Today, on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., people across the country are taking a moment to celebrate our shared victories in the civil rights struggle and perhaps renew their commitment to go further. As for us, we are reflecting on our year and feel humbled and grateful for our journey with Divided We Fall -- our own modest contribution toward the dream of Dr. King and so many unsung women and men. For the last eight years, our little film has inspired
a growing community of people committed to creating social change
through dialogue and storytelling. We thought that we released the film when we made it available on DVD. But in 2009, the whirlwind still swept the two of us into new and unexpected arenas -- more movie theaters and universities, but even beyond, into the halls of
corporate America and the classrooms of inner-city schools, onto new public stages in the US and brand-new football fields in the UK, deep into the jungles of
Central America and way down under to the Parliament of the World's Religions in Australia.
We want to thank you for supporting us and look forward to what adventures may come in the new year -- but first, here are some highlights of 2009 for you to enjoy...!
Valarie Kaur and Sharat Raju
Divided We Fall
|Uvita, Costa Rica
film entered 2009 in an auspicious - if unlikely - locale: Costa Rica. Associate Producers Dolly and Judge Brar showed the film to a
small crowd of local Costa
Ricans and American expatriates at restaurant La Cosana De Dona Maria,
a hundred yards off the southern Pacific Coast
in what becomes our Central American premiere. Thanks to Judge and
Dolly (a.k.a Valarie Kaur's parents) for introducing the film to a new part
of the world!
|University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
On a wintry day, college students gathered together to hear scholars and activists speak on human rights around the world at "Rights in Crisis," a conference organized by fellow students. Valarie Kaur delivered a one-hour presentation on rights in crises in the aftermath of 9/11, interweaving stories from the film. Thanks to Fiona Reddy and Human Rights Through Education!
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
We made our Africa premiere at the 3rd Addis International Film Festival hosted by the Initiative Africa, an Ethiopian-based human rights NGO. The film festival aims to educate and inspire Ethiopians, and we are proud to be part of it.
|University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN)
We brought DWF to the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend,
Indiana for the first time! Valarie Kaur and Sharat Raju gave guest lectures in classes all day -- from Peace Studies to Islamic Ethics to Film Production -- and then presented the film for hundreds of people at the beautiful DiBartolo Performing
Arts Center at night (below). Thank you, Jon Vickers, Managing Director at DiBartolo, for bringing us to Notre Dame. And, if you live in the greater
Chicagoland area, make a trip out to his own wonderful family-run
theater Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan, just an hour away
from the city -- you will not be disappointed.
|Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
In a circle of college students, Valarie Kaur led an interfaith workshop called Interfaith Dialogue: Reading the Body as Text. The workshop explored how shared somatic experiences of the "sacred" and of unconscious bias can provide a starting point for dialogue. An intimate discussion with the students followed at Drexel University's first screening of the film in Stein Auditorium. Thanks to Timothy Emmett-Rardin!
|University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Two days. Five powerful presentations. Five hundred people. We were invited by the University of Chicago for a whirlwind trip tour that reached children and adults, students and teachers in a series of powerful events: a screening in the Max Palevsky Cinema for 300 middle and high school students from seven inner-city schools, a teachers training workshop on "Race and Religion in a Post-9/11 World" in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, a film screening for the general public at the University of Chicago, a luncheon for budding student filmmakers, and most memorably, a presentation for fourth and fifth graders on racism and storytelling at North Kenwood/Oakwood Elementary School. A heartfelt thank you to our long-time friend and kindred spirit Currun Singh for organizing our extraordinary visit. Read all about it here.
|Library of Congress (Washington, DC)
The Library of Congress -- America's shrine to knowledge, education,
and preservation of the country's diverse literary traditions -- launched The Sikh Collection Initiative to preserve works on the
Sikh tradition. Together with the Kaur Foundation, the LOC kicked off the initiative with an international Sikh conference "Taking Heritage into the 21st Century," and a photo exhibit of Sikh Americans in the library's Great Hall that included big shiny pictures of Valarie Kaur and film team. Valarie joined a panel that includes the first Sikh American woman airline pilot as well as a
Sikh American Kenneth Cole model. Thanks to our Director of Research Jessica Jenkins and Doug Rand for joining us on this elegant occasion!
Sharat Raju and Valarie Kaur premiered the film in London in a skybox at
the famous Wembley Stadium, in a room full of football players and sports reporters ready to
talk about race. (And yes, by football, we mean soccer!) The Khalsa Football Academy brought us to the UK to help them combat racism through the sport of football --
where young men of color often face racial barriers in their career
and racial slurs out on the field. Throughout a week of film
screenings and workshops, we worked with young athletes to examine the impact of racism on their physiology --
and find ways to cultivate healing and build resilience.
