Woke Up Black to Screen at Harold Washington College on February 25:

2012 Black Excellence Award-winning film followed by post-screening discussion with director and documentary subjects

Media Contacts:
Mary Morten

Jessica Kadish

Filmmaker and activist Mary F. Morten’s documentary Woke Up Black, winner of the 2012 Black Excellence Award in Documentary Filmmaking from the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago, will screen at Harold Washington College, 30 East Lake Street, Room 103, in downtown Chicago on Monday, February 25, at 3 p.m. The screening is free and open to the public. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. and the film begins at 3:00 p.m. A postscreening discussion featuring Director/Producer Mary F. Morten, documentary subject Sheldon Smith, and Black Youth Project Principal Investigator Dr. Cathy J. Cohen, whose research inspired the film. To register, please visit http://wokeupblackhwc.eventbrite.com/. You do not have to be a Harold Washington student or staff member to attend.


Woke Up Black focuses on five Black youth, along with their struggles and triumphs as they start their journey into adulthood. The film places at its center the voices of Black youth – their ideas, attitudes and opinions that are often overlooked in society at large. As Ace, one of the film’s subjects, says, “The youth do have a voice, but it’s up to us to really speak our voice.” For two years, Morten and associate producers Keisha Farmer-Smith, Aparna Sharma, and Marisol Ybarra followed five youth from the Chicago area to explore their experiences with navigating the world they live in. The documentary not only tells the personal stories of these five youth but also investigates the complexities of Black youth as a group that are at the center of many socio-political issues, including discrimination, political participation, sex and relationships, music, and media portrayal.



“We’re thrilled to be hosting a screening of Woke Up Black as part of our Black History Month event series at Harold Washington,” said Kennette Crockett, Assistant Professor, Harold Washington College Department of
English, Speech and Theatre. “The film illuminates these five young peoples’ life experiences and ambitions, giving us insight into perspectives we would not otherwise see and raising voices we would not otherwise hear. It is deeply relevant to students and staff of all backgrounds across City Colleges.”

The documentary subjects are:
• Rosalee, 18, is starting her first year of college at an in-state university. Rosalee is the oldest in a family of eight where she and her four siblings were adopted by their aunt and uncle. She is the first person in her family to attend college. Rosalee struggles with life away from her family and the college experience.

• Carter, 16, was adopted by two African American gay men when he was 10. As the oldest of eight children, he was bounced around in foster care for several years. Carter is finishing up his last year of high school and is balancing his class studies, sports, and family life while trying to figure out his future.

• Ace, 17, is a self-identified genderqueer youth who struggles to maintain relationships with members of her family who do not understand and are not supportive of her gender identity. She is beginning her first year of college on a full academic scholarship.

• Morgan, 19, lives in an affluent Chicago suburb and is in her second year of college at a Midwestern university. While being raised to be a strong Black woman by her parents, she has lived the majority of her life in situations where she is the only African American or one of a few.

• Sheldon, 20, is a new father and an community organizer on Chicago’s south side, working with youth on issues of social justice. At the age of 17, he was incarcerated for six months for committing a felony.
He is working to have his record expunged.

Mary F. Morten, an activist, filmmaker and consultant, started work on Woke Up Black after reading the final report for the Black Youth Project, led by principal investigator Dr. Cathy Cohen at the University of Chicago. The report culminated a national research project launched in 2003 that examined the attitudes, resources, and culture of African American youth, and explored how various factors influence their decision-making, norms,
and behavior.

The film has received positive reviews from both critics and activists. FilmCatcher.com wrote, “The stories not only focus on the struggles these youth face but also their dreams of a world in which they can thrive, prosper, and fulfill their potential.” Jet Magazine selected the film as one of its “Editor’s Picks of the Week” (April 4, 2011). The film has also been an official selection of the San Diego Black Film Festival (2012), Big Muddy Film Festival (2012), the San Francisco Black Film Festival (2011) and the Bronze Lens Film Festival of Atlanta (2011). The film had its broadcast premiere on WTTW-TV Channel 11, Chicago’s public television station in June 2011, and was re-broadcast by WTTW in June 2012.

Woke Up Black has been screened for universities, professional organizations and community groups in Chicago; Detroit; Minneapolis; Madison, WI; Milwaukee, WI; Dayton, OH; Hammond, IN; Charleston, SC; and Pittsburgh, PA. Just prior to the Harold Washington event, from February 13 to 19 of this year, the film will be on tour in New York City for a series of screenings at venues around Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Visit www.wokeupblack.com, like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wokeupblack and follow us @wokeupblackdoc on Twitter.