APS High & Middle School Students Tap Into the SELMA Movement Through Discussions & Free Tickets

More than 10,000 APS high school students see the movie that depicts “Bloody Sunday” the events surrounding the epic march from Montgomery to Selma Ala., a pivotal moment in the fight for African Americans’ right to vote in America

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Moderator Monica Pearson, actress Tara Orchs (Viola Liuzzo), executive producer Paul Garnes, actress Charity Jordan (Viola Lee Jackson) Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen discuss SELMA at a special screening for students who attend schools connected to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 21.

On January 21, more than 300 APS students from schools with a connection to civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy and Booker T. Washington High School were selected to attend a special private screening of SELMA. Following the movie, students who participated in the special screening got a unique opportunity to ask questions of the SELMA executive producer Paul Garnes, Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen and two actors from the film. King attended APS’ Booker T. Washington High School and entered Morehouse College during his junior year in high school. Georgia Natural Gas, Paramount, and Atlanta Partners for Education sponsored this event.

In response to a student’s question about how today’s youth can best protest, Garnes, talked about how the people who led and participated in the Civil Rights movement had a goal in mind. It was not arbitrary; it was focused on specific outcomes they wanted—actionable goals.

Moderator and on-air personality from Kiss 104.1 FM’s The Monica Pearson Show, Monica Pearson reminded the young audience that attended the screening that there are many great Americans living right here in Atlanta—people who did not just play a part of history, but who made history. Legends who participated in the march across the Edmund Pettus bridge, including long-serving U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Joseph Lowery, former U.N. Ambassador and two-time Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, Rev. C.T. Vivian, and others who have connections to Atlanta.

Tara Orchs, who plays Viola Liuzzo, a white woman who was shot and killed while driving participants back to Montgomery after the march in Selma, provided her perspective on race relations. And, Charity Johnson—who portrays Viola Lee Jackson, the mother of a slain black youth murdered by a state trooper in the aftermath of protest—talked about the importance of education as vital to breaking the cycle of poverty and inequity. She also spoke about the need for students to take personal responsibility for the choices they make in school and in life. The young audience was attentive and well engaged in both the viewing of the movie and the post-screening discussion.

Dr. Carstarphen shared her experiences as a student at Selma High School where there were separate proms for black and white students, and employed educational tracking—the practice of directing students down an educational path that is either professional or vocational early in a student’s academic career. She also spoke about the inequities in resources that exist today in public education and vowed to work to abolish inequity in Atlanta’s education system.

In addition to the special screening, APS joined the growing national movement to provide free SELMA tickets to all high and middle school students starting the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday weekend. In less than 72 hours, the Atlanta community raised more than $100,000 to send more than 10,000 high and middle school students to see the Academy Award nominated movie.

“I am proud and humbled by the immediate outpouring of support from our Atlanta community who has joined this growing national movement,” said Superintendent Carstarphen, a Selma native. “Our Atlanta education partners believe in our students, and I am grateful for the opportunity they are providing our students to see one of the most pivotal moments in American history.”

SELMA chronicles the time during the American Civil Rights movement when Dr. King led the 1965 campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The movie depicts events surrounding “Bloody Sunday” the epic march for voting rights from Montgomery to Selma, Ala. The movie tells the story of the three month period between when Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize and the passing on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The march from Selma to Montgomery sparked a movement that culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.

The film’s educational outreach includes a curriculum guide with 11 interdisciplinary lesson plans in Social Studies, ELA, Geography, Math and Art. All lessons meet Common Core State Standards. Educators and parents may download a curriculum guide by visiting: http://bazaned.com/selma-curriculum-guide. Several APS schools organized field trips for students to see the movie as part of the social study and history instruction. Parents or guardians who want to review the subject matter can visit: common sense media and parent previews for more information.

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Atlanta Board of Education member Byron Amos, Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, moderator Monica Pearson and partner and event sponsor Maurice Baker from Georgia Natural Gas.
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SELMA executive producer Paul Garnes, actress Charity Jordan (Viola Lee Jackson) Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen discuss SELMA at a special screening for students who attend schools connected to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 21.
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Students from B.E.S.T. Academy High School, Mays High School and Carver Early College & Carver School of the Arts, pictured with members of the Emerging 100 of Atlanta—college students from Morehouse, Spelman and Georgia State University who together saw the movie SELMA.

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