New docu-series, “America to Me,” explores race and education

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How are students navigating issues of race and identity in their school and community? A new docu-series, America to Meis looking for answers. Although it takes place in Chicago, which may seem different than cities in New Hampshire, these conversations are relevant. A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that racial disparities exist in our schools.

This series explores a number of different questions: What is the difference between integration and desegregation? What is the impact of either, or both, on our education system? Does it yield the same effects? Where do good intentions fall short? And how can racial equity ensure that a dream, a promise, is realized?

New Hampshire is not immune to racial and ethnic disparities in academic achievement and graduation rates. In our state, 24% of Hispanic students and 22% of Black students do not graduate on time, compared to 11% of white students. In 2013, 82% of Hispanic and 73% of Black fourth-graders scored below proficient in reading, compared to 53% of white fourth-graders. The in-school suspension rate for Black students is twice that of their white counterparts, and out-of-school suspension rate is almost quadruple.

Across the state, people have said that the state can be unwelcoming to diversity and cultural differences. At a Manchester listening session, one resident echoed the sentiment. “Many people from other states, like Massachusetts, immigrants, they don’t want to come in New Hampshire,” the participant said. “Because they say the police they stop [them] for nothing.”

It has prompted the Governor to create an Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, tasked with identifying ways to combat discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion, and hold listening sessions across the state. In July, New Hampshire businesses came together with the state’s Director of Economic Development to become more inclusive and welcoming.

In addition to premiering on STARZ, Participant Media is launching a civic engagement and educational outreach campaign aimed at inspiring dialogue and action around the issues of race and equity highlighted in the docu-series. There will be a community screening in Boston, but the campaign hopes to reach all 50 states. Learn more here.
We would love to hear your reaction to this docu-series! Do you see parallels between the youth experiences in America to Me and in your schools? Would you be interested in bringing the docu-series to your school? Share your thoughts with us at staff@reachinghighernh.org.