In Part One of the Taking A Break blog entry, I shared films that explore mindfulness and self-discovery. Sometimes, though, an escape to the movies is just the ticket. The complex world will still be there when we are done, and the positive emotions of a feel-good movie can refresh and revive our spirits. Below are some lighthearted, forgiving, comfortable, enjoyable, and pleasant movies to watch if you need this kind of break. (Film synopses from IUCAT unless otherwise specified.)
Robots (2011): With the help of his misfit mechanical friends, a small town robot named Rodney embarks on the adventure of a lifetime as he heads for the big city to pursue his dreams and ultimately proves that anyone can shine no matter what they’re made of.
Lilo and Stitch (2002): An evil creator has created a little creature by genetic experimentation. The creator and creature are sent to prison. The creature escapes and heads for Earth where he tries to impersonate a dog.
Bent on self preservation, this dog-impersonator plans to use a human shield to protect him from the aliens sent to recapture him. Earth girl, Lilo, adopts the ‘dog, ‘ gives him the name Stitch, and actually develops an emotional attachment to the little creature. Lilo’s dysfunctional family consists only of her sister Nani, but the two are about to be ripped apart by social worker Cobra Bubbles. Stitch, as the new family member, brings quite some action into all their lives, and after a while not even the aliens can recognize their former target.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune.
The Princess Bride (1987): A lowly stable boy, Westley, pledges his love to the beautiful Buttercup, only to be abducted and reportedly killed by pirates while Buttercup is betrothed to the evil Prince Humperdinck. Even as Buttercup herself is kidnapped by a giant, a scheming criminal mastermind, and a master Spanish swordsman, a mysterious masked pirate (could it be Westley?) follows in pursuit.
In Part Three of our series, we will look at some computer games that can also be a fun escape, so stay tuned!
This blog post and the upcoming “Taking a Break, Part Two,” are brought to you by guest student blogger and IU Media Services student staff member Duncan Hardy.
I think it’s finally time for us to allow ourselves a little break. Many of us have definitely earned the rest, but every one of us needs it. And although I say ‘let’s take a break’ I don’t mean flip on a YouTube video and tune out for fifteen minutes – an escapist’s abandonment of reality and responsibility. I intend merely to redirect your awareness towards your breath and your will in order to offer a few minutes of physical, mental, and spiritual refuge.
To begin, I ask that you join me in a simple breathing exercise. The purpose of this exercise is primarily to gently separate your present, conscious mind from the ‘monkey mind’, a Buddhist conception of the restless and agitated mental condition which concentrates both too hard and too fleetingly on sources of anxiety (bills, the current socio-political situation, school, personal and communal health, etc.). By separating the two minds one can find a tranquility that continues after the practice.
Here is the exercise:
Slowly and naturally deepen your breath. As you do so, find the path of the breath as it travels through your body. You may observe this current in a few different ways: traveling up and down your spine, rising to the chest and returning to the stomach, or as if your whole body expands and contracts along with the pressure of the breath. Follow the current and let that cool sensation of calming energy spread throughout your entirety. Allow yourself to receive and experience any impulses, whether it be a tingling sensation, a color, or even a sound. Once your concentration has been embedded in this flow, try to preserve this feeling for at least 10 breaths. You need not maintain rigid concentration upon the breath, but you may enjoy or even feel the need to prolong this super simple breathing exercise to further calm the mind.
Although usually associated with traditions of the East such as Buddhism, Sufism, and Daoism, cultivation of the breath is found in most spiritual traditions, including that of Native Americans and early Christians. In the Yogic tradition, out of which the western world’s trendier hatha yoga practice arises, pranayama (breath control) is a method to purify the body, mind, and spirit. In my own experience, pranayama has been the most effective method for immediate stress relief as well as prolonged mental acuity and vitality. This is because the breath affects us on our physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Physically, the breath oxygenates the blood, causing our heart and brain to work more efficiently. Mentally, controlled breath can trigger cognitive states through the synchronization of the breath and brain waves. In practice, one can control their mental states through breath such that it is possible to self-induce feelings of calm and alertness (delta and beta brain waves respectively). Spiritually, the breath is the current of life from which we are animated. Controlling this breath unifies the mental and physical, and also beckons the transcendental. This breathing exercise is not an instruction for enlightenment, rather it is an invitation of divine healing forces through the acknowledgement of the self.
So if you found that worthwhile, or maybe surprised yourself at the power of focusing on your breath, feel free to supplement your interests with these films:
“Yoga is the challenging study of consciousness itself, understanding one’s body, understanding one’s emotions, understanding one’s mind and beyond that, understanding one’s true self. Conquering the fretful disturbances of the world around, great thinkers researched deep into the self. This was an epic project, spread across many centuries. A science of life was developed. To help us to know ourselves better. To help us to attain the peace and joy which can be found within. Yoga quite literally means to unite our self with the higher self, which is in us and is all pervasive. It means to join the subject with the object. To do this, we have stripped away the many layers of momentary sensory perceptions, which assail our senses. These keep us forever bound to the material world. Our perceptions must be detached from the external world, to look within.”
