America to Me Episode 1

Written by on September 23, 2018

America to Me Part 1

September 22, 2018
By: Chanokh Israel

On August 26, 2018, Starz aired the first episode of a documentary called America to Me. The documentary takes a look at one of Chicago’s most diverse high schools, Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRF), located in the suburbs of Oak Park. It chronicles the life of Black students and their families while exploring “America’s charged state of race, culture, and education today.”

Episode 1 begins with a Black Lives Matter assembly that only Black Students were allowed to attend. According to students at OPRF, it was a way for them
“to express their feelings with what is going on in the school,” (the majority of it is unpleasant) because the other students are “not going through the same stuff we’re going through.” Response from the community was swift and included statements such as:

“Dangerous Precedent.”

“Sounds Like Treason”

“#blackracismmatters”

The sense of alarm by the surrounding, predominantly white, community evoked in the school’s superintendent a sense of urgency to address and condemn such actions. Yet according to teachers this same sense of urgency and disgust is not proportional when addressing the falling rates of academic achievement by Black students at OPRF. In a recent study by the school board, it was determined that it would take nearly 75 years for Black and Hispanic students to catch up to White students when it comes to academic achievement.

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 6:7

“Every activity, every assembly, everything is made for white kids because this school was made for white kids because this country was made for white kids,” said one student. Therefore, we will never receive equity as Black families in America’s school systems and must become teachers of our children and be their main advocates within the school system.

Over the next year, camera crews were reluctantly given permission to follow students and families around the school and community. They will highlight subtle and not so subtle jabs at Black culture, the uneasiness in which White teachers interact with Black students, and how diversity does not necessarily equate to equity.

I am drawn back to the assembly and a quote I heard from a student. “They just have to realize that some things just have to be ours.” We will always be a special people and a chosen people that have fallen away from our laws, statutes, and commandments that God gave us. It is time for us to return and claim what is rightfully ours.

“He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.
He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.” Psalm 147:19-20

Shalom


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