A group of energetic girls from the Young Women's Leadership School of Brooklyn created a stark video about sex trafficking to win the grand prize in a contest sponsored by NYSUT and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
It's a victory for women everywhere, because the video's compelling portrayal of human rights defender Juliana Dogbadzi calls attention to her advocacy against sex slavery, which is on the rise in this country. "It was shocking that this is what's going on in the world," said Abigail Ricketts, one of the student winners in the Speak Truth to Power student video contest. "It's been under wraps for so long."
Dogbadzi, from Ghana, is a former sex slave who escaped and started a movement to free women.
"We wanted to show how leadership can be developed," said ninth-grader Diamante Ortiz. The students explained how the modern-day slavery is intertwined with politics, poverty and economy. They are creating an online series dedicated to awareness of sex trafficking.
"I'm especially excited about how students are taking the experience to the next level with action plans," said NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, whose office oversees the union's social justice initiatives.
After-school video teacher William Wonders created original music for the video. Projects like these are lost when after-school programs are cut, said director Jonee Billy.
This year's Speak Truth to Power video competition attracted students from 250 schools — nearly triple the entries from last year's inaugural contest. Robert Riglietti of Harborfields High School in Greenlawn won first place in the high school category for a video on bullying prevention activist Jamie Nabozny. Middle school first place went to Adam Kluge of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Tonawanda for a video on Nabozny.
The competition engages middle and high school students in human rights by examining one of 19 defenders championed by Speak Truth to Power. Students were asked to investigate a human rights issue, explore how the activist is improving the situation and detail how the work is connected to local communities.
The grand prize winner was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. Its institute helped provide two teacher video trainings, in New York City and western New York, for more than 60 teachers, said John Heffernan, director of Speak Truth to Power at the RFK Center.