White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Launches Film Screening and Discussion Series at the White House

filmfest

On September 21, nearly 100 high school students from Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia gathered at the White House to participate in the launch of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans’ (Initiative) Screening and Discussion Series (AfAmEdFilms). Panelists who spoke during the event include: Robin Hauser Reynolds, Director of Code: Debugging the Gender Gap; Dr. Kimberlyn Leary, Senior Advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls; Dr. Kamau Bobb, Program Director and Directorate for Computer and Information Science & Engineering at the National Science Foundation; and Chiamaka Okoroha of Microsoft.

AfAmEdFilms will highlight films and multimedia that disrupt negative stereotypes and depict positive and compelling stories of African American students, families, and communities striving for academic excellence. AfAmEdFilms will also encourage active engagement and showcase resources to facilitate opportunities for caring and concerned adults to support the learning and development of African Americans. The first film, Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, discussed racial and gender disparities in STEM programs and careers and provided a platform for a solutions-oriented discussion of ways to increase access and opportunity to the STEM pipeline for Black youth. The film supports several priorities of President Obama’s administration including efforts to increase access to and success in STEM courses and careers and supporting women and girls of color.

Megan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer Policy, provided opening remarks, encouraging students to see the “magic in technology, math and science.” Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code, addressed the audience, arguing that the solution to increasing the number of Black women and girls in STEM is to, “get girls interested in coding early on, so we can change the pipeline. The future is literally in your hands, and it will be written in code. There is no knowledge gap, just an opportunity gap,” she said.

During the panel discussion following the screening, of CODE David Johns, Initiative Executive Director, highlighted how the Initiative is increasing STEM success, including by collaborating with the National Science Foundation to ensure that students have access to Computer Science, Algebra, and other gateway courses required for success in STEM.

Miaela N. Thomas, M.S., School Counselor of Frederick Douglass High School, watched a transformation in her student as the youngest panel member, recent Computer Science graduate Chiamaka Okoroha, spoke on the panel. “The look in her eyes was something I’d never seen before and when she said, ‘I want to take a picture with her and meet her, I knew then that she had finalized what she wanted to major in when she goes to college,” she said.

Johns closed by reminding the students they are obligated to graduate from college; find their passion by celebrating and creating things that interest and move them; and use their brilliance for good—to improve our communities and our country.

Each month, the AfAmEdFilm Series will highlight an important theme in the field of African American education. For more information visit www.ed.gov/AfAmEducation.

Additional Films included in the AfAmEdFilms Series are as follows:

October:
He Named Me Malala
The Souls of Black Girls

November:
Tested

December:
The Rule

January:
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

February:
Selma

March:
TBD

April:
The E-Word: A Documentary on the Ebonics Debate

May:
MPAA: American Promise

June:
The Homestretch

(Please note: This list is not exhaustive and subject to change.)

5 Comments

  1. How can I host a screening of the film TESTED? Or how I get a copy of the film. I am an educator. Please get back to me. 😀

  2. Thanks for doing this program! Is there a facilitator guide for the panel discussion? I have been wanting to do something like this for a while, and everyone can’t get to the White House. I would love to use the developed resources in my community, as I’m sure many others would as well. Movies can be a powerful platform for introducing ideas and promoting discussion.

  3. I think more Black male teachers should be recognized and rewarded. I also feel that we should encourage more young men to pursue a career in education.

    I think having more Black and Brown men in the classrooms would be good because the teachers could relate to these young men in a unique way.

  4. Hello all! This sounds like a great program. I am Dean of Students in Philadelphia. I would like to bring my students to one or more of the movie showings. Please let me know if this is possible and next steps. Thanks!

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