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Culture > Entertainment

Want To Make A Change While Watching Movies? Start With Array 101

The arts have long been vessels to advocate for change and advance social movements, and movies and TV shows are no exception. Ava DuVernay, filmmaker known for creating powerful media such as Selma, When They See Us, and 13th, understood how her content could be used for education, and created a media collective called Array to further that goal. Thus, Array 101, an education initiative that releases learning and social impact guides for many of DuVernay’s films and shows, was born.

Though school is now out for the summer for most college students, you can still spend your summer learning — through watching movies and TV. And when you return to campus in the fall, you can share what you’ve taken away with your classmates and even your professors to foster a learning environment that welcomes discussion and change.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tammy Garnes, the vice president of education and understanding at Array, about how Array 101‘s guides could be used for education and change in the hands of college students.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Her Campus: What are Array 101’s educational guides, and how should students go about approaching them?

Tammy Garnes: When I show the movie 13 or Selma, people come to me and say, “That’s incredible, I wish I knew what I could do, how could I help. How can I be a change?” Our educational guides answer the question: Now that you’ve seen the film or television series, what will you do? What will be your personal action that allows you to move things forward out of what you saw on your screen? 

You watch Selma. It was about voting rights, it was about Martin Luther King, they protested. What does it mean to protest? How does that look in your life? Would you like to create a protest playbook with us? Find something you identify with and this lesson, we’re going to walk you through all the steps of protest and explain to you how protest doesn’t always mean marching. It could mean art, it could mean songs, it could mean social media action, it could mean all kinds of things that you hadn’t thought about. So, come on this journey with us and let’s create a protest playbook that you can put into action in your community so that you can create some kind of change.

HC: How can college students engage with these educational guides in their lives and classrooms? Is that kind of outreach something Array 101 is working on?

TG: A lot of times if you want to see a change in your professor’s curriculum, one of the best ways to do it is to bring them a tool that’s already ready-made that they can use without a whole lot of thought. Our Array 101 lesson plans do just that. Log on to Array101.org, take a look at the lessons. We have all of these learning guides that get into all of these interesting things — I mean, who would think we’d be talking about eugenics in a lesson about Colin Kaepernick? — but it’s there. See what resonates with you and share them with your professors, or better yet, don’t wait for them to teach it to you!

We’ve got all the citations that you need, so we’ve done the research for you, we have hyperlinks throughout it, and you can quote us like you would any other source. You can trust that what we’re telling you is the truth — it’s been vetted, it’s been researched — and you can use it however you want to. Your affinity months, take out something and use it. Your sorority meeting, take out something and use it. Maybe you’re doing a community activity with a group, use it that way. There are so many ways to engage with this material, it’s free, and there’s over 1,000 pages of material. It’s just another way to learn.

HC: Beyond just reading these guides and watching these movies and TV shows, what more can students do to engage with Array 101?

TG: Come back to me after reading the educational guides. Take some of the activities, and put them into action. You can literally become an advocate for a cause just by working through our learning guides. I hope there are places in our guide where you not only learn from something, but you learn how to make an impact in your community, which for you guys, is your college campuses.

College students have an opportunity to use the lessons that we’ve created, once they’ve explored them, to perhaps try to figure out how they can make their own campuses equal, equitable, and a welcoming place for everyone. How will the work that you’re doing on campus extend off campus, and what do you owe to the community that welcomed you so that everyone feels that there is something for them?

HC: What guide do you recommend students to use as a starting point?

TG: An easy starting place would be Selma, because for your age group, you were in middle school when that movie came out. It’s something that may have been shown in your classrooms and I think students can jump into it easily because it’s about the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but everything about that is still happening: Voter disenfranchisement, redlining, and gerrymandering is all still happening. 

A lot of college students are first-time voters, and these are the first few votes you’re going to cast. What does your vote mean? How does it really work? A Selma learning guide is a great place to start so that you can really understand the history of voting, the history of protest, of power, persuasion, inequality in the United States, and what that has looked like for different people. It’s our first learning guide, it’s easy to get through, and there’s a lot of personal action you can take.

The hardest place to jump in — because it’s a really hard series to watch, but one that speaks directly to your age group — is When They See Us. When They See Us was our first learning guide and it examines policing in different communities, and the criminal justice system as a whole. Then, it drills down into what happened with these young men and even gives people tips on how to interact with police in a way that is safe for everyone. It’s definitely not sugarcoated, and the series is one of the most emotional series I’ve ever watched in my entire life.

Inica Kotasthane

Columbia Barnard '26

Inica Kotasthane is a student at Barnard College in New York City. She's a big fan of writing (duh!), making zines, and curating her Spotify playlists. Prior to becoming President of the Columbia/Barnard Her Campus chapter, she was a National Writer for Her Campus. She is passionate about journalism and politics, and is especially interested in uplifting minority and queer voices in these areas.