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‘I’m Not Racist…Am I?’ documentary screening and discussion will examine attitudes about race

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‘I’m Not Racist…Am I?’ film screening

Iowa City Public Library — Monday, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m.

Still from the ‘I’m Not Racist…Am I’ documentary trailer

A free Oct. 23 screening of the documentary I’m Not Racist…Am I?, followed by a group discussion, will address questions about the nature of racism and help viewers recognize and respond to it in their own lives.

Hate crimes and the resurgence of racist groups are on the rise, but the motivations behind these trends are nothing new. At times, racist actions are blatant. Recently, a photo of high school students from Creston, Iowa posing in Ku Klux Klan hoods while standing by a burning cross went viral. But this documentary examines how racism does not always appear in the forms of white hoods.

Directed by filmmaker Catherine Wigginton Greene, who attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, I’m Not Racist…Am I? addresses the complex issues stemming from institutionalized racism by following the year-long journey of 12 students in New York attending public and private schools. In the film, they discuss race and privilege in a series of workshops and through intimate conversations with family and friends. Since principal photography wrapped in late 2013, I’m Not Racist…Am I? has been screened nearly 400 times for live audiences across the country.

This unique documentary was produced as a collaboration between Point Made Films, an independent New York-based production company focused on “telling stories about the many layers of American identity,” and the Calhoun School, a pre-K through 12 school based in the Upper West Side of New York City that has been described as a “co-educational, progressive independent school.”

The film is part of the Deconstructing Race Initiative, a multi-media platform developed by the Calhoun School to engage students, families and educators to better understand structural racism and how to combat it. For another phase of the Deconstructing Race Initiative, Point Made Films formed a branch called Point Made Learning in order to develop a digital Diversity, Equity & Inclusion course based on the film and lessons drawn on the experience of screening it across the country.

As noted in a joint press release promoting the initiative from February 2014, “The ultimate objective of the film — and the overall project — is to expose the myth of color-blindness in a society that, for many, espouses a post-racial mantra.”

The Iowa City screening is part of the Fall Film Series hosted by the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee and the City of Iowa City Equity and Human Rights Office. The Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee “works to address the problem of disproportionate minority youth contact with the juvenile justice system,” and the Human Rights Office “encourages community conversations on civil rights.”

Coordinating the screening is LaTasha DeLoach, a Licensed Master Social Worker who has served in the Johnson County Social Services Department for over nine years.

“If teens can dedicate one year of their life to stay engaged in this delicate conversation, for all of the bumps we have in this conversation, we can work as a community to start having conversations consistently to tackle serious issues around race,” DeLoach said.

According to DeLoach, these issues include: discipline, student/parent climate in schools, housing segregation and solitary confinement in juvenile and adult justice systems. Citing the frustration of students from the Iowa City Community School District who staged demonstrations last year calling for the issues of racism to be addressed head-on, she told Little Village the project could easily be duplicated in Iowa City.

“I hope maybe the community could provide the opportunity if local institutions are unable to assist in taking on this challenge at this level,” DeLoach said.

David Alpert, director of Calhoun’s Deconstructing Race Initiative, told Little Village that the Johnson County group was the first YOU Lead training project. Previously, the film was only screened with one of the group’s trained facilitators present to guide discussions and workshops. The YOU Lead project is an effort to train individuals to become certified facilitators.

“We are particularly excited about our return to Iowa City and we’re most grateful to the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee and the City of Iowa City Equity and Human Rights Office for their commitment to leading this work,” Alpert said.

Event organizers are inviting the public to watch the film and participate in what is hopefully one of many community discussions at the Iowa City Public Library (123 S Linn St) from 6 to 9 p.m.

“We hope community members come with open hearts and minds and see themselves in the film,” DeLoach said, adding how the film’s provocative title should cause people to pay attention “as racism has real life consequences in our society and community.”

For more information on the screening, contact DeLoach at (319) 356-6090 or ldeloach@co.johnson.ia.us. For information on disability-related accommodations, contact City of Iowa City Equity Director Stefanie Bowers at (319) 356-5022 or email stefanie-bowers@iowa-city.org.


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