Working in the classroom with Respectful Relationships (R+R) youth, we often find that media tools including YouTube videos, documentaries, and magazine articles assist us in our dialogues with youth. We encourage youth in their critical thinking about Media and its influence on our lives and try and present positive media that influences meaningful social change. San Francisco based Ground Spark, a producer and distributor of visionary films that address sexism, racism, and homophobia. Ground Spark has an exciting library of captivating films that further engage island youth in meaningful conversations around violence, respectful relationships, school culture, and social norms.
“Let’s Get Real,” “Straight Laced,” and “Its Elementary” are films we use in R+R to encourage thoughtful dialogue. Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff, president and senior producer of Ground Spark, is a nationally recognized champion of using film as an organizing tool for social justice campaigns. She is a pioneering leader in the international movement, working to create safe and welcoming schools and communities.
It’s exciting to continue to see the work we do at SWOVA as part of a wider global social justice movement dedicated to health and safety for all people. Check out Ground Spark at www.groundspark.org
Examining the relationship between stereotyping, the media, and violence is a major focus of SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program (R+R). Our workshops examine how media stereotyping can legitimize and normalize inequality and treat generalizations about groups of people as social facts. In doing so, R+R workshops challenge students to critically analyze how media stereotyping can produce and sustain systems of power including racism, sexism and homophobia. Students are asked to think about how, when and why media represents particular groups and ignores others. In this setting, students often point out how super-heroes in comic book series are almost exclusively represented by white men. Countering this blatant stereotype, Marvel Universe has recently unveiled a black-Latino Spider-Man comic book series that warrants attention.
Miles Morales, the new biracial Spider-Man character, is not the first minority super-hero, however, Marvel Universe is nevertheless making a positive step towards promoting media diversity. In the words of Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief:
“What you have is a Spider-Man for the 21st century who’s reflective of our culture and diversity.”
This is important because comic books have and continue to play an important developmental role in many children’s lives. As such, it is important for children from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to see both themselves and others diversely represented in media, arts and culture. So, as artist Sara Pichelli, who played an important role in designing the new Spider-Man, suggests:
“Maybe sooner or later a black or gay — or both — hero will be considered something absolutely normal.”
By Nicola Temmel, Summer Student at SWOVA