“The city of Rishikesh, a center of great spiritual energy, is home to the renowned yogi Swami Chaitanya. This program introduces both hatha and raja yoga while observing Chaitanya meditate; perform a fire ritual by the Ganges; engage in shatkriyas, internal purification methods, including sutra neti and dhouti; and visit with sadhus and other spiritual seekers. He also warns against false asceticism. The goal of yoga? To make contact with the inner self and enter into the ultimate state of peace in which the soul rejoices.”
“This course will enhance conventional therapeutic approaches and provide alternative methods to treatment. Course content includes breathing techniques, muscle strengthening and re-education techniques for the entire body, as well as pain and anxiety management techniques. These techniques are geared for clinical application, rehab clients, wellness programs, and home programs for many others.”
“Namasté Yoga Flow presents a workout that features a fluid integration of meditative motion with the creative energy of breath. The DVD enables practitioners to experience a unique and dynamic presentation of enhanced sun salutations that combines ways to strengthen and lengthen the body, and stimulates the mind to be alert, creative, and focused. In addition, the DVD explains and demonstrates that elements of the practice can be fused into a healthy, balanced way to function in all dimensions of the human experience.”
I love this movie because of how authentic the life and teachings of Yogananda are. Somehow, documentaries, and this one especially, are able to capture the divine grace of people like Paramahansa Yogananda. This film details his mystical life and teachings, as well as the results of his work in bringing the ideas of Yoga to the western world.
“Becoming Nobody is the quintessential portal to Ram Dass’ life and teachings. His ability to entertain and his sense of humor are abundantly evident in a conversation that brings us around to address the vast question of ultimate freedom. Becoming Nobody represents the core arc of Ram Dass’ teachings and life: whether as Dr. Richard Alpert, the eminent Harvard psychologist, or as Ram Dass who serves as a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies, he has defined a generation of inner explorers and seekers of truth and wisdom.”
In accordance with the IU Themester of Democracy, this Media Beat post covers the most fundamental and crucial aspect of democracy: voting.
The United States has long been perceived by many as a beacon of global democracy. While the American democratic system has its strengths, we must also acknowledge its weaknesses. Discussion of our political systems leads to constructive critique and the strengthening, growth, and development of our country.
Since its founding, the United States has often made its citizens fight for the right to vote, rather than granting the right freely and equally to all citizens. The privilege of voting that most of us have today is the result of decades-long struggles led by American citizens. Four constitutional amendments have expanded the right to vote to millions of Americans. However, modern obstacles to voting continue to suppress the votes of millions. Some of these modern obstacles include: voter ID requirements, voter registration purges, disenfranchisement of imprisoned people, and election day restrictions. These obstacles disproportionately affect Black and Latino Americans.
Below are some documentary films that explore the history of voting rights and suffrage in the United States. IU in-person resources continue to be limited in order to follow safety measures. But not to fear! Media Services has a plethora of online resources for your viewing needs. All of the films below are available through streaming with the use of your IU credentials.
Two major provisions of Johnson’s Voting Rights Act were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. Explore how the SCOTUS case of Shelby County v. Holder allowed states to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965, resulting in citizens being stripped of their voting rights. Since the Shelby decision, several states have passed laws that disproportionately prevent minorities from voting.
What are some modern obstacles to voting? This episode of Moyers & Company discusses voting ID laws and how they have disproportionately affected minority groups. It also examines how rare voter fraud actually is.
Why is it important to vote? How do I register? How do I research what is on my ballot? These questions and more are addressed in this informative documentary film about how to be a responsible citizen and voter.
OTHER FILMS TO WATCH:
MOYERS & COMPANY: This episode dives into more detail about how the Shelby County v. Holder decision has led to voter suppression.
REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM: How is the American constitutional system setup to prevent democracy? To what extent is inequality ingrained in our society? Explore how wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a select few.
HOW WOMEN WON THE VOTE: In as early as 1838, some Australian women were able to cast ballots. How did Australia achieve female suffrage so early? Compare the Australian and American fight for equality in this documentary.
The fight to vote did not end with the passing of the 26th amendment in 1971. Universal suffrage is something that the citizens of this country are constantly trying to achieve. IU encourages civic participation through initiatives like the Big Ten Voting Challenge. If you are privileged enough to be able to vote, do not waste your vote. Participate in this year’s presidential election and all future elections (not just presidential!). In today’s environment, voting and ballot information of all kinds are easier to get than ever before. If you are a student with last-minute questions, start here: https://provost.indiana.edu/vote/index.html.
Isabella Salerno is a senior majoring in Political Science and American Studies. In her free time she enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee, and doing puzzles.
Foreign policy has been in the spotlight recently. Tensions with China are growing as President Trump places blame on the country for its handling of COVID-19. American tourists are restricted from traveling to many countries. The Trump administration has pushed for Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel.
