I’m thrilled to help organize a free community screening of Jordan Peele’s film Get Out, with a panel discussion to follow, facilitated by a moderator. The screening will take place on April 15, 6:00-9:00 p.m., at the Cultural Center’s Howe Theater (548 Main Street). Everyone is welcome, however please note that the film is rated R.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly recommend it because while the horror plot points are fantastical, it offers very real commentary on the issues at hand.
The recent community discussion about the Youth Center brought differing perspectives to the surface about liberal racism and the violence that lurks beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic small towns, like ours. This moment of community honesty has inspired me to want to create a positive forum. Someone made a point to me that, even while the Facebook threads can devolve into petty infighting, where it feels like no one is listening to each other, in a weird way it has been community building. For the first time in a while, there are a lot of people emotionally invested in a conversation about what the future of our neighborhood is, and who ought to be included.
My vision for the panel discussion is not to isolate specific people for wrongdoing, but to open up a discourse on the history of the Island, and provide a platform for a lot of different, rational, ethical voices of residents who may not be the type of people we hear from on forums like the Roosevelt Island Parents Network, and to imagine together what a more inclusive Island could look like.
I hope to feature a spectrum of panelists that includes teenagers, who are often the subject of discussion but rarely invited to participate, parents, religious leaders, and others who in some way address racial/economic inequality in their personal or professional lives. We are in conversations with Cornell Tech and are excited by their interest and support.
I see Roosevelt Island as a microcosm for what’s playing out on a national level, not just in terms of discrimination but also as a place where, despite everything, there is still ethical motivation to be curious about the world and how to make it a better place. Let’s nurture that instinct to repair the world.
If you’re interested in a starting point before the film, I found that The Root’s article “Why 2017 Was the Year of Rose Armitage” (Spoiler Alert) really provides the language that I have struggled to find to isolate the problems I have with the recent discussions around marijuana and the Youth Center.
I think we can all agree that there are tremendous social divisions on this Island and we need to elevate the discussion to be about ideas, rather than people, as a matter of civic duty. I’m hoping that the film screening and a potential series of public events throughout the year will provide a space for meaningful conversation that represents the range of opinions and voices in our neighborhood.
The April 15 event is co-sponsored by the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance and The Main Street WIRE, along with snacks provided by The Café @ Cornell Tech. There will be an opportunity at the screening to share your ideas for future programming and feedback. I look forward to seeing you there!
J. Khadijah Abdurahman