“Rap Squad” Preview Screening Event
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Join Arkansas PBS for a free virtual event and panel discussion with filmmakers, participants, and innovative educators, “Rap Squad: Where Music, Arts & Education Converge.” In this intimate documentary, two high school hip-hop artists seek healing for themselves and justice for their community through their music. In Rap Squad, an after-school music club, the students discover a new creative outlet for all of their fears and anxieties in a space where they can positively connect with others, build confidence, and start channeling themselves into affecting greater change in their local community. The post-screening discussion, led by Clarice and Kwami Abdul-Bey, will introduce you to the young artists, filmmakers, and educators of Rap Squad. Innovative educators will also join the conversation to highlight the importance of developing creative, innovative ways of teaching and thinking.
“Rap Squad” is an intimate verité documentary about Arkansas high school hip hop artists who seek healing for themselves and equity in their community through their music. In the Arkansas Delta, students Montae and Ray join an after-school club – the Central Rap Squad – and begin writing music to cope with personal traumas. When their rural town prepares to vote on a proposal that would raise property taxes in order to build a new public high school, the young men shift their focus from inner healing to social action, using their music and platform to fight for a more equitable future. The most prolific writer/rapper in the Central Rap Squad, sophomore Montae feels like an outsider in Helena-West Helena and is coping with the death of his father. Montae’s dedication to his craft and to creating positive change for himself and others gives him a platform that elevates his status from outsider to leader. Ray is a sophomore coping with depression and anxiety. He’s bullied, and both he and his mother struggle through health issues. Through his music and loyal friendship with Montae, Ray emboldens everyone around him to stand up for what is right and to not take “vote no” for an answer.
- Casey Sanders
Arkansas PBS Outreach Producer
- Veronica Palmer - Arkansas PBS
- Julie Thomas - AR PBS
- Nathan Willis
Nathan is a commercial and documentary filmmaker based in the American South. He loves telling stories that are full of beauty, passion, and hope. In the past he has directed short-form documentaries for Vice, MSNBC, Fusion, PBS and the Academy Award-winning production company, Participant Media. He loves his wife, his dog, Atlanta Braves baseball, and is passionate about making the world a more empathetic and hopeful place.
- Nolan Dean
Nolan Dean is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary filmmaker based in the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta who has centered his practice on producing compelling narrative and documentaries in the Delta that promote cross-cultural empathy and human welfare. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Dean fell in love with the Delta the day he visited his future wife, Jackie, a former classmate from Texas who had moved to Helena, Arkansas to teach. Jackie was kind, honest, and beautiful. The Delta was authentic, community minded, and rich in story.
- Teumontae Johnson
Teumontae: Teumontae Johnson was born in southern California, and moved to West Helena, Arkansas in middle school. He graduated from Central High School. There he participated in honors classes, and was a founding member and Co-Captain of the Rap Squad. Teumontae has written and produced dozens of original songs and poetry. He now works and lives in Memphis, TN.
- Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas was born and raised in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. He attended public schools through high school, and was co-captain of the Central Rap Squad. He also played football and participated in honors classes. He now lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee and is still writing and producing new music.
- Victor Sellarole
Victor Sellarole studied English Literature at UC Berkeley. In Arkansas, he taught English for four years, co-founded the Rap Squad, and was a community organizer. Afterwards, he was a 2017 LEE Community Organizing Fellow. He currently teaches English at Herbert Hoover Middle School in San Francisco and serves on the Culturally Responsive Literature and Nonfiction Review and Recommendation Committee.
- Jess Rossoni
Jess Rossoni studied Political Science and Education at Berkeley. In Arkansas, Jess taught English, co-founded the Rap Squad, and engaged in community organizing. Afterwards, she recruited college students to TFA and worked in education policy. Now, Jess works at a venture firm in San Francisco that specializes in helping young people start their own companies.
- Hung Pham
Hung Pham is the Director for the Center for Children & Youth and the Interim Executive Director for Arkansas A+ Schools, both at the University of Arkansas. His work encompasses a range of programs for K12 students, pre-service teachers and classroom educators to foster literacy, arts/creativity, and pro-social learning. In 2019, Pham and CCY received the Governor’s Arts Award for contributions to the arts in education.
- Stacey McAdoo
Stacey James McAdoo, our “forever” 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, is the founder of the spoken word collective called Writeous Poets from Little Rock, Arkansas. For seventeen years she served as an Oral Communications instructor and the AVID College & Career Readiness Coordinator at the historic Little Rock Central High School. She currently teaches Educators Rising (a class for high school upperclassmen who aspire to become teachers), works with the LRSD Novice Mentor Program, and is an adjunct instructor in UCA’s Teaching and Learning Department where she continues to be the living embodiment of her ATOY platform of using passion and poetry to close the opportunity gap. She is also the creator and host of the education podcast “A Mile in My Shoes: The Walk and Talk Podcast.” Visit her blog at www.stillstacey.com to learn more.
- Leron McAdoo
Leron Charles McAdoo, a.k.a. Ron Mc The Hip Hoptimist, has lived in Little Rock his whole adult life. He and his wife, Stacey (2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year), have two children. He is visible within the community advocating for the youth and the arts. Leron has been an educator in Little Rock since 1994. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and has completed graduate coursework at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas Tech University. Mr. McAdoo has been recognized as a distinguished poet, artist, writer, and author, professional development facilitator, motivational speaker, and community organizer. He has used his skills in the areas of music, writing, and art to facilitate solutions to community concerns, with the intention of making Little Rock the best city it can be. Leron understands the benefits of diversity. He has demonstrated through his various endeavors how to provide a venue for everyone's voices to be heard. A wide range of organizations has recognized Leron McAdoo for his commitment to community service. He has served on the United Methodist Church Central District Leadership Team, City of Little Rock Arts and Culture Commission, Roots Art Connection Board, Ascension Arts Academy Board, Central Arkansas Music Awards Board, and the National Education Association Delegation for Arkansas. He is the Co-Founder of the Writeous Poets (Spoken Word Youth Collective), Co-Founder of Foreign Tongues Poetry Troupe, and the Co-Founder of Backyard Enterprises. Leron has been recognized as a master artist, national poet, and Hip Hop and youth culture advocate.
- Clarice & Kwami Abdul-Bey
Event Moderators Clarice & Kwami Abdul-Bey, Co-Conveners of the Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement and 2021 Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice - Arkansas Peace Activists of the Year recipients. They have partnered with Arkansas PBS and regularly lend their voices to the Arkansas PBS Engage Blog as they continue their work in promoting peace and justice in Arkansas. Clarice and Kwami are the co-directors of the Washitaw Foothills Youth Media Arts & Literacy Collective.
- Victor Sellarole
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The views and opinions expressed in this online screening are those of the presenters and participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of ITVS, public broadcasting, or any entities hosting the screening.