Are current international political tensions “normal”? It depends on whom you ask. There will inevitably be conflicts with other nations. However, leaders can control their responses to those conflicts. US foreign policy interests change with each President and also change over time. Having a President with comparatively limited foreign policy experience plays a role in the unprecedented times we are living in.
Although foreign policy is ever changing, we can look to history to get a better grasp on international relations. Below are some documentary films that explore the history of US foreign policy.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Media Services has a wealth of online resources for your viewing needs. All of the films below are available through streaming with the use of your IU credentials.
Who invited us?
Capitalism vs. socialism. The search for petroleum. Ideology vs. investment. Does US intervention help solve other nations’ internal problems? The documentary Who Invited Us? explores these topics and others while examining US involvement in other countries. From intervention in Cuba to Japan to other Latin American countries, this film addresses economic, political, and military reasons for US intervention abroad. This 60-minute documentary helps viewers gain a more nuanced perspective on world politics and US foreign policy in the 20th century.
Curious about US foreign policy in the 21st century? Explore US entanglement and policing in this film. According to this documentary, the political role of the US has been changing in the past two decades. How does this affect world order? American retreat from countries such as Syria and Ukraine opens the door for other powers to get involved. What happens when the US is absent from world affairs?
Globalization vs. Americanization. In this interview, journalist and author Mark Hertsgaard discusses his own experiences while traveling and recounts several perceptions of the US abroad. Many other countries have a love-hate relationship with the United States, a relationship which has been under scrutiny in the 21st century, according to Hertsgaard. He believes that most of the world likes Americans, but that the American government can be problematic in the international sphere. This interview offers policy decisions in the last two decades that have been divisive at the international scale.
Other Films to Watch
Media Services has a wide array of thought-provoking and informative titles on the subject of US Foreign Policy, past and present. The department provides ongoing media support to IU faculty and students, as well as campus entities like the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. Our materials are also available to the greater Bloomington community with a Borrower’s Card. Below are a few more titles of interest. If you want to connect with specific media resources but don’t find them among our holdings, feel free to contact us!
Will the rest of the world crumble if the US ceases to police international affairs? Is there room for another country to take on this role? This documentary depicts how the US became the “world’s policeman” and presents viewpoints on how long the country can and will keep playing this role.
This documentary film offers insight into the War on Drugs on both a national and international scale. Learn how the American national drug policy was used to intervene in Latin America and expand US policy interests abroad.
Guest student blogger Isabella Salerno is a senior majoring in Political Science and American Studies. In her free time she enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee, and doing puzzles.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that the world we live in is deeply vulnerable. Economies are crashing, schools are at least partly online, and any sense of normalcy is difficult to maintain. COVID-19 has also demonstrated how dependent we are on each other, both for basic needs and the social interaction which is so central to our health and happiness.
In addition to mourning the losses we have experienced, many people are recognizing our mutual dependence by getting involved with mutual aid efforts. Mutual aid, in the simplest sense, is volunteering to help others with the resources that you have. In the midst of COVID-19, it could mean sewing masks for homeless people and/or those with socio-economic challenges, getting groceries for an elderly or immune-compromised neighbor, contributing to a community rent fund with your stimulus check, and more.
Born in Flames follows a documentary style, and its aesthetic bespeaks its late-70s/early-80s filming, but its New York City is highly fictionalized. In Borden’s New York City, it’s the 10th anniversary of a successful socialist revolution in the United States. The central conflict of the film is between socialist party members and journalists—who praise the equality and progress of the last 10 years—and the female and feminist activists who protest continued inequality.
Adelaide Norris is one such activist, who dedicates her life to organizing the “Women’s Army.” Although Norris is definitely a believer in the Second Amendment, most of the Army’s work is mutual aid. In one of the first and most iconic scenes of the film, two men who are sexually harassing a woman on the street are stopped by the Women’s Army – who circle them on bicycles and blow whistles until the violence stops. With these humble tools, the Women’s Army care for and protect others in their community.
The socialist society of Born in Flames is not a perfect one – sexual and physical violence against women persists, and so do economic inequality and workplace discrimination against women, LGBT people, and people of color. In many ways, the situation that the women’s groups protest in Born in Flames mirrors that of the COVID-19 economic downturn in the United States: millions of people laid off and unemployed, many women assuming even more of the domestic labors of housework and childrearing, and workers in the service industry being hit harder by the shutdown (and attempted reopenings) of the economy.
In addition to protesting these economic inequalities in the media and the streets, the women of Born in Flames work to close the gaps through mutual aid. They fight for wages for housework, but they also pitch in to feed and care for each other’s families. These conversations happen frequently in domestic spaces: kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms. Isabel, the film’s resident skeptic, describes the Women’s Army as just “a service to the community,” just “childcare and daycare centers and stuff like that,” but “not aggressive enough” to be taken seriously. What Born in Flames suggests, to the contrary, is that taking care of each other amidst inequality is some of the most radical work people can do.
