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Center for Race and Democracy encourages and educates through monthly film series

Students walk past a sign on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in the University Center building advertising 'Freedom Riders' as the next film in the series of Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle.
Students walk past a sign on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in the University Center building advertising 'Freedom Riders' as the next film in the series of Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle.

For the annual “Created Equal Film Series,” the goal is to both educate and tie the past and the present together.

Every month, the Center for Race and Democracy hosts a film series that showcases a documentary revolving around the theme of civil rights and racial equality. For March, the chosen film is Freedom Riders

Sarah Herrera, program manager at the CSRD said the event is something that was started as the result of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"It was a grant that the Center for Race and Democracy earned, and we’ve been continuing with program beyond the scope of the grant,” Herrera said.

For the last two years the same four films have been shown. Herrera adds that they are included in honor of the Civil Rights Movement. 

"It’s an opportunity for us to not only look at what has happened in the course of history, but to look at these issues as they’re related to today,” she said. 

Previous documentaries in the series thus far include “The Loving Story” an HBO documentary on the battle to legalize interracial marriage and “Slavery by Another Name,” a film focusing on mass incarceration.

“Some of the same issues that are being addressed historically through the films are still issues that we are looking at today and are trying to address today,” Herrera added.

The grant that established the Created Equal Film series was first given in 2013, Herrera said that the series started shortly after. 

“For the last two years, we’ve been getting a lot of people who request these films,” Herrera said. “As we move into the next academic year we are looking at continuing to diversify the offerings of this particular program.”

While the majority of these film screenings are held on ASU's downtown campus, they do come to other campuses every now and then.

“For the most part they’ve been shown on the Downtown Phoenix campus,” Herrera said. “For example our next film … the one we are hosting in April, will be held at the Polytechnic campus. And then two weeks ago, we held one at an off-site venue.”

Many of these films are accompanied by a discussion. While it is common that speakers come from outside of the University, Herrera said that the organizations seeks to draw from ASU faculty as much as possible. 

“We have a grouping of Center for Race and Democracy affiliate faculty that teach with their general discipline but are affiliated with the center," she said. "So we draw on those faculty members who are in-house with the University and have areas of expertise that are related to the topics we are looking at. I mean, where can we get the best experts than at a research one institution?”

The program as a whole is still quite young at two years, and it still has plans to grow further. Herrera adds that she has seen a big interest in the program.

"I mean, we’ll pack up the room," she said. "When we showed “Slavery by Another Name” in January we had 200-plus people in the room, standing room only, and people literally stood in the back of the room to watch the entirety of the film.”

Psychology sophomore Luis Sierra said he saw “The Loving Story” last year.

“I thought it was pretty interesting how the people reacted back in the day compared to how people react nowadays,” Sierra said. “I mean, back then the impact was huge and the people would talk about it more. … But like some people still make comments about it. I think it is important to show ASU diversity and how it's OK to date someone who is not the same ethnicity as you, because that would help to build a more diverse community. I think love is love, it should have no race or ethnicity.”

Public service freshman Ernesto Hernandez said he agrees that the program is a great idea. 

“I think that it’s a great idea,” Hernandez said. “They are able to present that for ASU students. I think it is an important piece to focus on for students. I think that race and racial equality affects everyone, and I think its great that they are highlighting that right now.”

The next film in the series, “Freedom Riders,” will be shown this Friday, March 18, on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus at 5:30 p.m. For more information on the film series and screening dates, go to CSRD's website

Related links:

Filmmaker, activist Spike Lee speaks at ASU Film Spark

Johnny Depp comes to ASU for Origins Project

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