The Appalachian Media Institute (AMI) is proud to share Justice For All, the first of four youth productions from Envisioning Our Future– the 2016 Summer Documentary Institute (SDI). Each summer for the past 28 years, the SDI has invited central Appalachian youth aged 14-22 to engage in place-based education, documentary media making and creative youth development at Appalshop. The SDI provides a nurturing space for young people to explore the ways media production skills can be used to ask, and begin to answer, critical questions about themselves and their communities.
For 8 weeks throughout June & July, our youth interns and peer trainers participated in daily workshops in the Boone building– Appalshop’s digital classroom. During this time they also had the opportunity to travel twice to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to engage deeply in the city’s various models of community-based arts, through a collaboration with Carnegie Museum of Art.
Justice For All is a documentary film by AMI interns Oliver Baker and Aaron Combs that tells the story of community perceptions of the Black Lives Matter movement in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, shining a light on the realities of racial justice in a rural, predominantly white community.
Oliver Baker (18, Whitesburg KY) provided insight into his motivation for creating the piece, stating: “Our film is about a recent event that happened in Whitesburg, Kentucky. We felt that we needed to start a conversation about it, as well as participate in other conversations about recent national events and the Black Lives Matter movement. We want people to watch this and start talking about these things with one another and how we can create ways to end some of the violence that the nation endures. We decided to make a film about this subject because of how we felt after these recent events took place, not only in our community but in our nation. They were emotional for us so we wanted to try and make something that could promote change. A message I want to share with other young people in central Appalachia is for them to have hope and try to push for change for the better. To hold on and know that change can happen and that the world is massive and full of opportunities.”
He also reflected on his experience at AMI, “I applied to AMI because I knew it was a safe space, as well as a space for creating and learning about art and the power of media and storytelling. My experience at AMI is hands down the best experience I’ve ever had. I’m a completely different person now, for the better. I’ve made so many friends from so many different backgrounds. I’ve learned about people and their stories and have had a perspective changing look on life. It’s been a unique experience, to say the least. I’ve traveled to Pittsburgh and have been blown away by it. Visiting the Carnegie Museum of Art, making friends, and traveling around the city to experience its art and culture. It’s been a breathtaking experience. Me and my friends also had the opportunity to make a documentary. From late night coffee runs, to staying up all day and night, to finally seeing it all come together and knowing it all paid off. I’ve been able to be myself and I’ve found people who genuinely care about me. So my experience at AMI was by far the best time of my life.”
Aaron Combs (21, Vicco KY) reflected on his experience in making the film, stating: “Our film is about the conversation of human rights in regards to police shootings in this country. It’s a very intense subject matter that many people are afraid to speak openly about here. This film is intended to force people to talk about it and to not be afraid or let stereotypes portrayed in the media put them down.”
He also shared insights into his experience with AMI, stating: “I applied to AMI to expand my horizons to art and media, and to learn how to use a camera professionally. My experience in AMI was amazing– I met a lot of new and interesting people and saw exciting new places. I saw things I never thought I would see in my entire life, in ways I never could have imagined.”
You can watch Justice For All here:
To share this film with your community or to arrange a screening, please contact [email protected]
The 2016 Summer Documentary Institute was made possible by the generous support of our partners from PhotoWings, Making Connections News, Economic Hardship Reporting Project and JPB Foundation.