#AloneTogether is one of many social media campaigns in the time of COVID-19, and Born in Flames makes me wonder what exactly that signifies in our world today. In one scene, Adelaide Norris tries to convince a friend to join the Women’s Army, but the friend insists that “I feel strong just as I am; I don’t need no backup.” Any one of us—or a friend or family member—might feel similarly invincible, unaffected by COVID-19, and exempt from social distancing. Born In Flames encourages us not just to be #Alone, but to be #AloneTogether: accepting our vulnerability and offering mutual aid. JW
Josie Wenig is a Media Services student staff member and a graduate student in Gender Studies and Theology at IU.
Ableism is defined as discrimination against people with disabilities in favor of “able-bodied” people. Its implications are widespread throughout the world and in every community. Disabled people often face systemic discrimination in the workplace, in schools, and with regard to marriage equality. In addition, disabled adults often face “coddling” and other patronizing behavior from others, even complete strangers.
On top of systemic oppression, disabled people also encounter social discrimination, often in the form of what some disabled activists call “Inspiration Porn.” This term describes a certain fascination by able-bodied people with disabled peoples’ adversities, a kind of mythologizing that overlooks their individualism, often accompanied by unwanted attention and condescension. Activist Imani Barbarin often speaks on this phenomenon, most recently in this article from NPR.
Like activists on other social issues, disability activists want to educate. They share their individual stories and other information in order to help people understand the breadth and depth of experience within the disabled community, rather than to simply serve as inspiration for “abled” people. Below I have assembled some resources for learning about ableism and how to recognize it in everyday life. (Links lead to an item’s IUCAT record.)
This interview with disabled activist and nurse Sonya Perduta-Fulginiti dives into how individuals, and the media, often overlook the possibility of a disabled person having a romantic and/or sexual life. This is an important subject in humanizing disabled people’s life experience for others, especially since disabled people are rarely represented as romantic interests in popular media.
This documentary follows five disabled artists and explores how their disabilities impact their artistic identities and work. They discuss and laugh about old stereotypes and clichés in the media throughout the film. Each of them speak of the importance of seeing disabled people represented without their disability fully overshadowing their achievements and reputations.
This excerpt is part of a series about disabled people in the workforce. This clip in particular follows a few different people sharing their personal experiences at work, from the hiring process to the day-to-day work itself. It offers first-person perspective on the patronizing comments and social hurdles that disabled people must face when starting new positions.
Narrated by disabled journalist Joanne Smith, this episode follows disabled student athletes at two different universities and the discrimination they faced through established university policy. It ends with a thoughtful discussion on the importance of positive representation of disabled peoples’ experiences in popular media.
Learning from disabled activists is crucial in the quest to eliminate bias and negative or misleading stereotypes. There are many clichés that may ring familiar to most of us, from people faking disabilities to the disabled being chronically helpless. These widespread assumptions, often internalized due to inaccurate or superficial media portrayals, can be difficult to recognize and eliminate. However, if people with disabilities are to be recognized for the valuable perspectives and contributions they bring as members of the broader community, identification of assumptions and “unlearning” disability bias is a necessary first step. As an “abled” person, I learned a lot from these titles (available through Media Services) and from the work of disabled activist Imani Barbarin. I hope you find them helpful as well. Happy unlearning! LA
Leah Ashebir is a recent graduate of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. She has been a Media Services staff member for several years, and this is her final blog post for the department. We at Media Services thank her for her service and wish her luck in her future endeavors!
The month of June has already seen transformations in the United States’ public sphere this year. The ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations have created a wave of reforms to police forces across the country following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. And just in time for Pride Month, the Supreme Court ruled on June 15th that LGBTQ+ individuals are protected from workplace discrimination based on their identities as promised in the Civil Rights Act. Current events would indicate that justice for oppressed groups is rapidly accelerating in the United States and beyond, in the form of legal decisions and in polls that gauge public opinion.
In reality, the two causes outlined above have far more in common than one might think. Black Lives Matter demonstrators have taken to advocating for transgender victims of violence during protests with a new chant: “Black Trans Lives Matter.” A massive event centered around Black trans women was held this month in New York City and attracted thousands of supporters in protest against transphobia and racism alike. And the modern Pride movement itself was largely born out of a racially diverse, gender non-conforming group of rioters at the Stonewall Inn in 1964. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black gender-non-conforming performer and one of the original Stonewall rioters, is now often credited as the mother of LGBTQ+ Pride.
The fights for acceptance of Black, queer, and trans lives are all intimately intertwined with one another. In this post, we look at films which explore the intersection of race, sexuality, and gender in honor of Pride Month. (Films with an asterisk [*] are available for streaming using your IU credentials.)