Herfordshire Police (Letchworth, UK)
Letchworth, just outside of London, Valarie Kaur led a room of 50 white police
from the Hertfordshire Constabulary through a two-hour workshop on policing after Sept. 11, 2001. Valarie guided the workshop with two questions: "How has terrorism affected your policing?" and "How does
racism affect your policing?" The officers identified two major changes: the
threat of hate
crimes and the need to combat the perception of racial profiling by
their own agencies. After examining real-life case studies on hate crimes and racial profiling from
the film, the officers gained a deeper recognition of the need for
Letchworth Arts Centre (Letchworth, UK)
We led a Q&A at a film screening for the wider community at the Letchworth Arts Centre. Before the screening, we were honored to stand alongside our host the Khalsa Football Academy (KFA) as they accept the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, the highest honor given to volunteer groups across the UK. Thank you to Bal Singh and the KFA Team for organizing a fantastic UK tour!
|Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (Jacksonville, FL)On the eight-year Sept 11th anniversary, Valarie Kaur delivered a one-hour keynote speech on terrorism, racism, healing, and health-care to three hundred managers and executives at the headquarters of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida -- and received a rousing standing ovation. The company also invited Valarie and her long-time mentor Tommy Lee Woon, Macalester's Dean of Multicultural Life, to present a two-hour workshop at their annual diversity conference. Tommy and Valarie led a cutting-edge workshop that blended storytelling with tools for healing racism for several hundred employees, broadcast to the state's regional offices. Thank you KheSahn
Barker for bringing our message into corporate America for the first time!
|Iowa Mosaic Diversity Conference
(Des Moines, IA)
Opening the Iowa Mosaic Diversity Conference themed "Rediscovering America: the Inside Journeys," Valarie Kaur delivered a keynote address on "Racism from Sept. 11th to the Obama Era." The conference serves as Iowa's premier statewide training and networking opportunity for those interested in human diversity. Thank you Cyndi Chen, Susan Hase, and Friends of Iowa Civil Rights!
|It's Time to Talk: Forums on Race (Minneapolis, MN)
Once a year,1200 people fill the banquet hall in the Minneapolis Convention Center to hear a single keynote address inspire a dialogue on race -- and then engage in a rich one-hour discussion. This is the YWCA of Minneapolis's "It's Time to Talk: Forums on Race" -- and in 2009, the YWCA invited Valarie Kaur to be their esteemed keynote. Holding the audience captive, Valarie delivered a keynote address that invited the audience on a journey, moving from story to story, deepening into a recognition of shared humanity -- a common otherness, other-ing and desire to be seen the way we see ourselves. "It's time to talk," Valarie said at the end -- and the round-table discussions began.
University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minneapolis, MN)
Several dozen lawyers and law students gathered in a seminar room at University of St. Thomas School of Law for an entirely unconventional Continuing Legal Education (CLE) workshop. Hosted by the YWCA, still-law student Valarie Kaur delivered "Law as Sword and Shield: A Progressive Approach to Race in Post-9/11 America" -- a dynamic two-hour workshop using film, case studies, and role-playing to examine the powers and the limits of the law to protect minorities in times of crisis. Animated by her own desire to bring heart back into the law classroom and legal field, Valarie asked participants to reconnect with hope and possibility -- and the room was alive with innovative ideas about the role of public interest lawyers in struggles for social justice.
The Southern Theater (Minneapolis, MN)
A vibrant independent theater for both stage and screen, The Southern Theater hosted an elegant cocktail reception and then a film screening for a magnetic full house. The screening took place just days after the shootings at the Fort Hood military base by a man believed to be Muslim -- and the space became an opportunity to engage in reflection and dialogue on where we are today as a nation. Thank you to our beloved Tour Director Jodi Elliott (above) and all the women of the YWCA for a deeply enriching Minneapolis tour!
|The Parliament of the World's Religions (Melbourne, Australia)
Invited as a featured speaker, Valarie Kaur flew for nearly two days to reach Melbourne, Australia for the Parliament of the World's Religions, the largest interfaith gathering in the world. Alongside religious scholars and activists, she lectured and presented on panels throughout the week -- Honoring the Sacred Feminine, Does the Media Have Faith, and of course a presentation of Divided We Fall. Valarie also added her voice to a video sent to politicians at Copenhagen calling for climate justice. Thank you to Ranjit Kaur, Gemma McDonald, and especially Dr. Tarunjit Butalia and the World Sikh Council - America Region for making the journey possible!
