Ava DuVernay’s New Initiative Combines Education With Social Justice

Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Audi.
A year after the release of her powerful Netflix miniseries When They See Us, filmmaker Ava DuVernay is dedicated to continue sharing the heartbreaking story of the Central Park Five with the world. A brand new initiative launched by her multi-platform media company and arts collective ARRAY will use the Emmy-winning project as a tool for furthering social justice.
ARRAY 101 is a new online education initiative that shares dynamic social impact learning guides for the company’s films and television series with students all over the world free of charge. Described as supplemental learning materials for teaching students grade nine and above, the learning companions will be a resource to anyone looking to expand their knowledge of social justice and advocacy.
When They See Us will be the subject of ARRAY 101’s first guide, and it will centre on the experience of the five teenagers — Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray, Raymond Santana Jr., Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam — unfairly arrested and charged in connection to the rape of Trisha Meili in 1989. Without having any DNA evidence linking them to the horrid crime, the New York Police Department coerced the youths into giving false confessions, and they were each sentenced to serve time in prison. 
It wasn’t until several years later that the confession of the man actually responsible for the crime led to the vindication of the Central Park Five. With only a short time left in their respective sentences, the men were released from prison and awarded a $41 million settlement by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city of New York. 
While the story is utterly devastating, it’s a necessary reminder that we still have a long way to go to achieve equity in our society. DuVernay and ARRAY hope that by partnering with media company Participant to share these learning guides, students will have a clear understanding of the necessity of social justice and eventually develop their own effective advocacy and allyship models. 
When They See Us shines a timely and important light on the many challenges and pitfalls of the criminal justice system, which are heightened even more by COVID-19.” said Participant’s CEO David Linde in a statement. “We are proud to partner with Ava DuVernay and ARRAY on the When They See Us Learning Companion to educate the public, building from the power of an artist’s original voice, about the state of criminal justice reform and offer students, advocates and organisations resources to take action.”
"We’re thrilled to partner with Participant to launch our first ARRAY 101 learning companion, which expands on themes and topics in When They See Us,” added DuVernay. “I firmly believe that there must be a stronger bridge between what our industry produces and real teachers in classrooms.”
Starting today, the When They See Us guide is now available for download on ARRAY 101 as well as on Participant. Future guides will feature ARRAY projects Burning Cane, Jezebel, They’ve Gotta Have Us, and The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open) and will be released in the coming months.

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