Still More Eloquent Voices Heard From
Published in Inside - Volume XIII, No. 1
From NYC’s deputy schools chancellor to Spike Lee’s co-producer, a diverse cast of speakers weighs in
While the panel discussion at September’s launch event for the “Teaching The Levees” curriculum produced the most fireworks, the surrounding cast of speakers also spoke poignantly about Katrina, its aftermath, and the need for civic education in
Marcia Lyles, Deputy Chancellor of New York City’s public school system, spoke about the tension in America between education as a “a way of preparing an informed citizenry and a sorting system that determines who will run our society and who will take out our garbage.”
Reflecting on civics courses she took during her own high school years in which students debated
“We’re focusing on cultural diversity – how we honor those who are different, what we know about ourselves, and how we look at power, authority and governance,” she said. “Because while we may not have breaking levees here in
Watching the Spike Lee documentary was “painful” for her, Lyles said, because she felt both guilt and relief that the tragedy did not directly affect her – but also because it made her feel helpless.
“So I’m grateful there are educational organizations who would take on a project like this,” she said. “Ultimately, we have to take this kind of discussion out of our living rooms and into the classroom, because that’s where the learning will happen.”
Darren Walker, executive vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation and a Gulf Coast native, said that New Orleans, while similar to other poor U.S. cities of comparable size, was special not only by virtue of the Katrina disaster, but also because it “embodies the often contradictory aspirations of the American ideal.
“The day after Katrina, I got a call from a colleague in
Rebuilding the city,
Jackie Glover, executive vice president of HBO, which produced the documentary, said that Spike Lee’s film grew out of a desire on the part of both the director and HBO itself to go beyond the wrenching news footage of Katrina that had already aired widely on TV.
“We had seen the people standing on cars and on roofs, but we didn’t know them,” Glover said. “Spike gave them a voice – they opened up to him, they trusted him. We knew he could tell the story in a way no one else could.”
And Sam Pollard, Lee’s co-producer and close collaborator, said the development of a curriculum based on the documentary created a rare and special opportunity to keep the film’s message alive and reach a far broader audience over an extended period of time.
“It’s an amazing thing for documentary filmmakers to see their work given to students around the country learn more about this incredible chapter in our country’s history,” Pollard said. “This film is going to have a longer shelf life, and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Pollard showed a ten-minute clip from the film in which a range of
“I’m a citizen of the