The late 1980s presented numerous seemingly insurmountable challenges to the lifestyles of Black queer people all over the world, but especially in the US. (This NBC News online retrospective covers the steps of the Reagan administration, and Reagan’s broader conservative base, that exacerbated the AIDS crisis.) The documentary Paris Is Burning takes place during this tumultuous time in the underground gay scene of New York City. Exploring the now legendary ball culture that has been immortalized in shows like Ryan Murphy’s Pose, director Jennie Livingston candidly and unabashedly explores the lives of some of the culture’s most iconic and enduring figures. This film acts as a primer for the vocabulary, practices, and mannerisms which made up the ball scene in New York City and beyond. Terms like “realness”, “shade”, and even vogueing were originated by the largely Black trans population of these balls.
Besides offering a rudimentary education on the culture itself, the documentary also allows these often-misunderstood figures to speak about their lived experiences in their own distinct voices. The film opens with one such queen describing her father’s statement that being both gay and Black in this world constitutes two major hurdles that may prove impossible to overcome. Pepper LeBeija is another figure heavily featured in the documentary, and she talks frankly about her difficult journey being both Black and trans in the United States of the 1980s. Another, Venus Xtravaganza, has been immortalized through the film, her frank humor and honesty an essential aspect of the documentary. Paris Is Burning does not shy away from uncomfortable and heart-wrenching subjects. Many people featured in the film would succumb to AIDS and other illnesses in the years following the initial filming period. Venus was the victim of a still-unsolved murder in New York City during the process of creating the documentary. This film remains an iconic and indispensable piece of gay culture, and the impact that Black and trans creatives had on their communities and beyond.
Framed as a video project by director and star Cheryl Dunye, The Watermelon Woman offers commentary on Black women’s roles in film, the lesbian experience in America, and the complex intersections between race and sexuality. At times hilarious, desolate, and grippingly romantic, this film is a testament to the power of queer narratives in cinema. The titular Watermelon Woman is a fictional amalgamation of nameless Black actresses who were relegated to “mammy” roles in the early days of film. Our protagonist, Cheryl, goes on a journey to identify a (fictional) actress and give her the recognition she was never allowed during her own life. Along the way, she finds a newfound love with Diane and a jealous conflict with her friend and filmmaking partner Tamara. Her research into the “Watermelon Woman”, whose name in the film is Fae Richards, reveals an underground lesbian culture which remained a guarded secret in the actress’ life. This fictional character’s experiences mirror some of the lived experiences of real-life lesbian actresses. Cheryl comes into contact with her mother’s lesbian friend and Fae’s own partner in the pursuit of information on her life and legacy. Cheryl’s own struggles with her sexuality and race mix with the narrative of Fae’s life and career.
This film was the first directed by a Black lesbian to come to prominence and is considered a landmark moment in the New Queer Cinema movement. In order to craft a narrative about Black queer women in film, Dunye had to create the Fae Richards character. Her passionate pursuits of creating alternative histories in the lineage of Hollywood film is due in part to the lack of representation that still plagues the film industry today. Her humorous and biting observations about this reality create a thoroughly entertaining as well as educational film experience that is timely during this Pride Month and beyond.
For a more comprehensive look at lesbian filmmakers specifically, check out Lavender Limelight*, available via our Films On Demand streaming access.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) by David France
Marsha P. Johnson, referenced above, is a legendary gay rights activist that rose to prominence following the Stonewall Uprising in New York City. She is a significant and famous figure in the lineage of LGBTQ+ heroes. What is less well known, however, is the tragic story of her death. Following a gay pride parade in 1992, Johnson’s dead body was found floating in the Hudson River. The NYPD quickly ruled the case a suicide, citing her history of mental illness. However, many did not concur with the suicide ruling and argued that it obstructed investigation into the true circumstances surrounding her death. Sylvia Rivera, a close personal friend of Johnson’s, was just one of many queer voices to rise up in an attempt to bring justice for Marsha’s untimely death.
David France’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson is an account of this period in the gay rights movement. Blending archival footage of Rivera, Johnson, and other key figures in the Stonewall movement with present-day interviews of Johnson’s chosen family and friends, France paints a compassionate and powerful portrait of one of the most tragically misunderstood figures in the modern Civil Rights era. Trans pioneer and domestic violence counselor Victoria Cruz is followed by France as she continues to fight for justice for Johnson more than 25 years following her death. In the process, the film uncovers the touching details of Johnson’s life including and beyond Stonewall. Though Marsha P. Johnson is known today as a gay liberation revolutionary, she was also a real human being with triumphs and tribulations that are just as important as her acts at the Stonewall Inn. France’s film explores her multi-faceted life with care, love, and pride. It is yet another incredibly important film that explores the complex and often tragic interactions between gender, race, and sexual discrimination in America.
For more on Marsha P. Johnson, access the streaming version of Pay It No Mind: Marsha P. Johnson* via Media Services and the Alexander Street Press streaming service.
