This past Saturday community members gathered in the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center Theater for the 13th and U.S. Policies workshop as part of DNDA’s Let’s Talk Race Series 2018. The workshop analyzed the history of institutionalized racism in the United States through a walkthrough timeline activity and Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th.” To start the event, participants were led through a historical timeline that stretched from the early 1800s to modern day. Each stop in the timeline covered a key event or policy that played a role in perpetuating institutionalized racism, such as the War on Drugs or the ratification of the 13th Amendment.
After reviewing the timeline, facilitators Vivian and Lylianna introduced themselves and prepared the audience to screen the first portion of “13th.” This documentary, directed by Ava DuVernay, explores the history of racial inequality in the United States while focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with Black Americans. Interviews within the film touched on behind the scenes information regarding U.S. policy, such as the loophole in the 13th Amendment, as well as personal experiences with the U.S. criminal justice system. Through DuVernay’s film, events throughout history were tied together to demonstrate how racial inequality is so pervasive in our country today.
Following the first portion of the film, event attendees revisited the timeline that was posted around the room and were broken into five groups. Each group was given a specific time frame and the task to write down a list of events that happened within those years. After working within groups, the workshop broke into a larger discussion about how each event could have contributed to racial inequality in the U.S.
The second portion of “13th” covered the prison industrial complex and police brutality, as well as how both of these predominantly impact Black citizens. DuVernay’s film expanded on the fact that one in three Black men would see time in correctional facilities at some point in their lives, while the probability for white men is only one in seventeen. Following this portion of the film, attendees were encouraged to partner up and discuss what they’ve learned from the film and what they were feeling in that moment. These partner conversations turned into small group conversations, and the audience was eventually brought back into a full-group discussion about how “13th” is relevant to our daily experiences.
Covering questions like, “How do we care for our community?” and “What can we take away from this workshop?” participants carried their lively conversation into the community dinner that was held following the workshop. Throughout the entire the event participants were willing to discuss their thoughts, personal experiences and even what it was like to grow up during portions of history that were covered in the timeline.
Special thanks goes out to all of the volunteers and community partners who made this event a success, including Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Young Women Empowered (Y-WE), Lovage Seattle, Reel Grrls and Hate Free Delridge.
Additional photos from the workshop can be found here.