UMN Media Matters series screens “13th” for Black History Month

The documentary “13th” provided an avenue on campus for discussion about race and the criminal justice system.

Katie Lauer

For some University students, Black History Month provided the perfect occasion for a showing of the film “13th” on Wednesday.

The screening was part of a new series called “Media Matters” put on by Multicultural Student Engagement.

The documentary, named after the amendment that abolished slavery, looks at and argues for the connection between slavery and the modern mass incarceration system.

Shakeer Abdullah, the assistant vice president of the Office for Equity and Diversity, said the combination of education and entertainment allowed for learning and discussion.

“I think this moves into that realm of ‘edu-tainment,’” Abdullah said. “The nature of Netflix is an individual cinema. [ … ] It doesn’t provide the same platform for conversation.”

For University Huntley House members Daniel Okabue and Dijon McCain, the power media has to create dialogue is essential.

“Media is a reflection of society. It can shape narratives, thoughts and feelings,” Okabue said.

“We haven’t moved as far as we think we have as a society,” McCain said. “[The film] enlightens people on the face of oppression. It’s important to understand why it’s important.”

Ethan Brownell, a mechanical engineering senior at the University, attended the showing after hearing about it in a leadership class. He said he was overwhelmed by the film.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Brownell said. “It’s important to hear different perspectives and be exposed to things we’re not used to.”

“It’s a really hard conversation to have,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve to be in the conversation, but it starts with events like this.”

Stephanie Chrismon, the Multicultural Student engagement program specialist, decided to start the “Media Matters” events because she feels media and pop culture are the perfect way to connect with students and facilitate discussion.

She said they wanted to show “13th” because it’s stark and revealing — especially in the current social and political climate.

“These are landmark times,” Chrismon said. “We need to be more aware of truth in media and more aware in society.”

“This history affects us all. We want to take the accessible and elevate it. Elevate the voice, come together and talk about it.”