In addition to the annual festival in The Hague, the Movies that Matter Foundation is also committed to human rights films and -festivals around the world. Vivian Anderson, protagonist in On These Grounds (Activist Competition 2022), was visiting Amsterdam for the Black Achievement Month and also swung by our office in Amsterdam. While she was here we talked about her work as an activist and how the film brought a local initiative to the world stage.
Text: Louisa Bergsma
In On These Grounds, we see how New York activist Vivian advocates for the rights of young Black women, particularly in relation to police violence in schools. This is prompted by an incident in South Carolina (US) in which schoolgirl Chicara was violently dragged out of class by a police officer. An incident or an example of systemic racism? The video goes viral, upon which Vivian decides to travel to South Carolina to assist the schoolchildren there. Grassroots organisation Every Black Girl was born.
About her work as an activist, Vivian is down-to-earth: “People give you titles you don’t give yourself. This is the work we are supposed to do because we are humans on this planet, right?” With her organisation Every Black Girl, she works to ensure the safety of children in school, and women and girls in their homes and communities. Because, when they feel safe, they can also build something. Vivian:
My daily goal is to make sure that girls always feel like they can have joy. The stuff that is happening around them should not define the life they can create for themselves.
As a part of the Movies that Matter festival in The Hague each year eight documentaries are screened about the work of activists around the world. Movies that Matter supports protagonists from these documentaries during their stay at the festival with a networking and impact programme. Because of her role in On These Grounds, Vivian was also invited to participate in this Activist Programme. “It was an honour to be part of the festival along with the other activists,” she says. “The first few days, I was so impressed by the others’ stories, that I had to learn not to play some kind of ‘Activist Olympics’ in my head. Eventually, I managed to connect all the stories to each other and also to my own work. The fight for land conservation in the Amazon (The Territory), for women’s rights in Israel (Women of Valor), it all relates to the issues we are working on in South Carolina and the United States. I tried to learn as much as I could by looking at the similarities and thinking: what can I take away and how can I use that for Every Black Girl?“
After the festival Vivian’s phone didn’t stop ringing. “Thanks to the international attention the movie received, Black girls and women were put on a world stage with their own story, their trauma and their pain. That had the biggest impact for me. It was the starting point to have the conversation about systemic racism at both national and international levels. I want every Black girl to see themselves in that movie, and start seeing themselves as the solution to the problem.”
Movies that Matter continues to support the activists after the festival. To create more awareness for their work through the film, screenings abroad are funded through the Activist Outreach Programme. For On These Grounds, this funding will be used to organise 50 screenings in schools across the United States to continue the conversation about racism and police presence in schools.