Things are heating up at the Working Films’ firehouse this summer – literally, the heat index has hovered around 100 degrees the past month. I recently arrived to Wilmington in June as a 2011 George Stoney Fellow from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. I’m really excited and passionate about my work so far to help racial justice advocates across the country use the new Two Towns of Jasper Education and Outreach DVD. We’ve started partnering with an array of organizations so far, each one looking to host their own distinct event to inspire discussion and action that combats racial bias that continues to appear in our communities today.

Early last week, we were invited to brainstorm with chapters of the National Federation for Just Communities (NFCJ), a grassroots social justice organization whose former chapter memberships were known as the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). The former NCCJ was a key partner around the original launch of Two Towns of Jasper in 2003 so it was great to reconnect these allies with the project.

In our conversation, representatives from eight current NFJC groups in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska and New York each saw potential in either screening the entire film or presenting selected clips from the film to youth and adults in their respective communities. Lana Benatovich, from NFJC of Western New York, brought major energy to the call, reflecting on the powerful impact Two Towns of Jasper had on her region in Buffalo, NY when they used the film for when it was first released. In the special DVD feature Two Towns of Jasper: Move Hearts, Minds and Policy (below), you can see firsthand how the film had the ability to push the Western New York citizens and government officials to consider the visible and all too dangerous “invisible” racial divisions in their area. Proving that Two Towns of Jasper is timeless tool for activists, Lana told us last week that she is eager to host another screening event with the new education and outreach DVD of Two Towns of Jasper. She noted that there is still much work to be done as her city of Buffalo was just named the 6th most segregated city in the U.S.

I couldn’t agree more with Lana and everyone on the NFCJ call that the issues the film brings up are just as relevant today as ever. That’s why we are working so hard to get the Two Towns of Jasper DVD into the hands of educators, community organizers and racial justice activists across the country. If you’re interested in hosting a screening, you can buy the DVD here.

This Education and Outreach DVD includes a host of resources that will help facilitators and audiences work through the essential but often difficult conversations that the film brings up. Two Towns of Jasper covers a city’s reaction to a horrible hate crime. At the same time, it uncovers the racism that can lead to this kind of tragedy. I found it difficult to get my head around. I thought to myself, “Why?”, “How?”, “And could this happen again?” The new resources on this DVD, including the educators guide written by Facing History and Ourselves and the interactive community discussion guide helped me process those questions, and I know they will provide screening hosts which a starting point for individual or group reflection and action.

Two Towns of Jasper truly does have limitless audience reach. Once only available on VHS and at film festival screenings, now you can feature Two Towns in:

  • local leadership development institutes
  • public forums on racial reconciliation
  • college campus discussions
  • civic response team workshops
  • educational film series
  • grassroots training sessions
  • youth leadership programs
  • town hall meetings
  • high school classrooms
  • diversity and inclusion training sessions

There is no better time than right now to bring Two Towns of Jasper to a community near you. Purchase the DVD and organize a screening today!

Christina Bryant is a George Stoney Fellow at Working Films for Summer 2011.

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