Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Celebrates Student Filmmakers at Tribeca Festival

Yesterday, as part of its annual Speak Truth to Power video competition, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights debuted six student films at a Tribeca Festival showcase in New York City. The featured videos, which covered topics ranging from abortion access to youth incarceration, were selected as contest finalists from student submissions across the country. 

Created in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers and the Tribeca Festival, the Speak Truth to Power contest encourages middle school, high school, and college students to become engaged in key human rights issues through creative storytelling. The contest is designed so that students from all backgrounds can participate without needing expensive equipment or prior video editing skills. Submissions are judged by a panel of film industry experts, actors, and educators.

“Art is a powerful tool for advocacy, activism and personal expression, and these students have learned to harness that power at a young age,” said Karen Robinson, Human Rights Education Program Director, RFK Human Rights. “Our contest participants used film to share their passions, express their views, and learn more about issues close to their hearts. We are honored to celebrate these students for their creativity and passion for their chosen human rights causes.”

“Stories are how we make sense of the world around us—and integrating filmmaking into the classroom is one of the best examples of hands-on learning that creates joy and stokes boundless creativity,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “While we may not agree with everything these aspiring artists say or project, they represent the convictions our young people have to stand up for human rights and a better world. I know they will continue to speak truth to power for decades to come.”   

The 2024 Grand Prize was awarded to Ellison Leticia Martin, Qiu Li Tovo-Hurt, and Roswell Goransson from Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin, Texas. Their piece, “Don’t Mess With Texas: An Abortion Story,” highlights the fallout of sweeping abortion bans in Texas, particularly as it relates to women’s healthcare in emergency situations. The video features interviews with a local politician and OB/GYN, as well as Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who faced a life-threatening medical crisis after being denied access to an abortion.

Finalists for this year’s Speak Truth to Power contest also included students from Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, NY; George School in Newtown, PA; James Madison High School in Brooklyn, NY; and University of Missouri. 

Bonnie Abaunza, Will Parrinello, Jan Jalek, Kathleen Rodgers, Libeth Morales, and Jessica Cortes served as judges for the 2024 contest. Prior judges have included Alec Baldwin, Kathryn Erbe, Keegan-Michael Key, Matt McCoy, Martin Sheen, Oliver Stone, Scott Wolf, and Alfre Woodard.

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues—championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice.

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