Promoting activism is the goal of the Waukegan film series


Promoting activism through film on issues such as immigration, food justice, and helping people who have made bad choices recover, is the goal of a film discussion group developed by the Brushwood Center, Cool Learning Experience and the College of Lake County.

“I work with film and activism, with the idea that people want to get involved but don’t always know how,” said Emmett Williams, the filmmaker of the featured films. “Some people want a two-hour movie and a 20-minute discussion. We offer a 20 minute film and a two hour discussion.

The series — Lights! Camera! Take action!! – kicked off Sept. 16 with a film on immigration and continues Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. and again Nov. 18 at the College of Lake County Waukegan Campus, providing an opportunity for individuals to come together and talk about improving their world.

Williams said the October gathering will discuss food justice and in November the focus will be on reducing recidivism in part by helping individuals make choices that will prevent incarceration in the first place. Although the events are scheduled for 6 p.m., the film starts later.

“The movie will start around 6:30 a.m.,” Williams said. “We want to give people the opportunity to talk to each other first.”

Barbara Waller, executive director of Cool Learning Experience in Waukegan, brought Williams to town as a fellow to work with college students over the summer learning to make movies with purpose. As they worked together, the idea for the talk series evolved.

“We value the film as a tool for engaging community, citizenship and conversation,” Waller said. “We want to inspire environmentalism, citizenship and social change.”

Catherine Game, executive director of the Brushwood Center, echoed Williams and Waller’s view of the value of film as a tool to increase people’s commitment to improving their environment.

“We want to stimulate civic engagement, community activism and conversation, Game said. “When you see the movie and then talk to the people around you, you start to see how to make a difference.”

After a crowd of 60 to 70 people saw the first film, “The Garcia Family,” Game said there was a panel discussion with three people involved in the local immigrant community. As these became more engaged, there were questions and answers.

Williams said the story was about a man who took refuge in a church in St. Louis to avoid being deported to Mexico. He was married to an American, but due to increased enforcement by the US Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he was at risk of deportation. He was able to leave the church when federal politics later softened.

Jesus Ruiz, the dean of CLC’s Waukegan campus, said the film talk series was a natural fit for the school. Cool Ministries is based in Waukegan, within walking distance of the college. Community gatherings correspond to its mission.

“Our goal is to serve the community,” Ruiz said. “These films allow the community to have conversations about interesting topics.”

Although Williams continues to put the finishing touches on the second discussion, he said it will be about both food justice and food freedom. He will show a series of short films he has made, ranging from growing food for personal consumption to hydroponics and more.

Waller said there is a need to educate people about where finding healthy food is a challenge. She calls downtown Waukegan a food desert because nutritious offerings aren’t easy to come by for people who live nearby and have transportation challenges.

Ruiz said when the college launches its urban farm next year on the Waukegan campus, fresh produce will be available both to people who live nearby or who work in the area. It is modeled after the Farm on Ogden in Chicago.

“We’re hoping to sell cucumbers for 10 cents,” Ruiz said.

Williams said he recognizes community members are concerned about preventing recidivism, but he also wants to spark a discussion at the November rally about how to help people make choices that won’t lead. to a crime and the resulting prison sentence.

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