Global Ties Movie Night- Mexico


I pulled into the parking lot of the Missouri Innovation Campus on a Tuesday afternoon in July, and, as I did so, I couldn’t help but admire the snazzy building that stood before me. My 2:30 (which ended up being a 3:00, so I was early, a lucky-strike-extra) was a quick meeting with our interfaith programming czar, Clare Stern. We mapped out our event space and checked A/V capabilities for what would be an evening of cinema and civil discourse. So, lots of circular tables, open space for cheesy icebreakers, a linear corridor for our buffet traffic, and fun rolling chairs were in order. 
Readers may know that the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance, Faith Always Wins Foundation, and Global Ties KC join forces for our Movie Night event series. Acknowledging that faith-based systems do not exist in a vacuum, our Movie Nights focus on the nonreligious factors that intersect our identities and shape our lived experiences. It’s always a pleasure to share a meal, a movie, and a reflective dialogue with peers in Kansas City and from around the world, and it has been for three years and counting. This July, we were fortunate to welcome a fourth partner in the University of Central Missouri’s Summit Technology Academy. As we welcomed their partnership, they graciously welcomed us into their physical home.
For Faith Always Wins, collaborating with UCM crosses a state line. With Global Ties, the boundaries are international. One distinct element of Global Ties’ international students’ trips is the particular subject matters that frame their United States experience. Our guest delegation’s topic of interest was the sociology of high school dropout in addition to methodologies and technologies for English language learning. 
Existing conveniently at the nexus of those two topics is the movie Freedom Writers. Based on a true story, the film chronicles the rise of a high school English class in the 1993 Los Angeles urban core. With the help of a newly transferred teacher who is as tenacious and inspiring as she is young and idealistic, the students take ownership of their learning via journaling, teambuilding, and literary analysis, and they begin to see beyond the confines of their disadvantaged situations into a future that breaks cycles of poverty, deconstructs school-to-prison pipelines, and transcends the segregation and interethnic tensions that permeate Rodney King-era L.A. 
In our post-film discussion, we came to the collective understanding that Freedom Writers is a testament to the power of accessible education, relationship-building, and recognizing our universal desires for peace and stability regardless of who “our own” may be. One of my new friends from Mexico, sitting a few seats to my right, made an impassioned call for apoyo — support for one another — in a world that so often seems fraught with division. Equally profound contributions followed. By the end of the night, 50 or so young minds, not too dissimilar from my own, simmered with sentiments of valuing our education, of cross-cultural parallels, of a plural world lubricated with kindness. On my drive home, I savored them all. 
Most of our Movie Nights take place in religious spaces throughout the metro; most of which happen to exhibit humbler architecture than the place I just left. I think back to my admiration of the Missouri Innovation Campus a few days earlier, and upon reflection I determine that I appreciate its snazziness on more than just a superficial or materialistic level. Though the building is sleek and the interior light and airy, the academic openness of the institution and the level playing field provided by its secular mandate seem to foster a setting in which our discussion could resonate on the bandwidths of all persons — from the atheist to the nominally religious to the devout. For the purpose of this event series, which focuses on the nonreligious factors that intersect our identities and shape our lived experiences, such a setting was particularly conducive to our dialogue. This edifice quite literally played host to the edifices of our complex identities as we engaged in a conversation that drew connections among all of us, a conversation that unearthed from among our differences our common humanity.
 And the best part, to me, is that what went down at the Missouri Innovation Campus that night isn’t a rare occurrence. The Faith Always Wins Foundation, the folks at Global Ties, my peers in the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance are doing this work, facilitating these discussions, engaging in service projects together, pioneering flagship programs like SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World, and so much more every day. The goal here is to build appreciative knowledge and to cultivate decency so that world is a little safer and more affirming for all of its citizens. Hopefully, in doing so, we’re, all of us, able to write a little bit more freedom into the stories of our own lives.

Jack Reeves

(Jack will be a freshman at George Washington University in Washington D.C., this fall.)


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