Real societal change is actually incredibly hard to make happen, especially when working towards tangible and enduring impact. Aaron Belkin will share what he learned about grassroots advocacy from his 2011 public education campaign that successfully brought about the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and is now working to add to the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Acclaimed graphic designer Bonnie Siegler has a new book, Signs of Resistance, A Visual History of Protest in America, which will inform her exploration of the art and posters that most effectively shaped movements in this country. Ramy Essan’s anthems fueled the Egyptian Revolution and has written more recent songs that have made his home country unsafe for him. Dallas Goldtooth is a Native American activist, singer and comedian who was a leader and organizer at Standing Rock. J.C. Redon is a pioneering chef from Mexico City who is trying to get people to eat a more sustainable source of protein - insects. Rounding out the program is a knockout short documentary called St. Louis Superman, which follows Bruce Franks Jr, a novice politician but experience battle rapper who is inspired to run for office by the events of Ferguson, Missouri.
St. Louis Superman
Directed by: Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan
Runtime: 28 minutes
Bruce Franks Jr. is unlike any other politician you have ever met. A 33-year-old battle rapper, he is also a state representative from St. Louis, Missouri who is known as Superman to his constituents. Inspired by the events of Ferguson activist, he has overcome unspeakable loss to become one of the most exciting and unapologetic young leaders in the country. This short documentary explores the mental trauma he’s had to deal with since his 9-year-old brother was shot and killed in front of him telling his story as he works to become a leader for his community.
Smriti Mundhra is an award-winning filmmaker who was on DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 Filmmakers to Watch and her latest film is St. Louis Superman, which has been acquired by MTV and will be part of Show 6, Change is Hard.
Sami has made several films, including the short documentary, St. Louis Superman, which has been acquired by MTV and will be part of Show 6, Change is Hard.
Dr. Aaron Belkin is a scholar who, since 1999, has served as founding director of the LGBT advocacy organization, the Palm Center. His 2011 public education campaign was responsible for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. As the architect and implementer of a groundbreaking shift in American military policy, Belkin will share what he learned about advocacy in our show, Change is Hard. His transformative work can be found in his book, How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Arianna Huffington called the book a “best practices guide for civil rights fights.”
Bonnie Siegler is a hugely accomplished graphic designer whose book, Signs of Resistance, A Visual History of Protest in America, looks at more than two centuries of protest art and design. At Original Thinkers, in our Change is Hard show, she will be talking about the real impact of art and visual imagery. An expert on art catalyzed by times of strife, Siegler describes vacillating “back and forth between rage and hope” in her work, resulting in a unique outlook on the power of gathering with a common cause. Siegler’s multi-disciplinary design studio Eight and a Half (http://8point5.com) has worked with an array of esteemed clients, and she was voted one of the 50 most influential designers working today by Graphic Design USA. Check out some of her work on her insta page: @Bonnie8point5.
Ramy Essam is a rocker, an agitator, and a force of nature live on stage. With a guitar in hand, Essam has been one of the loudest voices for Egypt’s struggle for a progressive society. He will sing and speak about using his talent to lead a revolution in our Change is Hard show, including his most notable song, Irhal. He performed it at the height of the Egyptian Revolution, demanding for the resignation of then-ruler Hosni Mubarak. Time Out has it listed as the #3 Song that changed history. “My cause is humanity and freedom and human rights. It’s very simple”. Essam experienced brutal torture and arrests intended to silence his voice because of his participation in the movement. His songs were banned and he was forbidden to perform publicly in Egypt. Undeterred, he eventually found safe haven in Sweden, and continues to perform today.
JC Redon is a chef from Mexico City who specializes in integrating a vital, high-protein, low carbon footprint source of food into our meals: bugs. Worms, ants, crickets, grasshoppers and other creepy crawlies are all part of his menu and his bold - and delicious - meals are certainly part of the future (if not, the present) of food on this planet. He will contribute both words - and snacks - to the program Change is Hard, explaining the challenges he faces trying to get people to eat something that we are naturally repelled by.
Bruce Franks Jr.
Bruce Franks Jr has an unusual resume for a State Representative. Hailing from Missouri, he is a community activist and battle rapper, whose tireless work on crime, guns and encouraging minorities to become police officers is starting to result in success. Inspired to run for office by what happened in Ferguson, Franks is also the star of the evocative documentary St. Louis Superman and will participate in the show, Change is Hard.