Students utilize media to advocate for social change

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Students packed Choi Auditorium Nov. 20 to watch the premiere of “I, Too, Am, Oxy,” a short film by Mika Cribbs (junior) and Adrian Adams (sophomore) that shed light on discrimination at Occidental. The students created the film for their Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) 281 Media and Global Change class, which examines the impact of media on social and cultural issues around the world.

DWA professor and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Sherry Simpson-Dean created the class this year. She defines the course as a cross between Media Arts and Culture and DWA.

“The class teaches historical context for media literacy while teaching components of global media campaigns through hands on experience and then creating them,” Simpson-Dean said. “It’s a powerful blend of diplomacy utilized in positive ways to engage world.”

Simpson-Dean, who gained experience in global media campaigns as head of the United Nations (UN) Association Pasadena/Foothills, felt the course material constituted a valuable skill set for students. Through the course, students become informed consumers of media by learning where news comes from, who generates news and how to make meaningful change. Once equipped with these skills, students then had to develop their own media campaigns on a cause of their choice.

“It’s easy to watch a film passively, but if you want to make a difference by campaign, you need to engage the public,” Simpson-Dean said.

There were six campaigns created by members of the class: I, Too, Am Oxy; He for She; Girl Up Grown Up; My World 2015; The Bully Project; and Our Game Face: On. The projects addressed a range of issues, including female empowerment, bullying, domestic violence and gender equity.

Through their I, Too, Am Oxy project, Cribbs and Adams sought to bring attention to racial discrimination on campus. Their film and accompanying Tumblr page featured students of color sharing stories of marginalization and oppression by their peers. According to Adams, they used the project as an opportunity to construct a safe space where students could share their stories and build solidarity by directly confronting racism and prejudice on campus.

Cribbs said the film received positive feedback and inspired her to continue building solidarity beyond the class setting.

“It became something we’re really passionate about, and we’re going to continue,” Cribbs said.

Another group, comprised of seniors Nina Greenebaum,* Alida Beck, Shannon O’Hara and Taylor Majewski* created the Girl Up Grown Up social media campaign, an offshoot of the U.N.’s Girl Up initiative to raise awareness and funds for U.N .programs supporting girls in developing countries.

Girl Up Grown Up asks women around the world to post a childhood photo alongside a more recent photo that captures a formative moment in their life, and a caption explaining the connection between the photos. Posters must then tag friends or family members to continue the campaign. The group reposted the photos to their Instagram page with the hashtag #GirlUpGrownUp. Girl Up Grown Up will be posting a Youtube video about the campaign during finals week.

The Bully Project, a movement to end bullying and its effects on victims, screened the documentary “Bully” in Choi Auditorium Nov. 21. The group invited director Lee Hirsch, a friend of Simpson-Dean, on campus to explain the history behind the film.

“This is about letting people’s voices be heard, and shining a light on a subject people don’t want to talk about,” Hirsch said. “You are going to connect to things you didn’t expect to.”

Another project, Our Game Face: On, has been so successful that it attracted attention from The New York Times, which wants to write about it, according to Simpson-Dean. The campaign calls on the National Football League (NFL) to address the domestic violence perpetuated by its players. In addition to maintaining a Facebook page, organizers Amanda Magistad (junior), Jennifer Miller (senior) and Lizbet Macias (senior) drafted a petition asking the NFL to condemn domestic violence during next year’s Super Bowl. The petition has so far garnered over 1,000 signatures.

For the final exam, all campaigns will be displayed on the media wall in Johnson Hall for the community to experience. Many students expressed a desire to continue their campaigns after the semester ends, according to Simpson-Dean. She hopes the success of this semester’s class can be replicated in future years.

“I hope that more students will take the class next year,” Simpson-Dean said. “I’m really proud of my students, they’ve become impassioned in what they believe in. They’ve done an amazing job.”

*Nina Greenbaum and Taylor Majewski* are writers for The Occidental Weekly.

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