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The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 18, 2024

Whitman community captivated by movie screenings of refugee crisis and sexual assault

With busy schedules and AP testing, it’s hard to take time out of your day to relax. But Tuesday and Wednesday May 3 and 4, students took the time to watch movies on societal issues.

To address these current crises facing teenagers around the globe, Whitman screened two documentaries: Salam Neighbor and The Hunting Ground.

Salam Neighbor

Aspiring filmmakers Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple sought an alternative to the college experience, so they spent a year filming life in a Syrian refugee camp.

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Their 75 minute documentary, Salam Neighbor, chronicles their successes and struggles in the Za’atari refugee camp outside Mafraq, Jordan.

The film incorporated real-world stories and the everyday struggles that refugees face: rampant crime, shifting gender roles in the family and unstable employment.

“The film really puts a human face on the refugee crisis,” said Dan Stoner, the event coordinator and Whitman parent.

Graphic by Charlotte Alden.
Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

Though refugees in the film all had different stories, because they were uprooted from their homes, they shared common problems. Ghassem, a refugee in the movie, was forced to leave his Syrian home because of dangerous conditions.

“Emotionally, many refugees are destroyed,” he said. “All we have are the shirts on our backs and our families.”

After visiting Za’atari and seeing the conditions firsthand, Stoner hoped to convey that Whitman families aren’t too different from refugees; they have aspirations and fears like anyone does, he said.

The message resonated with many students, including freshman Raymond Schleien.

“I was amazed about how the refugee kids still go on with life after the traumatic events in their lives,” Schleien said. “We joke about how well off we are, but it’s really a big deal how many opportunities we have.”

Students who didn’t attend the screening can order the documentary on iTunes or go to www.SalamNeighbor.org to learn more.

“We’re not Syrians or Americans,” Temple said in the movie. “We’re just neighbors and we’re all good people.”
Hunting Ground

Whitman also showed The Hunting Ground to educate students about the rising prominence of sexual assault in high school and college. A panel conversation moderated by event coordinator Lizbeth Moses followed the film.

“It was an evening of becoming aware of the prevalence and horrors of rape, both in high school and college,” Moses said. “Hopefully, students learned what constitutes a healthy, mutual and respectful relationship.”

To begin the screening, junior Kieran Kindig and senior Leah Bouvier read letters from sexual assault victims.

“Students came up to me on the day following the event and told me how meaningful it was to hear the letters,” Kindig said. “It helped spark some conversations between my peers and their families.”

Graphic by Charlotte Alden.
Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

Following the letters, Pitch Please, a student-led acapella group performed Lady Gaga’s “Till it Happens to You,” a song featured in the film.

While the film referenced other components of the screening, Hunting Ground centers around college sexual assaults and administrators’ unwillingness to acknowledge that sexual assault isn’t the victim’s fault.

“The film opened my eyes to the regularity that colleges ignore sexual assaults,” sophomore Jonah Zwillinger said. “Before seeing the film, I was unaware of the scale of the problem.”

University of North Carolina graduates Annie Clark and Andrea Pino founded End Rape on Campus (EROC), an organization featured in the film, to combat administrators who delegitimize reports of sexual assault. Clark spoke on the panel following the film, along with Maryland State Senator Susan Lee.

“Our end goal is for students to have an equal access to their education that isn’t inhibited by violence or harassment,” Clark said. “We need to hold schools accountable, but also prevent crimes from happening in the first place.”

Moses concluded the event with a story of a former Whitman student who was sexually assaulted in high school.

“It’s not on students to prevent their own assaults,” Moses said. “It’s on us as a society to counter rape culture.”

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Lily Friedman
Lily Friedman, Online Editor-in-Chief

Grade: 12

 

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