“Let’s look at the statistics. The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. Think about that.” This is the opening statement from President Barack Obama in “13th,” an award-winning documentary film directed by Ava DuVernay. Experts in the areas of politics, law, education, and media, illustrate a linear narrative of how black slavery in the United States evolved into a system of mass incarceration with the passing of the 13th amendment.
In celebration of African American Heritage Month, the Black Student Union screened 13th in the Theater on Monday, February 13, 2017, from 11:30-1:30 pm. The event welcomed over 230 Skyline College students, staff/faculty, and community members. The program opened with welcoming remarks from President Dr. Regina Stanback Stroud, BSU President Brittney Sneed, and BSU Advisor and TriO Counselor, Brianna Clay.
The program toggled between two 15-minute clips of the film and discussions moderated by the Dean of Student Equity and Support Programs, Lasana Hotep. Dean Hotep was joined by special guests, Dr. William Jelani Cobb and Mr. David “Davey D” Cook. Dr. Cobb is a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University, a staff writer for the New Yorker, and he is also a featured commentator in the film. Davey D is a Professor of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, a hip-hop historian, and community activist. The moderated discussions engaged the audience with insight that provided context to information presented in the film. Speakers addressed a range of topics including the influence of the media, the criminalization of poor black and brown communities, and how economic incentives for chattel slavery in the Antebellum Era is manifested in our current profit-driven prison system. The program format, alternating between screening segments of the film, moderated discussions, and rounding out with questions from the audience, made for a critical and engaging experience.
Olivia Yancey, a member of the Black Student Union stated, “The 13th discussion was a really nice experience for me to really reflect on all the information that was given during the documentary. I really liked that it started a conversation that we don’t often have on this campus. As one of the few Black students here at Skyline, it’s nice to have a conversation that relates to the struggles we face as minorities, and it’s very relevant to the social climate we live in. The way it was held made for a very intimate experience. It didn’t feel like we were being talked at, which often happens at these type of events. I would love to have a discussion like it again on campus.”
Article by Katrina Pantig | Photo by Brian Collins