September 23, 2014

NYSUT and RFK Center launch annual 'Speak Truth to Power' human rights student video contest

Source: RFK Center and NYSUT Media Relations
speak truth to power

September 18, 2014 - New York, NY - The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) joined today with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) to launch the fourth annual Speak Truth To Power nationwide video contest.

The video competition, conducted in partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute, invites students to create a three-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.

"While it is important that we continue to work toward enhancing the academic performance of our students in the classroom, it is also essential that we prepare children to become involved citizens," said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale. "Social justice is a cornerstone of the labor movement's value system, and this project serves as a valuable tool in educating students about human rights, social justice, and the importance of speaking truth to power to ensure all people are treated equally and live with dignity."

 "Past winners have demonstrated the transformative impact this contest has on those who participate," said John Heffernan, the RFK Center's Speak Truth To Power executive director. "Once again, we are thrilled to be able to expand our reach by partnering with NYSUT - inspiring even more students to identify with some of the most courageous people on the planet."

This fall, the RFK Center and its partners NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) will host training sessions with filmmakers from TFI for teachers in cities across the country who are interested in presenting the 2015 Speak Truth To Power video contest to their classes.  Confirmed cities where the training will take place in include: Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, New York City , New Orleans, Boston, Saint Paul, Albuquerque, and Detroit, as well as Broward County, Florida and the Florida Panhandle. The deadline for entries is February 14, 2015. The contest is open to students in grades 6 through 12; no prior filmmaking experience is required.

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. In 2012, the 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. Last year's grand prize went to film makers from Southeast Middle School in Los Angeles, who profiled the work of Russian domestic violence activist Marina Pisklakova.

In addition to the leaders of the sponsoring organizations, the 2015 judges panel will include actors Alfre Woodard and Matt McCoy and documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, and the leaders of the sponsoring organizations. Additional details can be found at Winning videos will be featured on the Speak Truth To Power website and the grand prize video will be shown at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

The human rights curriculum, which includes over 40 teacher-developed lesson plans for students in grades 6–12, is based on Kerry Kennedy's book Speak Truth To Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing the World.

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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.

Contact: Jim Santel, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Office: (917) 284-6352, Cell: (314) 518-4890,  

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