Brave New Films Wins Media for a Just Society Award
We’re proud to announce that “Our Turn to Dream,” a short film produced last year, has won the Media for a Just Society Award in the TV/Video category. This is the second year in a row we have been honored with this award. 2012’s “Law and Disorder” also won this category.
Other winners include The Nation’s Liliana Segura, whose piece was written and released with another Brave New Films video series, Prison Profiteers. Congratulations to our fellow awardees.
In 2013, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech celebrated its 50th anniversary. Our production team at BNF wanted to commemorate the event, not just by celebrating the victories of the past, but to show that the same civil rights struggles continue today, as people of color are swept up in America's system of mass incarceration at alarming rates. Our Turn to Dream is a short documentary that tells the story of one family in southern Alabama who is part of the new movement fighting back.
Before the civil rights era, African-Americans went about their daily lives in near constant danger. They were targeted by law enforcement for harassment, arrest or worse. If they tried to vote, they were intimidated. They faced discrimination in jobs and school. Our whole system seemed designed to keep them in poverty.
Each year on the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech, we look back on the event as a major turning point - for equal rights, for African Americans, and for our country. It was delivered at a turning point in the civil rights movement, after which many victories followed. The old system of Jim Crow laws crumbled. It seemed as if America could live up to the ideals in the Declaration of Independence that King quoted in his speech.
But that progress was slowed when our country’s so-called War on Drugs began targeting communities of color in the late 70’s and 80’s. Formerly incarcerated people, disproportionately black men, once again began losing their voting rights and their access to jobs, education, and housing, long after they paid their debt to society. Our new system of mass incarceration is what author and scholar Michelle Alexander calls The New Jim Crow, which is also the title of her influential book that helped inspire this film. Now, 50 years after “I Have a Dream,” black men have a one out of three chance of going to prison in their lifetimes. For a white man, the chance is one out of seventeen.
Reverend Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan, Alabama became the subject of our film because his family’s story mirrors the changing struggle. Rev. Glasgow’s connection to the civil rights movement is strong. His half-brother is the civil rights icon, Reverend Al Sharpton, who spoke at last year’s anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C., and his father participated in the original March on Washington. Rev. Glasgow saw mass incarceration in his community first hand, and was determined to change things in his neighborhood, little by little.
That neighborhood, known as “The Baptist Bottom,” became a character in and of itself as we began to put together the film. Its overgrown front yards, graffiti, and deteriorating paint jobs made the neighborhood feel like it was constantly under attack.
Our crew spent a week there, meeting the community helped by Rev. Glasgow’s Ordinary People Society, many of them formerly incarcerated. We witnessed the community accessing the food, clothes, and household items that are made available by his charity.
The most inspiring part to us was that Rev. Glasgow’s work stretches beyond his own community. He partnered with other groups to help reform legislation in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Like the civil rights movement, it’s not just about helping the people affected by the system, but changing the system itself.
And now, that work is being passed down to his son and daughter. The movement is spreading. Formerly incarcerated people are coming out of the shadows to speak up. Governments are slowly responding by reforming sentencing laws, restoring some felons’ voting rights, and trying to shut down the school to prison pipeline, which ensnares so many young people. Our work has and will continue to tell the stories of that struggle. Our hope is that audiences will themselves be inspired to carry on the work to curb mass incarceration.