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Starz America To Me series shows racial inequality in schools a long game fix, announces contest

Senior Jada Buford is profiled on the new docuseries America to Me.
Senior Jada Buford is profiled on the new docuseries America to Me.

America to Me is a new docu-series that premieres on Starz this Sunday, August 26.

It is an eye-opening reveal at the inequities in American public school education, and despite a more affluent school system, there lie many obstacles for African American students still.

America to Me premiered the first five episodes at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the new “Indie Episodic” category.

The effort was directed by Steve James and it examines issues faced by students at Oak Park and River Forest High School. This series reveals the hiccups and institutionalized bulwarks that they face.

It examines racial inequity focusing on 12 students and various teachers and staff members who agreed to be trailed by cameras during the 2015-16 academic year.  In a revealing behind the scenes piece, it was shared by producers that few Caucasian students wanted to participate for fear of being called the “poster child of white privilege.”

This series takes a focused and intimate look at racial and economic issues that the students of Oak Park and River Forest High School grapple with.

According to a 2016-17 statistics census study, 54 percent of Oak Park and River Forest students are white; 23 percent are black; 11 percent are Hispanic; 9 percent are multiracial, and 3 percent are Asian.

In contrast, the 2017 Census data reveals a different ration altogether:

Ethnic diversity exceeds the national census ratio at these two schools
Ethnic diversity exceeds the national census ratio at these two schools, but issues remain

The director of “America to Me,” Steve James said of the issue at hand: “I think one of the things I also hope that people take away after you’ve watched the series in a cumulative way is that even if you’re living in a place like Oak Park and you’re not living in a poor neighborhood in Chicago wracked by violence and extreme poverty, that doesn’t mean you’ve made it in America. You haven’t made it in America yet. There’s plenty of hurdles that have to do with race no matter where you live in America.”

There’s a great contest open to all American students

Starz Invites U.S. Students to answer the question: “What Does America Mean to Me?” to win a $25,000 scholarship in partnership with the 10-Part Series from Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winner Steve James and Participant Media.

From Starz:

“Submissions are being accepted from U.S. students for the opportunity to win a $25,000 scholarship from the “Share Your Voice” spoken word contest in conjunction with America to Me. Entries will be accepted through October 7, Winner to be announced on October 28, 2018.”

The contest challenges students ages 14 to 19 to answer the question, “What does America mean to me?” in a 60-second original spoken word video. Entry submissions are being accepted through October 7 via Instagram or Twitter using #AmericatoMeContest and #STARZ hashtags or by uploading it to the America to Me website. 

A panel of judges will select the top five finalists whose videos will be posted on AmericatoMe.com on October 14, giving America the opportunity to vote and select a winner through October 22.

The winner of the $25,000 scholarship will be announced on October 28.

“This spoken word contest encourages students to share, in their own words, what it’s like to live and learn in America today,” said Alison Hoffman, Chief Marketing Officer for Starz in a press statement. “It’s illuminating to hear the students of Oak Park tell their stories in the series, and we look forward to hearing different perspectives from students around the country.”

The “Share Your Voice” contest is part of Starz and Participant Media’s campaign partnership designed to encourage candid conversations about racial equality.  There is a downloadable Community Conversation Toolkit and screening event booked across the country.

America To Me premieres Sunday at 10 PM ET/PT on Starz and  join the conversation with #AmericaToMe and #STARZ on social media. 

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
April Neale
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