Pride Month is intended as a celebration of the activists who made it possible for queer people to live life with the same rights and dignity as others. It arose during a time in which that idea seemed impossibly remote. Many of these pioneering figures were not only gay or trans, but also Black or otherwise non-white. Given the Black Lives Matter protests happening across the country today in pursuit of justice and freedom, it is timely to turn attention to the ways in which racial and queer marginalization are so often linked to, and compounded by, one another. These films provide an honest look at the intersection of these issues in the United States, and they are an excellent way to celebrate Pride this year. TC
Guest student blogger Tanner Chaille has been a Media Services staff member for over a year and is active in media matters of all types on the IU Campus and beyond.
Juneteenth is a holiday that has at least some legislative recognition, in the form of a statute or official statewide observance, in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Considering its significance, Juneteenth is not as well known or widely observed among the general US populace as one would think, especially in comparison to the Fourth of July. The annual observance of Juneteenth commemorates the public reading in Texas on June 19th, 1865, of General Order No. 3, announcing that all slaves had been freed. If you’re doing the math between that announcement and the issue date of the Emancipation Proclamation, the latter occurred a full 2-1/2 years prior, on January 1, 1863. The reasons for the long stretch between the two are numerous, but many historians agree that the delay was due at least in part to Texas slave owners’ desire to reap the benefit of slave labor through one more cotton harvest.
Through IU Media Services department’s streaming platforms, you can use your IU credentials to access an in-depth documentary on the life and writings of Ellison, entitled Ralph Ellison: An American Journey (available through Alexander Street Press). TL:DR: watch a moving excerpt of that same documentary via Films On Demand’s Master Academic Collection entitled “Ellison’s Unfinished Work.” This 7-minute segment shows Toni Morrison doing a public reading of a passage from Juneteenth in which Ellison explores the complex relationship between Black women caregivers and the White babies they nurtured. Ellison eloquently captures the fraught changes in those relationships as the children grow up to assume a position at the top of the racial hierarchy.
There are not many feature films that reference Juneteenth, but Miss Juneteenth is scheduled for release in conjunction with Juneteenth 2020. A character study within a pageant film, the story, directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples, “explores how Black women and girls support each other in a world that often fails them.”
Juneteenth Productionsis a real-life effort to foster that same type of support. Launched by Emmy-award winner Judith McCray, the Chicago-based company focuses on educational and documentary media resources in support of social justice. McCray is also on the faculty of DePaul University and producer of the podcast Zebra Sisters: Crossing Racial Boundaries for the Chicago Sun-Times.
National Holiday/Local Observances
There have been numerous attempts over the years to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and the idea seems to be gaining traction as more US citizens come to understand the significance of the observance, its importance to the Black community, and its symbolic value as both a symbol of hope and a challenge to manifest the ideals of freedom proclaimed centuries ago. One of the most visible activists in the push for national holiday status is Ms. Opal Lee, a 93-year-old who has been walking in her home state of Texas and in many other states in the nation, many times accompanied by a crowd of supporters, to draw attention to the importance of Juneteenth.
Indiana University and the City of Bloomington have local traditions for celebrating Juneteenth, and though the pandemic is having its effect on in-person observances, Bloomington Black Lives Matter is hosting a safe, physically distanced event with the following guidelines: Please remember that this is a Black Community event! We will be giving priority to Black Community members. You can learn more on BLM B-town’s home page, including how to register for food and space.
Juneteenth events large and small are happening all over the country. Here are a few more that offer entertainment, education, and sometimes both. All events are either cost-free or offer a cost-free option:
Nnenna Ogwo is a classically trained pianist and teaching artist dedicated to engaging listeners with her lush, richly layered performances. Her unwavering commitment to programming the music of under-represented composers is rooted in the belief that we can’t be what we can’t see or hear. This commitment is reflected in her various projects and collaborations with other musicians of color in presenting music of the African Diaspora and beyond.
If you want to learn more about Juneteenth itself, check out the Juneteenth Jamboree series from KLRU-TV, the PBS affiliate station in Austin, Texas. From the inaugural episode in 2008 to the present, the annual Jamboree shows can be searched by topics such as Performing Arts, Community, Food and Dining, and History.
All of us at Media Services wish all of you a meaningful and joyful Juneteenth! HS
Heather Sloan is the Media and Maps Assistant at Herman B Wells Library. In conjunction with her library work, she is a scholar of Afro-Caribbean percussion traditions. Ongoing projects include studying the effects of deforestation on African diaspora drum-making traditions in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Haiti. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Library Science with a specialization in Digital Humanities at IU and was a 2019-2020 HASTAC Scholar.
Welcome to the launch of Media Services’ 2020-2021 blog post series, “Media, Democracy, and Justice.” Every two weeks, the department will devote its Media Beat blog space to issues and ideas at the intersection of media and justice. In conjunction with IU’s Fall 2020 Themester topic of Democracy, Media Services is committed to promoting discussion of issues fundamental to democracy and featuring strategies for engaging with democracy. Because there are so many thought-provoking films in our collection that explore a wide range of perspectives on—and approaches to—media and justice, our series will extend beyond Fall through the end of Spring 2021.
