POV Partner IMPACT hosted a screening of Out in the Night in Santa Fe, New Mexico through POV’s free Lending Library. Community Engagement and Education Intern Camille Borders asked Executive Director Alena Schaim seven questions about community organizing and her thoughts on the film.
Can you please briefly explain the mission of IMPACT?
IMPACT is a nonprofit whose mission is to prevent violence by building skills and inspiring individuals to be agents of personal, community & cultural change. We teach violence prevention and self-defense classes to children, teens and adults in Central & Northern New Mexico.
So, much of what IMPACT does is physical, providing classes on personal safety, how did a film screening fit into your typical community outreach?
Actually, 90% of the work we do is nonphysical violence prevention (anti-bias & anti-bullying, healthy relationships, etc.) classes in the schools. We loved the opportunity to discuss the broader scope of our work, particularly the anti-oppression work we do. The film also highlighted a theme we address in our self-defense classes, which is that the way one’s use of physical self-defense strategies is perceived is very dependent on our identities (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) and we need to consider this when teaching and using the skills. This screening was very different than what we usually do as community outreach, and it was great to attract a crowd that potentially wasn’t familiar with all that we do, as well as help give the discussion greater nuance for those who are pro-self-defense.
What kind of discussion or dialogue did the film ignite in the audience after the screening?
After the screening, we had a panel comprised of Santa Fe community members who are experts on issues of race and social justice. Each panelist shared their initial impressions of the film before we opened it up to the audience. Their comments reflected on the media’s racialized portrayal of the incident and our broken legal system. Panelists also made parallels to the recent coverage of shootings of black people by white police officers and how that fostered mistrust in communities of color. The audience mostly had questions around how to best educate themselves on issues of race and legal injustice. Our panelists recommended the following books as resources:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy DeGruy Leary
The Alchemy of Race and Rights by Patricia Williams
The essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh was recommended as well. One panelist also mentioned that a chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice is starting up in New Mexico.
What was your own personal take away from Out in the Night?
For me, I think it was a renewed commitment to work on understanding the layers of violence myself and to find ways to create entry points for others who are resistant or averse to really understanding the depth of acts of violence and oppression.
What do you envision as the lasting impact of Out in the Night on the work you do at IMPACT?
The film helps as a resource that we can refer to in order to discuss the relationship between oppression and violence and why our work must be grounded in that understanding. We anticipate that we will continue to use Out in the Night as a reference in our work, and particularly to help our supporters gain a more nuanced understanding of why we frame things and approach things the way we do.
The screening of Out in the Night also helped establish us as experts on self-defense and anti-bias/anti-oppression work in our community, and demonstrated our commitment to the LGBTQ community and people of color.
As a community organizer, how do you measure success in relation to work being done at IMPACT?
We feel that our work is successful when we see that our audience or students are thinking about issues of violence, self-defense, and/or oppression in a new way. Sometimes that means that a middle school student realizes that it is harmful to tease other boys about being gay; other times it means a woman develops a stronger voice and more readily advocates for herself after learning tools to defend herself against an assault. Both of these scenarios indicate social change and progress.
Give advice in 50 words or less to a community organizer looking for innovative ways to promote their mission?
Sometimes the best way to promote our mission is to support others. By highlighting the work someone else is doing, we demonstrate our commitment to a cause and invite others to learn more about how we work to address those same or related issues.
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