And of course, just a week after Australia, the year ends where it began -- with a winter trip to Costa Rica.
|What Audiences Are Saying
"I'm blown away by the effort and pure honesty of the film... The film opened my eyes to a new way to looking at the world."
18-25 year-old female, Orlando, Fla.
"I wish we had the power to show this film to every American. The heart and soul that went into its production is palpable from beginning to end. Finally our story told in our words. Thanks to this film, this crucial moment in America's history will not be missing our voice. This is truly a monumental achievement. Thank you for making this film."
35-year-old male, Sikh, Universal citizen
New York, N.Y.
"Thank you for your inspiring film! I was living in England on 9/11 and as a white American I see America and myself as the 'other' very frequently."
45-year-old white agnostic female American citizen
New Brunswick, N.J.
"I remember learning in
World History about Pastor Martin Niemoller (in WWII) and his statement
that it is necessary to stand in solidarity with marginalized and
terrorized and oppressed groups because it is al too easy to distance
ourselves and dissociate ourselves from groups and communities
identified as the other. DWF does a fantastic and very poignant job at
showing a human instead of the dehumanized enemy."
19-year-old female, API/Chinese, agnostic, former Protestant, American citizen
Los Angeles, Calif.
"What a powerful film. I can't wait to watch this with my children (ages 18, 16, 12, & 11)."
44-year-old female, WASP, Episcopalian, American citizen
"The film is relatable to
my life. I feel like the term 'American"' is who I am, but yet I've
been taught (in school, media) that I'm not. I can relate to the part
when you said that you were too Sikh at school, but then not Sikh
enough in other places. I truly felt connected to the film, as if my
story (as an African American) was told."
19-year-old female, African American, Catholic/Christian, American citizen
"The movie impressed me much and helped to understand cultural and religious conflict going on in the world... being from Kazakhstan seems kinda hilarious. I'm proud of my country. I'm proud of being a part of my nation, but in America people have wrong perception of it through Borat movie which is very offensive. It doesn't bother me much but makes my life harder. I don't want to be seen as a dumb person from the third world country; people don't take me for who I am."
20-year-old female, Asian, Christian, Kazakhstani citizen
"This film helped open my eyes even more towards discrimination and hate towards others. I learned so much from this film and it has changed my life and my thoughts toward other races and religions."
19-year-old female, white, Catholic, American citizen
"Prejudice is everywhere. In my experience, I've felt discrimination regarding some issues that are not always recognized, mainly as someone with lower socioeconomic status and suffering from a mental illness... I wish people would be more open to actually learning about this and consider what effects their words have."
18-year-old female, white, agnostic, American citizen
"As a 'brown' person, this movie made me aware of my own prejudice against white men."
26-year-old female, Indian (South Asian Indian), Catholic, American citizen
St. Paul, Minn.
"This film has restored my hope that, one day, the world's people will coexist in peace. You must work hard to have your film shown to everyone -- worldwide. Thank you for what you have produced. It will make a difference."
69-year-old male, white, American citizen
"I wish there were some way this film could be shown to everyone. I have lived through the Japanese incarceration, civil rights struggle in the South, and the results of 9/11 -- I cannot understand why people do not learn. This could help."
73-year-old female, white, Christian, American citizen
"It's amazing that one horrific incident can suddenly make you feel like an outsider."
21-year-old female, Indian, Hindu, American citizen
Ann Arbor, Mich.
"It was a great film which helped provide a snapshot into an area of American society I was not well aware about. As a member of the US military who will be leading soldiers of diverse backgrounds, it helped enlighten me to a different culture."
21-year-old male, Asian, Christian, American citizen
New Haven, Conn.
"I am Jewish and the film proved to be a real eye opener for me. I don't think most people are aware of how we harbor and nurture prejudices without even realizing it. I think this film needs to be shown in every middle school and high school. I know that the seeds of prejudice are planted at home, but they are nurtured by a lack of understanding."
Doris Levy Davidson
"I think that this film is great and every American should watch it. I think it can relate to so many people, not just Sikhs. This film makes me appreciate Sikhs so much more, and what they have all had to go through. I am ashamed now that I feared a family on a place about a year after 9/11 and even though they didn't know, I wish I could ask their forgiveness. I want to reach out and support these people more. I feel this film has enabled me to be a better person."
18-year-old female, Caucasian, Christian, American citizen