October 02, 2013

Speak Truth to Power student video contest goes national

Source:  RFK Center, NYSUT and AFT
contest winners
Caption: Students at the Young Women's Leadership School of Brooklyn were chosen grand prize winners in the 2013 Speak Truth to Power student video contest. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Teachers, RFK Center Expand Annual Human Rights Video Contest to Students and Schools across America

Judges' panel includes actress Alfre Woodard with winning entry to be screened at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival

October 2, 2013 | New York, NY - The American Federation of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers joined today with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) to launch the third annual Speak Truth to Power Student Video Contest. This year, for the first time, the contest is open to student filmmakers across the nation.

The video competition, started in 2011 by NYSUT and the RFK Center - and conducted in partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute - invites students to create a three- to six-minute video examining a human rights issue or violation and profiling the defenders who are fighting to restore justice. The contest builds upon the RFK Center's Speak Truth To Power human rights curriculum, taught in schools across the United States and around the world.

"The lesson that we all have a responsibility to stand up and speak out against inequality and injustice is so important," said AFT President Randi Weingarten, citing the example of U.S. civil rights leader and hero John Lewis. "This video contest will engage students in what it means to be a defender of human rights - just as Congressman Lewis has done for more than 50 years. His lifelong commitment to equality and just treatment for all people inspires each new generation of Americans."

Until this year, the contest has been limited to New York students. "We have seen the transformative impact of this contest on students in New York State," said RFK Center's Speak Truth To Power director, John Heffernan. "This year, we are thrilled to be able to expand our reach nationwide by partnering with the AFT - inspiring even more students to identify with some of the most courageous people on the planet."

This fall, the RFK Center and the AFT will host training sessions with filmmakers from the Tribeca Film Institute for teachers in cities across the country who are interested in presenting the 2013 Speak Truth To Power video contest to their classes. The deadline for entries is January 31, 2014. The contest is open to students in grades 6 through 12; no prior filmmaking experience is required.

"The videos help educate students about human rights and introduce them to remarkable defenders," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "NYSUT is proud to have been among the originators of this program."

The 2011 inaugural grand prize went to the students of the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES for their documentary on Wangari Maathai's Greenbelt Movement in Kenya and the innovative plastic bag recycling program they launched in her honor. Last year's grand prize went to students of the Young Women's Leadership School of Brooklyn, who made a film about the work of sexual slavery and trafficking activist Juliana Dogbadzi of Ghana and also created a web series dedicated to the awareness of sex trafficking and slavery.

The 2014 Judges Panel will include Alfre Woodard, documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, and the leaders of the sponsoring organizations. Additional details can be found at www.speaktruthvideo.com. Winning videos will be featured on the Speak Truth To Power website and the grand prize video will be shown at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. The human rights curriculum, which includes 32 teacher-developed lesson plans for students in grades 6–12, an early-childhood curriculum, and a curriculum for law students, is based on Kerry Kennedy's book, Speak Truth To Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing the World.

The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.

NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents some 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights was founded in 1968 by Robert Kennedy's family and friends as a living memorial to carry forward his vision of a more just and peaceful world. The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit charitable organization.

Meaghan Baron
Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
Office 917-284-6352 | Mobile 917-426-2823
Email baron@rfkcenter.org