During Black History Month, we are proud to partner with the Chicago Urban League and Columbia College's youth journalism program Columbia Links to mentor high school students with aspirations to be film critics. Each week this month, the students from Chicago area high schools are invited to screenings of films about the diverse life experiences of African American teens, encompassing everything from educational aspirations to attitudes and biases about skin color outside of and within the Black American culture. They are then encouraged to write reviews. Brenda Butler, the executive director of the Columbia Links program and a former features editor at the Chicago Tribune, works with the students selected from Columbia Links and from the Chicago Urban League to develop their review-writing skills. Then we at RogerEbert.com give the writers additional editing feedback before publishing their work on our site.
Chaz Ebert sees fostering diversity in the critical community as an essential mission. "I would like to see the development of more writers who can express a diverse world view, and I am happy that RogerEbert.com is partnering with the Urban League to encourage it. I am especially pleased that the young people the films are intended to inspire will have an opportunity to review them and have their opinions heard."
Chicago Urban League President and CEO Andrea L. Zopp agrees. "We want young people to think critically about how African Americans are portrayed in films and to discuss in an open forum their social impact and importance," said Zopp. "Roger Ebert had a lot of fans in the African American community, and he supported Black cinema early and often. I'm delighted that Chaz Ebert reached out to us to share his enduring legacy with a new generation of film critics."
For the next four Mondays, you'll find reviews by these young journalists. They'll be writing about "American Promise", "The Central Park Five", "Dark Girls" and "Chi Raq". We're proud to present their work to you.