PBS SoCal brought All The Difference to Los Angeles, California for a screening and conversation with students, teachers and community stakeholders. All The Difference is a part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Community Engagement and Education Intern Cyrus Stowe asked Community Engagement Manager, Keena Levert six questions about community engagement and her thoughts on the film.
How did you hope to connect with the Los Angeles community through the film?
Our station goal for outreach with this film was specifically to connect with aspiring first generation college students in Los Angeles. We hoped to provide both a space for discussing the experience as well as an opportunity to directly connect these students to resources that could help them in their college and career journey. We opened the evening with a resource fair of local organizations that provide direct services to local students in high school and college, helping students deal with financial aid, mentorship, and transitioning out of college. We wanted students and guests to walk away with tangible information and opportunities to prepare for their future careers.
What were some of the organizations that attended the event and how do they engage with first-generation students?
The college and career resource fair preceding the screening included organizations focused on providing support to first generation college students and/or work experience opportunities like City Year LA, Youth Policy Institute, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Social Justice Learning Institute, Families In Schools, 826LA, First Gen College, 100 Black Men of Orange County, and the LA Area Chamber of Commerce. Other organizations attending the event included the Boys and Girls Club of San Gabriel Valley, LA Public Libraries, and Pasadena City College.
PBS SoCal has screened many documentaries in the past. What stood out to you about this event?
One of the most striking things about this event was the level of engagement of the audience. Young people–particularly the young men of color– represented a significant portion of the audience, and several shared during the question-and-answer session that it was rare to see stories so similar to theirs on the big screen. A few young men in the audience currently in college shared their personal stories with the room. One young man spoke at length with Robert [subject of the film], speaking of the similarities of their backgrounds and of the impact of seeing their shared story on film.
Were there any words of advice from Robert and Krishaun [subjects of the film] that stuck with you or resonated with the audience?
It was incredible to have Robert and Krishaun attend the screening and participate in the panel. Their willingness to elaborate on their experiences throughout their conversation with the audience really brought the impact of the film to the next level. Their conversation provided a sense of solidarity with audience members who share similar stories. Attendees witnessed a special, near-mentor type of interaction between Robert, Krishaun and the several young men from the audience who stepped up to the microphone to speak. There were notedly more comments than questions as, with tears in their eyes, several young men exchanged words of thanks, affirmation and encouragement with the film’s subjects.
What did Wes Moore and Joy Thomas Moore [Executive Producers of All The Difference] share in the post film-discussion?
The thoughts they shared stressed the life-changing impact of higher education and the importance of students’ support systems throughout their academic journeys. Wes Moore also emphasized the fact that it really only takes one person to change the trajectory of a family for the better – encouraging the current and aspiring first generation college students in the audience that they could be the ones to make all the difference in their own families and communities.
Rhymefest performed and spoke at the event. What were some highlights from his performance and conversation?
In an intimate, conversational, and largely acapella performance, Rhymefest spoke about the power of collaborative work towards change. He talked about the challenges faced by young people, acknowledges that they often seem insurmountable, and then posed the question: “What if you can wait out the disbelief, the apathy? What can happen after?” He offered a solution in education and in empowerment: “We can relearn everything, we can push the world.”