Our inaugural post, “Black Lives Matter: Past and Present Protests,” was written by a number of Media Services student staff members, who are dedicating the post to 38-year-old former IU football player Chris Beaty, who was shot and killed on May 30th at a protest in Indianapolis.
OUR WORLD TODAY
Protests have erupted around the world following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis who was arrested after being suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill. After being handcuffed, police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while two other officers restrained the rest of his body. Two medical examiners ruled the manner of Floyd’s death a homicide, though there are inconsistencies in the cause of death. As a result of the protests, Chauvin’s charge has been upgraded to second-degree murder and manslaughter and the other offices involved have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.
Floyd’s case is only one of many killings of unarmed African Americans in recent years. As a consequence of his death and the deaths of others, such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in order to demand change in the criminal justice system. Although most protests have started peacefully, some have included looting and property damage to some nearby businesses. As a consequence, curfews have been imposed, policing has increased, and police tactics have escalated.
IU’S PLACE WITHIN THE MOVEMENT
Indiana University is no stranger to student activism. National issues have regularly been addressed on campus, and that practice continues to this day. Student participation in protests at IU has at times been met with administrative resistance and negative public response. From the 1967 Dow Chemical Sit-In to the anti-war protest that accompanied the next day’s visit by then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk, up through present-day activism, response to student protests shapes the historical record. The Dow Sit-In was met with police brutality while the protest accompanying Rusk’s visit was not, and each prompted different levels of sympathy and backlash on the part of the general public. These responses contribute important information about what constitutes “acceptable” protest. Since public and institutional perception are defining factors in how such events are memorialized, they are worth examining critically.
Certain events in university history encapsulate IU’s place within the BLM movement. The Afro-Afro-American Student’s Association (AAASA) formation in 1968 by sociology graduate student Clarence Turner encouraged member participation in activism on campus. AAASA led student activists to stage a sit-in inside the stadium where Little 500 was set to occur later that day. From this display of activism, IU President Elvis Stahr was persuaded to issue a statement to all Greek chapters on campus to remove racially discriminatory clauses in their national charters.
In that same year, The Black Market on Kirkwood Avenue opened in collaboration with black students and faculty and featured books, clothes, records, and artwork celebrating black culture. On December 26, 1968, the store was firebombed, destroying the premises. This racially motivated attack was met with protest by students who used the event to speak to greater outrage about race relations on campus and in Bloomington. The incident highlights violent and continued racism in Indiana, and student activism in the face of community and institutional resistance.
Historically, IU students have taken an active role in protesting violence, inequality, and racism. IU’s current and increasingly diverse student population continues this tradition. IU Bloomington’s student population is large enough to exert considerable influence and effect significant change, whether on university policies, within the local community, or as part of the work toward a more equitable and free society. (Total degree-seeking enrollment across all seven IU campuses is over 91,000 students)
MEDIA RESOURCES ON PROTESTS AND RACIAL INEQUALITY
Although we cannot yet open our doors to the public, there are still many resources Media Services provides online! Here are a few films that help illuminate the history and present-day root causes of racial inequality in the world today:
If you are interested in learning more about how the Black Lives Matter movement started, check out this documentary. The film explores how Black Lives Matter started out as a hashtag and grew into a movement as part of a new era of civil rights activism.
Whose Streets? follows the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri, one of the most influential racial-justice uprisings in modern history. It began as a response to the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson PD, but the film also relates police brutality to the prison industrial complex, the politics of protesting, and socioeconomic barriers for Black Americans. Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, among numerous other accolades, Whose Streets? amplifies the voices of local protestors in a fight for civil rights.
A revered classic, Do the Right Thing follows rising tensions in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, due to issues of gentrification as well as overt racism. The film’s commentary on these issues is cleverly delivered in comedy by director Spike Lee. Released in 1989, this film is as relevant in 2020 as when it was released and is dedicated to victims of police brutality.
From the imdb.com synopsis: In White Like Me, anti-racist educator Tim Wise explores race and racism in the US through the lens of whiteness and white privilege. This is a great resource for those yearning to understand the perspective of people of color in the US.
Many American cities are considering major reforms to police tactics that would have seemed highly unlikely just a few years ago. This documentary follows the Newark Police Department in New Jersey and their journey to reform after being ordered to do so by the Department of Justice. This film addresses topics of policing and race.
Free Speech is Threatened on Campus: A Debate(IUCAT)
Peaceful protests have become more commonplace on college campuses in recent years. Students have protested issues ranging from white supremacy to climate change. However, some colleges have struggled with creating an atmosphere that allows for free speech but at the same time does not promote intolerance. This film features a debate about freedom of speech on college campuses.
MORE FILMS TO WATCH
Here is a list of other films related to the topic. These and more are available to stream using your IUB credentials. Check out more films at iucat.iu.edu, Kanopy, and SWANK.
