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UFT’s Black History film series

Civil rights lessons revisited
New York Teacher
Bernadette Alexander, a teacher at PS 204 in Morris Heights, the Bronx, joins th
Jonathan Fickies
Bernadette Alexander, a teacher at PS 204 in Morris Heights, the Bronx, joins the discussion following the showing of “13th.”

The UFT celebrated Black History Month by screening a series of three films that explored some of the American heroes and historical events marking that history. “These documentaries challenge us to both know our legacy and to continue the struggle the union has long fought for social and economic justice and civil rights,” said UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr in introducing the series. The first film, “Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed,” focused on Shirley Chisholm’s historic bid for the presidency in 1972. Chisholm, a former teacher, served six terms in Congress and was chair of the House Labor Committee, but as UFT Vice President Janella Hinds observed at the Feb. 1 showing, “Too often stories of heroic women are left in the background.” Zamyra Abdel Hady, the chapter leader of the Living for the Young Family Through Education chapter, said, “I will not be passive anymore” as a result of her participation in the Women’s March and the viewing of the Chisholm film. On Feb. 13, the Oscar-nominated 2016 documentary “13th,” a reference to the Constitution’s 13th amendment, explored the nation’s history of racial inequality through the lens of the criminal justice system. “Rising from the Rails: The Story of the Pullman Porters,” the Feb. 28 showing, chronicled A. Philip Randolph’s 12-year battle to create the first all-black union. In spirited discussions following the screenings, viewers expressed their appreciation for the new and deeper understanding of the events and pioneers depicted in the films. Parent Mirna Martinez said she felt bad that her son didn’t know of the events and people in the Chisholm film and resolved to do more to educate him about that history. She recommended showing the films in public schools. George Altomare, one of the union’s founders, reminisced about Chisholm. “It is as if it were yesterday that we endorsed her for Congress and later awarded her the Association of Teachers of Social Studies Hubert Humphrey Humanitarian Award,” he said.