Teaching students of the slave rebellion in 'The Birth of a Nation'

A slave rebellion in Virginia. It's the subject of a film that won the Sundance Film Festival.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - A slave rebellion in Virginia and Black Lives Matter were the topics of discussion at the Uptown Theater in D.C. Wednesday.

Friendship Public Charter School students got to have that discussion after watching a special screening of “The Birth of a Nation,” a movie recently out in theaters portraying the story of a Virginia pastor and slave named Nathaniel Turner who led what historians call, one of America’s largest slave rebellions.

The movie is brutally realistic of the times.

Before going into the movie high school senior, Tyrek Powel, said he felt marginalized.

"There's no one in this world that'll actually come to our aid. We have to do stuff for ourselves,” he said. “We have to grow up fast, real fast in D.C., especially being a young black male.”

More recently, Powel and classmates said it has a lot to do with the police-involved shootings of unarmed black men.

"They're afraid when they're walking down the street, students coming to us, to me saying, have you see what's happening in the world, and they're doing this with tears in their eyes and it's tears of fear yes, but it's also tears of rage and they have to also figure out how they can channel that into something that's going to help our society,” said Patricia Brantley, FPCS’ CEO.

"Rebel,” shouted ‘Nat Turner’s’ character in the movie.

"It was something, it was pretty intense for a movie like that,” said a female student.

"It makes me feel kind of sad and it makes me really want equality and equity in the world more than there actually is,” said student Janae Chambers.

The students talked about this after. Some asked how to change any negative perceptions of African Americans. They also talked about today's protests and the violence they don't want to see.

“Our students have many ways to fight today, that isn't about taking up arms, it's about taking up a cause,” said Brantley.

Williams said the movie actually gave him hope that as a young, black man, like Nat Turner, he can make a change in his own way.

“Without picking up a knife, without picking up a gun, having a revolt is showing that we have the knowledge to do something,” said Williams.


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