Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Community Cinema event: Las Marthas

Community Cinema screening event-- featuring Las Marthas, with guest speaker Ryan Caldwell.

Fulfilling Community Needs

The target audience for this film was perhaps most specifically young women and latino americans, and for the general American audience. We had several young women attend the screening, and our guest speaker was Ryan Caldwell-- a professor at Soka University of America and an expert in gender and sexuality studies. Caldwell also hails from Texas, the same state that the film is set in. The young women that attended were all of some ethnic background other than "white" -- and after the film within discussion the girls were able to easily identify with the females in the film and therefore were apt in discussion.

The Power of Why

As Las Marthas portrayed the pressures of being a competitive beauty pageant queen, a latino-American in a borderland community (Laredo, Texas), and a participant of a massive community event-- we thought that Ryan Caldwell would be a fantastic discussion leader as she not only hails from Texas but very experienced in the world of the social sciences. We were hoping to address the multifaceted stresses and pressures that the young women in the film experienced, the social structures within the community featured in the film, as well as the ethnic strains and cultural paradigms present in the town of Laredo.

Impact & Action

One of the young women participating in discussion after the screening was very concerned with the long term effects of what kinds of pressures the film's main characters experienced. She was perturbed by the thought that the young women's lives were centered around their participation in Laredo's celebration of George Washington's birthday-- and that the participants put so much meaning into the grandeur of their dresses, make up, etc. Our discussion leader Ryan Caldwell was very excited to talk about the ideals of beauty present in Texas and how Texan standards of beauty are very specific. Ryan expressed that the Texan standard of beauty was almost tangible it was so present. This changed the perspectives of our small audience, as although we may not all identify with California, our University is situated in a Southern Californian town-- close to the ocean (therefore surrounded by "beach bums" and people who differ greatly in both style and displays of beauty). This film enlightened members of the audience with the knowledge that even within our own country standards of beauty vary and can be a central factor to the lives and social structures of certain communities. We also discussed the racial/ physical borders present within the work. Although there is literally a physical border, “an actual wall”, between Laredo, TX and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico—the border is crossed every day. Discussion of the differences in conceptualizations of the term “border” in reference to Mexico—as we all live in Southern California, we think of the border as a somewhat far off, dangerous place. In all reality it’s about an hour away. Citizens of Laredo refer to crossing the border as “crossing the bridge”—for it really is as simple as driving across a bridge for Mexicans to enter US soil. This notion of an "easy access" border was surprising to the audience.

The conversation

There was a general consensus in the audience that the girls' mental health was put at stake for the over-the-top community event . This was a concern for the whole audience and we discussed in depth the implications of the greatest event in these girls' lives occuring at only the age of 15. Ryan probed "what more do these girls have to look forward to in life?" This question struck a nerve in the audience. One girl pointed out that this event must even trump these young women's wedding day.

Community Cinema Event: The Trials of Muhammad Ali

Community Cinema screening event-- featuring The Trials of Muhammad Ali and guest speaker Imam Ali Siddiqui. Soka University had a great turn out for the screening, and wonderful student/ panelist discussion engagement post-screening.


Fulfilling Community Needs

The target audience of The Trials of Muhammad Ali was for the general student body, community members, and some Muslim community leaders taht attended the event. We had students from all different backgrounds attend, as well as a few faculty and older community members.

The Power of Why

We wanted to facilitate a discussion specifically in regards to Ali's Muslim/ Nation of Islam affiliation and how that affected his life. We selected Imam Ali Siddiqui-- a well established poet, writer, community leader and a member of the Muslim Community Center in Orange County, California. We knew Siddiqui would provide great discussion points in reference to Ali's religious associations, struggles, and sucesses. Siddiqui had actually met Ali on several different occassions, and this provided for great post-screening discussion.

Impact & Action

The film enlightened the community on the general life history of Muhammad Ali-- as although many students (people of a younger generation) know of Ali as the greatest boxer to ever live, it was clear that many audience members knew little to nothing about Ali's undertaking of the Muslim religion, nor his battle with the US Government to evade the Draft and Vietnam War. Our community was provided with a new light of Ali, perhaps a new lens. The audience gained a better understanding of what a prolific political figure and speaker Ali was, as well.

Our guest panelist Imam Siddiqui provided great post-screening thoughts for discussion. He gave the audience a general background of Muslim beliefs and told a little of his time spent with Muhammad Ali. Siddiqui gave the audience a greeting of peace before speaking. Siddiqui spoke to the fact that Ali was used for his "talent, fame and money" but that such people that were exploiting Ali couldn't deal with the fact that Ali was also "open-minded and open- mouthed--they couldn't stand him". Siddiqui went on to address the racial aspects of the film, saying that even today "we still face racism, it has simply become more sophisticated and subtle-- but it still exists". In regards to Ali's affiliation with the Black Muslim movement, Siddiqui comments that "they wanted a way out from the white racism" and that "Elijah Muhammad did not know much of Islam". This general talk of the Muslim community and actual Muslim beliefs was very enlightening to the general audience, as it appeared that most members of the audience had very little knowledge of the Muslim religion. During our Question and Answer segment, a professor and historian at SUA named James Spady asked about Siddiqui's experience with teaching social justice within the Nation of Islam. Siddiqui's response was that when he teaches social justice, he stresses on the concept of "Unity--the Unity of God" and how "God creates alll but does not hold our hands" and the "unity of all human beings--we are all equal and from the same creation or design-- we are brothers and sisters-- so we KNOW each other". Siddiqui then talked about the rights and obligations of humanity to "fulfill the obligation of protecting the rights of others" and he then spoke to the "history of the treatment of blacks in the US" and how that "would not be tolerated in Islam". This shed quite a bit of light on the film for the audience, and gave us a better, deeper understanding of Muhammad Ali's understanding of being and affiliation to the Black Muslim movement.