By Jonli Keshavarz, Staff Writer
// 2,220,300 Americans are behind bars. Nearly 1 million are African American. The mass incarceration of African Americans is not a recent epidemic but rather a historic ripple dating back to the era of American slavery.
The Acalanes Diversity Club, headed by seniors Jin Heo and Imani Boggan, showed the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, which examined this topic, on the night of Friday, March 10.
“Watching this documentary is important because it exposes people,” Senior and Diversity Club founder Imani Boggan said. “ When we go outside of our own little bubble we have to acknowledge that people come from different backgrounds and people are struggling with different things and we can’t jump to conclusions.”
13th, directed by Ava DuVernay, contends that the 13th amendment created a link between a criminal and a slave. DuVernay turns an essentially traditional element of America, the prison system, onto its head by arguing that African Americans never fully escaped the chains of slavery, they were just enchained in new ones.
“This was shown to me by my dad and I broke down in tears immediately after watching the movie because it was a personal thing for me,” Boggan said. “I realized how real it was.”
The decisions to show this heavy film was made by the Diversity club. The club was created this year and their goal is to broaden the perspective of students.
“In one of our meetings we were talking about finding ways to expose our students to different realities in a safe way by not making it personal,” Boggan said. “It wasn’t someone from our school having to be brave to stand up and say their story but just a video to watch.”
The decision to show the documentary proved to be a success as a multitude of students gathered on Friday to watch the film.
“To be honest I heard there was free pizza and I figured I might as well come,” Junior Ivan Dikov said. “ I consider myself a politically informed person and figured it might be interesting to learn about mass incarceration.”
After watching the film, Dikov found himself discussing the topic with the other students and seemed mindful of the issues presented by the film.
“I am very happy I came,” Dikov explained. “It shined a very important light on the value of a historical context on a major American issue that indirect effects all of us and has affected all of us for the last half century.”
Among the audience was Kate Gilbert, a member of the Diversity Club, who after watching the documentary was helping other students understand specifics of the film.
“I thought it was really important to get the word out about events that are happening in our country that people might not be aware of,” junior Kate Gilbert said. “Seeing the historical context and how it’s changed over time but it’s all really the same machine has really struck me.”
“I was interested to learn more about the incarceration because in some of my classes we were talking about that and the extra credit did get me more motivated to come,” Senior John Hoffman said.
Club members were satisfied with the turnout and hope the movie made its mark on everyone who attended.
“I hope people got something out of the documentary and if not I am thankful that they are at least here and listening,” Boggan said. “ I know how hard it is to watch this movie from both perspectives and I am incredibly thankful people showed up to endure.”