Documentary, not rated, 90 minutes,
Daje Shelton was seventeen when she found herself standing before a judge after a fight at school. She was forced by the court to attend an alternative high school for troubled teens or risk being sent to a juvenile detention center. Growing up in a rough neighborhood in St. Louis, she determines to make something of her life, but young black people from her neighborhood face nearly insurmountable odds.
The film is a powerful look at some of the reasons the Black Lives Matter movement exists, although it’s not the focus of this documentary, which is mainly told through the eyes of Daje, a junior in high school, in the days before, during, and after the events in nearby Ferguson that were prompted by the shooting death of Michael Brown. Brown’s death occurred during filming, and Daje’s community acutely feels the pain of it. You will not soon forget the rage and despair of a mother whose sixteen-year-old son has been senselessly killed. She rages at a crowd of his friends at the funeral: “You all get to go to school one more day.” It’s devastating to watch.
is an affecting and at times gutwrenching story that touches on the broader issues of poverty, racism, and police brutality. The judge who sentenced Daje is also her new high school principal, and he makes it emphatically clear to the students at the school that his intention is to keep them out of the prison system. It’s a rough school, but also a place for second chances rather than punishments. The instructors do their best to prepare the students for the outside world, knowing firsthand the difficulties they’ll face. Even the school lunch lady encourages the students — “Hold your head up and walk the walk of a queen,” she says.
“When you step off this block, you might see something different,” Daje’s mother tells her. Meanwhile, what Daje sees are friends gunned down in senseless acts of violence (her own cousin was shot 25 times by police), rioting in the streets, and a larger public that is indifferent to the police brutality and oppression targeting their community. Instructors at the school and the kids’ parents talk about getting out,
continued on Page 42