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ACS BLOG
on the record

5.6.2021

‘Rap Squad’ virtual screening and discussion to highlight self-expression through the arts

by
Kody Ford

Arkansas PBS will host the free, virtual screening event and panel discussion “Rap Squad: Where Music, Arts & Education Converge” Thursday, May 13, at 7 p.m. to explore how students can have a voice and speak their truths through a creative outlet. Registration for the event is required at myarpbs.org/rapsquadevent.

“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 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. “Rap Squad” is part of the Reel South documentary series, that reckons with the South’s past, present and future.

Panelists for the screening will include:

  • Director Nathan Willis, a commercial and documentary filmmaker based in the American South. In the past he has directed short-form documentaries for Vice, MSNBC, Fusion, PBS and the Academy Award-winning production company, Participant Media.
  • Producer Nolan Dean, 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.
  • Victor Sellarole, co-founded the Rap Squad. After studying English Literature at UC Berkeley, he taught English for four years in Arkansas and was a 2017 LEE Community Organizing Fellow. Sellarole 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, co-founded the Rap Squad. After studying political science and education at Berkeley, she taught English in Arkansas. Afterward, she recruited college students to TFA and worked in education policy. Now, Rossoni works at a venture firm in San Francisco that specializes in helping young people start their own companies.
  • Hung Pham, 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 K-12 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.

Leading the discussion will be Clarice & Kwami Abdul-Bey, co-conveners of the Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement, 2021 Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice - Arkansas Peace Activists of the Year recipients and co-directors of the Washitaw Foothills Youth Media Arts & Literacy Collective.

“Reel South: Rap Squad” will air on Arkansas PBS Sunday, May 16, at 10 p.m. and stream at myarpbs.org/watchlive.

Executive producers for “Rap Squad” are Craig Renaud and Courtney Pledger.

Arkansas PBS, Arkansas’s only statewide public media network, enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. Arkansas PBS delivers daily, essential, local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers through multiple digital platforms, including livestreaming at myarkansaspbs.org/watch, on-demand services and YouTube TV, and the distinct channels Arkansas PBS, Arkansas PBS Create, Arkansas PBS KIDS, Arkansas PBS WORLD and Arkansas PBS AIRS on SAP. Members with Arkansas PBS Passport have extended on-demand access to a rich library of public television programming. Arkansas PBS depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at myarkansaspbs.org. Arkansas PBS is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro) and KETZ (El Dorado).


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At the ACS, we believe that if we provide filmmakers an arena to exhibit their talents, and film enthusiasts a healthy diet of quality programming, we can inspire more Arkansans to make and watch more films. By supporting filmmakers, festivals, theaters and young people interested in filmmaking throughout the state, we hope to create statewide network, pool Arkansas’s resources and be an umbrella organization that feeds all things film. We believe a rising tide lifts all boats.

watch,
learn,
make.
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connect to create.

To be a filmmaker, we have to connect to create. A painter needs a brush, paint and a canvas. A director needs a writer, a cinematographer, a sound mixer, production designer, editor, actors, distributors, and an audience. We cannot do it alone. This art form forces one to collaborate and thus, creates jobs. Filmmaking is unique in the arts in this way. It takes an army.