At the end of the book, I wrote that I wanted to see “within the next five years a robust and coordinated strategy to change the racial justice narrative in a way that authentically and earnestly includes girls and women.” When the book was first published, girls of color — particularly black girls — were largely absent from discourses on equity in public education. Even when the data were available, many scholars chose only to share the stats for black boys, leaving out that more often than not, black girls were right behind them. Since then, we have been able to build a community that stands with and for black girls, and it is expanding.
What did you hope the impact would be of turning this book into a film?
The film is actually based upon my last two books, “Pushout” and “Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues: Education for the Liberation of Black and Brown Girls.” It is my hope that by bringing the book material to film, we are able to introduce the issue to an even broader audience. I am hoping that people will understand that the policies, practices, conditions, and prevailing consciousness that lead to the criminalization of black girls are not insurmountable.
You offer a variety of examples of what it looks like for black girls from different backgrounds to get pushed out of school. How did you choose whose experience to feature? Did you identify with one more than others?
The film features black girls who have experienced some of the most common pathways to confinement and being pushed out — those who have had their behavior described as sassy, combative and defiant when they are behaving in developmentally appropriate ways, and often in response to trauma. We also chose to center the stories of girls who are from communities in the United States that are often left out of national conversations like these, as well as the educators and advocates working with them to cultivate new opportunities.
I identify with each girl in different ways. I was a survivor of sexual assault. I was a fighter. I was bullied. I experienced abandonment and loss as a child. And yet, I had educators and learning spaces that did not criminalize my sometimes misguided reactions to these things.
Who was your audience for this film? What has been the reception?
Our goal is to reach educators, parents, policymakers, the extended community of adults that I call the “village of care,” as well as school-aged girls. And we’re getting there!
These conversations sparked by the film have led to task forces, working groups, and in some instances, new intervention efforts. We began at the Congressional Black Caucus, where Representative Ayanna Pressley hosted a standing room-only viewing for hundreds of people interested in making sure that black girls are included in efforts to promote education justice.