Mater Dei Prep students combat hate, intolerance by producing film shown at United Nations
By David Karas | Correspondent
“Obnoxious.” “Sensitive.” “Too Poor.” Such are the words written on tape and placed over the mouths of teens in a film produced by and featuring Mater Dei Prep, Middletown, students.
The video, which focuses on anti-bias and tolerance, was selected from among 750 global entries to be shown to attendees at the International Day of Tolerance program at the United Nations.
Watch the film ‘A House Divided’
Junior Elizabeth Sheridan, a member of St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, had the word “quirky” over her mouth in the film.
“This word, which seems harmless, is a word that differentiates a person from others,” she said. “Although it is not one that is commonly regarded as an ‘insult,’ it is something that is able to lead to further issues because of its ability to allow the user to label a person.”
The United Nations observed the International Day of Tolerance Nov. 16 at its New York City headquarters with the special conference held in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The U.N. invited students to create a presentation to bring to life an article of the Universal Declaration and to demonstrate how it can be applied in the world today.
The video, which was created by students in the school’s Global Leaders Institute, was intended to address Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” The film, “A House Divided,” features powerful images of anger and violence as well as the students acting as people trying to spread peace by standing up for victims of hate. Victims had tape over their mouths with words like “religious” or “outspoken,” and the peacemakers ripped those labels off. Some students also held books by notable authors.
“The video became an extension to a lesson we were working on in The Global Institute regarding implications of bias and hate rhetoric in our communities and the role we can play in addressing it,” said George Anthony, head of the program. “The theme came as a response to the hate rhetoric that is becoming almost a constant intrusion into our lives. Hate creates obstacles to human dignity where we fail to see one another as children of God and only identify one another by labels that others try to impose on us.”
Mater Dei Prep sophomore Rose Petry said the film was the result of a strong collaboration among students.
“From one idea to another, we all had the same concept we wanted to get across to the world – ‘Don’t let others silence you for who they think you are,’” she said. “We selected this article because our leadership development class is built upon speaking up for others and to hold our own ideas.”
Stopping Hate Where it Starts
Sophomore Devon Perrotta, 15, is seen in the film holding the book, “Night,” by Elie Wiesel, along with the Declaration of Human Rights.
“I chose Wiesel’s book because it shows how you can go through something terrible and not let it define who you are. Instead of responding with hate, he shared his story,” Perrotta said.
Perrotta added, “We should try to stop hate where it starts, when people have a negative bias. If we don’t stop it at bias, it will move on to stereotyping, discrimination, violence and eventually death.”
Sophomore Chika Efobi used the book “I Am Malala,” for the purpose of showing, through the book, “how far peace and tolerance can go.”
“I hope people take away from this video how simply trying to understand someone else’s viewpoint could bring about a whole new level of open-mindedness,” Efobi said. “I would encourage others to try and push for more tolerance and understanding by simply asking non-confrontational to diffuse the situation to keep a cool and level head.”
Sophomore Camryn Brathwaite noted the power of the message behind the film.
“It serves as a constant reminder that it isn’t hard to bring about peace in our communities, although sometimes we place labels upon ourselves and others that can block positive creativity and peace-building,” Brathwaite said. “Looking past these labels creates an environment for togetherness within individuality, and a mindset of tolerance for the future.”
Brathwaite also offered advice for those seeking to build peace: “A young peacebuilder can take steps toward understanding by starting within their own friend group … after creating strong bonds with others that are built on acceptance and compassion, they can take on a broader scale of peacebuilding at school, in the workplace, over social media, in the community and even throughout the country.”
The Institute wants to bring the video into middle and high schools to extend the discussion. And the students are also working on another video in which students will share details about their struggles and dreams. They will also share short video clips telling their story.
“With the help of the United Nations, I believe that we can reach for our goals of creating a bright future for next generation,” Petry said. “We are reaching out to students to bring our words to other young people to show we are all in this together.”[[In-content Ad]]