IU Media Digitization & Preservation Initiative in 2017 digitized The Afro-American in Indiana radio broadcast series (1971-1983). In this collection, hosts Fr. Hardin and Sister Jane Schilling promote black history and explore a range of topics from medicine, law, labor history, colonialism, and finally Indiana-specific history.
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Although it’s important to stay connected and informed, the trauma and confusion related to unfolding events, on top of the persistent pandemic, can be overwhelming. Here are some accessible online resources you can utilize if you need to talk or otherwise process:
IU has counseling resources that you can access online or on the phone! Schedule a 30-minute session at 812-855-5711 or call the crisis line 812-855-5711 for an emergency session. Remember, each enrolled student has two free CAPS sessions per semester, so take advantage!
There are also numerous websites that aggregate contact information for therapists specializing in inclusive therapy for marginalized and intersectional communities, most if not all of whom have lived experience with the particular issues that arise from marginalization and/or exclusion. There are also reduced-fee and even FREE therapy options available. This is another article to help you find affordable therapy, whether you have insurance or not!
Beyond therapy, it’s also important to take the time to unplug from social media and the news. Everything happening in the world is at our fingertips and easy to consume, so remember to take steps to keep yourself from getting overloaded.
CALL TO ACTION – (BLOOMINGTON AND ABROAD)
There are so many ways that students can contribute to social change. Education is important in fueling and focusing energy and making sure the changes we make are lasting. There are lots of ways to incorporate what we learn into our civic involvement and action.
If you are interested in learning more about the Black Lives Matter movement specifically and the fight for racial justice within the criminal justice system more generally, the Bloomington BLM chapter’s website is a great place to start. The group lists a wide variety of ways to get involved with BLM itself or with other community groups and events. Protests, petitions, and donations are typical ways to contribute to the community, but there are many other options as well.
In the continuing tradition of social change and advocacy at IU, there is also a conversation about the role of the IU Police Department on campus, and the possibility of creating a police accountability board.
What do YOU hope future IU students will say about our generation’s place in IU student protest history?
As an exhausted senior, I constantly think and dream of change: moving to a new city, starting a new job, meeting new people—there are so many exciting moments and experiences ahead. But of course, change isn’t exclusive to any one point in time. Life is defined by continuous change and is often comprised of ones that you can’t anticipate.
I was recently introduced to a show that well captures the constant change that characterizes life: Fleabag. It’s about a woman referred to as Fleabag (yes, Fleabag) navigating life after loss and in between a whole lot else. The circumstances of her life and relationships are always changing in tragically hilarious ways. She owns a cafe, has a carousel of men at her disposal, and navigates intense family relationships. Fleabag’s dry, dark sense of humor clocks the otherwise tragic narrative and disguises it as a very clever comedy. The show is as painful and awkward as life itself.
What makes Fleabag so unique is that not only do we see the circumstances in Fleabag’s life changing, but we also see how they influence her interactions with others in her life. One of my favorite dynamics is between Fleabag and her sister Claire, because it’s probably the most erratic on the show. A self-described “cold” woman, Claire is certainly an opposite of—and foil for—Fleabag. She’s a high-powered international lawyer with great acclaim, an impressive office, and a recent promotion. To Claire’s dismay, however, she still manages to have a life that’s just as messy and crazy as her sister’s. This just goes to show that no matter how solid a hold you think you have on the course of your life, there will always be something beyond your grasp.
A key part of the show’s narrative is Fleabag’s use of asides within the story. When she breaks the fourth wall to make comments to viewers and/or herself is often when we see the most vulnerable and witty side of her. I believe there’s a lesson there; it’s important to contextualize the immediate events of your life into the the main overriding themes of your life: your relationships, your goals, and your fears. And of course, the main lesson from Fleabag is that, even when you wish to keep things constant, there will always be something unexpected around the corner, whether you like it or not.
Even if we can’t anticipate change, we can choose to look at it in different ways. Fleabag chooses to look at change with a self-deprecating humor, which is what makes the story so tragically hilarious. Even if she doesn’t deal with pain in the best way, there’s definitely value in being able to smirk in the face of adversity.
Note that this show is only for mature audiences, as it contains a lot of sexual content. There are conflicting reports on whether or not there will be a third season, but creator & lead actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge seems ready to leave Fleabag behind in pursuit of other creative ventures.
Waller-Bridge’s self-deprecating humor and wit form part of a great tradition in British comedy, and there are many films and shows in the Media Services collection emblematic of that same classic British comic style. The entire original British series The Office, on which the American version is based, is available for check-out, as is another dry British series, Absolutely Fabulous, which follows a group of friends having a good time and making bad decisions. Be sure to ask our Media Services staff for these titles upon your next visit! LA
Leah Ashebir is a senior majoring in Finance at Kelley. She enjoys watching Katherine Hepburn movies and the 2000s TV series Smallville in her spare time.