the first of many honest, sometimes uncomfortable, but always constructive conversations about race that informed the film and formed the foundation for a deeper friendship that continues today.
The nation’s two largest school systems, the New York City Department of Education and Los Angeles Unified School District, provided unprecedented access to producers along with Atlanta Public Schools, Guilford County Public Schools, and others. In addition, leading voices in education from Yale University, Columbia University, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and New York University (NYU) also participated.
I hope you join me and others in watching this film that promotes awareness and a call to meaningful action for the well-being of our children, our communities, and our country.
Click here to get a sneak preview of the documentary.
For more information about Defining US: Children at the Crossroads of Change, please visit definingus.org.