Peace In Schools: Freedom Writers (movie)

Movie Review: FREEDOM WRITERS Long Beach, CA

I work in the three zip codes surrounding Wilson H.S. in Long Beach, CA and now wonder how many Freedom Writers (unbeknownst to me) have signed for Express Mail! I can start my route in Cambodia Town and 15 mins later find myself at the mailboxes of mini mansions of Naples and Belmont Shore.

I've seen kids attacking each other along my beat on their way home from school. I've seen the helicopters hover and the cops close streets due to homicide at 10:30am. I've been in the midst of a clobbering myself when a "White Power" couple started in on my colorful group of friends at a club inside a bowling alley (RIP).

Long Beach is the most diverse city in the nation and, where you have differences you HAVE FEAR. (I am willing to bet that cars that have tinted windows get shot at more than those without tint due to "fear of the unknown"). It's a place where you're gunned down because of the music you listen to, the bike you ride, the language you speak, the clothes you wear. (Of course the city has lovely safe areas near the beach and tourist spots ;)

The FREEDOM WRITERS movie characters all have names, but in the book "Freedom Writers Diary", the writers are anonymous.  They are labeled by their journal entry numbers which have been creatively woven together, seamlessly connecting their own personal sorrows, challenges, and chaotic homelives. (Eva reminds me of Roma, a LB Mom who lost her son Paul in a drive-by when he was looking to buy a car with his earnings!)

The teacher, Ms. Gruwell is married to someone who first appears to

somewhat support her effort but he is definitely not ON her team.

(He reminds me of my own exhusband who told me I couldn't change the world). 

As Ms. G realizes her student's priorities are SURVIVAL not

studying, she creatively personalizes music, books, movies, and

experiences from kids around the world who share their plight. Her

classroom becomes a safe haven, a second (and preferred) home to her students, some who were evicted and homeless. These "loser" kids who weren't expected to stay in class begin to have a yearning for learning envied by the school's "smarter" kids.

The Diary of ANNE FRANK inspires meetings with Holocaust survivors as well as ZLATA FILIPOVIC from Sarajevo, a young girl the same age as Gruwell's students who writes the books Foreword (a masterpiece in itself I might add!) To quote Zlata, "The Freedom Writers chose to break this cycle " ... of anger, hatred, fear ... " and make their positive (learning) experiences a lesson for generations to come."

Gruwell didn't just change the lives of 150 students she empowered, she affected Long Beach's future crime rate AND is currently empowering teachers everywhere!

I'd love to see ERIN GRUWELL meet with Long Beach Chief of Police

ANTHONY BATTS and THOMAS SWIERINGA (a Long Beach Local who has a Black Belt in Six Sigma) so they can apply "Freedom" to the general public. Gruwell's contagious attitude and quest for tolerance belongs not only in the classroom but outside of it! (Note: The school system doesn't seem to be promoting this movie, a friend who works for LB Unified School District thought it was a movie about a Los Angeles HS and a CSULB English Professor I met just yesterday was CLUESS about it!

Maybe she can get "Your Greatest Power" by J.Martin Kohe in every

classroom (hospital, jail, etc.), implement retired teachers to "man"

our libraries and retired police and military to secure our schools.

There are many journal entries not depicted in the film (yet? Maybe

there will be a sequel :). Pregnancy, A.D.D., obesity, homosexuality... I'm hoping FREEDOM WRITERS becomes a TV series, giving every kid in every household the strength to Lead Not Follow and to Do The Right Thing. Across the miles, across the cultural differences, across the yellow police tape.

I gave an audio review of the movie today on TPSradio.  Expect more feedback from me on the air as soon as I get a copy of the soundtrack!


PS  "Your Greatest Power" is your power to CHOOSE.  Now choose to see this movie and take a kid with you!     KaRi     ("Celebrate Our Differences" Slogan winner, USPS

theprimespotcom theprimespotcom
41-45, F
Jan 9, 2007