Week 2: Katelyn Black Response to Viewings

I believe that I am not alone when I say that I was absolutely moved by the work that these two social justice groups are providing for the underrepresented throughout the world. WITNESS and ENGAGE MEDIA are two programs that I come across that make me proud to call myself a fellow journalist (and ask myself what more I could be doing). The platform that they have provided for minorities and citizens across the world can have such far reaching implications that we may not even comprehend just how influential they will be to the attainment of justice.

WITNESS has a very interactive and engaging website that I found very easy to manage and comprehend just how many different issues they are engaged in to provide the voice of the people. But they don’t stop there. They provide a mecca of tools and knowledge for people to access on the ‘How-To’ section of the website so that they can create videos of their own in order to produce effective human rights advocacy. I was deeply saddened by the depth and sorrow that was captured on video in the Cambodia Land and Housing Rights Playlist. When they showed video of the police half carrying, half dragging an elderly woman by her appendages, I just about lost it. The cruelty that oppressors can muster has always disgusted me but the fact that Witness is able to provide a platform so these acts of cruelty do not go unnoticed gives me a sense that we are at least on the right path to justice.

On the WITNESS Youtube channel, I also  viewed the playlist for ‘Watching Syria’. There were only three short videos, (one of which was uploaded yesterday) but I was struck by the number of views these videos have attained in a very short amount of time. One of the videos, seemingly unexciting at first, begins with two men on a roof and suddenly they hear something falling from a sky. The man with the camera begins to run away and then runs back to record the giant explosion going off in the distance. The man keeps repeating a phrase, which I would probably loosely translate to “Oh My God!” These videos have been uploaded within the last two weeks. This is happening right now. WITNESS is scanning video uploads daily to make sure that they are finding these types of videos and making them readily available for all to see.

ENGAGE MEDIA is another program providing immensely important social and environmental videos from the Asia Pacific.  Their site provides an easy-to-view tile scheme of recent videos that have been added to the site. I spent some time getting to know the ‘Papuan Voices’ advocacy initiative that EM and fellow activists are providing to give the people voices that can be heard worldwide. Even though I could not understand some of the videos that I watched, Aku Anak Papua( I’m a Papuan Kid) was very powerful to me. The scene where the teachers are leading the children in song was such a universal and beautiful encounter.

Some of the issues that came up while I was researching these activists groups were mostly communication driven. Is there any way that we can attain English subtitles for these videos (that don’t already contain them) so that people around the world can also understand your message? I think that it would provide people from vastly different backgrounds and ethnicities the opportunity to fully grasp the weight of the situation in order to more effectively promote social justice. Is this a selfish wish so that I myself can understand them?

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5 comments to Week 2: Katelyn Black Response to Viewings

  • Lindsey Newkirk


    I share some similar experiences and questions with you. I too watched the video of the strife in Cambodia and specifically the film of the police “half carrying, half dragging an elderly woman by her appendages” and found this to be one of the bigger emotional triggers for me amongst all the films. I absolutely blows my mind that a collective group of individuals can treat other human beings like that in the name of power, prestige, profits?

    I think that one was especially powerful because of the back and forth between witness account and story telling. You had the opportunity to see the actual injustice taking place while simultaneously understanding the big picture, giving context to the imagery.

    I also appreciate your noting the “beautiful encounter” of the teachers leading the children in song in another video that you watched. I noticed the different approaches in some of the videos that I watched as well that had more of a positive spin; bringing awareness to an injustice/issue but using the lens of possibility, hope, and helping to instigate new dreams of ‘what it can be like’ if we address this issue.

    It reminds me of a speaker I saw recently who talked about the trends in great speakers in American history, one in particular that I remember was the MLK Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech. She spoke of the pattern that many of these great speakers shared which was a back and forth story telling approach that moved from ‘what is’ (current situation) to ‘what could be’ (desired reality). The format followed this back and forth but as the speech progressed, the time spent on ‘what is’ diminished, while the time spent on ‘what could be’ and even more so on identifying the new bliss and how that could become the new norm. As a journalist, do you see that this prescription for great speeches is relevant in film in terms of the opportunity to not only creating empathy but inciting a collective vision for social change and a more just and thriving future for us all. Have you seen this approach in other films or media applications outside of film?

  • epriebe@uoregon.edu

    I really struggled with some of the videos, mostly on the WITNESS channel, that didn’t necessarily provide context for what was happening. I watched the series of video about Saudi Arabian women driving with no English subtitles. While I can guess at the significance of the actions these women are taking, it would have been great to have a narrative component to many of these short clips that would elaborate on why what is happening on the ground makes sharing these clips so significant. Like you said, many of the clips, especially those taking place in Syria at this moment are profound, but I wonder if that is because our news is paying more attention to that region right now and we have more context to the issues surrounding that region.

  • kblack7@uoregon.edu


    I think this is a beautiful approach that you address. I don’t think I have ever directly been introduced with this specific framing, but I think examples of it can be found in many different places. I think many films and media stories these days have a unifying figure explaining and giving reference to a broader picture through storytelling. Many, if not all, documentaries could arguably seek out this approach. They are fighting for a desired reality through the coverage of a social issue, usually bringing magnanimity through relevance to themselves.

  • dereky@uoregon.edu

    I struggled with the subtitle issue too. I hope that Engage can fix that problem. I would get more out of the “story” if I could really understand not just bits and pieces of the story. I am assuming that they do want a wider audience for their videos. I could be wrong.

  • grabmypapers

    Interesting point of view. Check something of mine at grabmypapers.com

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