The Winners of Our 2017 Speak Truth to Power Video Contest

Since 2010, the Speak Truth to Power Video Contest has inspired students to use film to take a stand against some of the world’s most pressing human rights abuses. Each year, young people from around the country submit short documentaries on human rights defenders who have been relentless in creating a more just and equal society. In engaging with the stories of activists of all ages, students realize their own potential as agents of change. Eight years later, the contest has now reached over 60,000 students, teaching young people that activism can come in all forms.

When we launched the 8th annual Speak Truth to Power Video Contest in the fall of 2017, we never imagined just how powerful and exceptional the responses would be. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for presidency, we asked students to connect their chosen defender to the life and work of RFK. Whether from New York or California, the submissions we received this year were testaments not only to the power of RFK’s legacy, but also to the willingness of young people to creatively advocate for change. These videos showcased a depth of both knowledge and imagination, and we are so incredibly thankful for and proud of these students’ work.

Over 800 submissions later, we are pleased to announce this year’s winning video: “Gary Tyler, My Neighbor.” Created by Mwï Epalle and Ming-Wei Fasquelle of the International School of Los Angeles, this documentary short profiles activist Gary Tyler, who, after being wrongly convicted of and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, has fought to eliminate the death penalty and to reform prisons throughout the United States. Described as “simply truthful” and “powerfully rendered” by actress and 2018 contest judge, Alfre Woodard, the video pieces together archival footage of RFK and interview excerpts with Gary Tyler, seamlessly bridging the gap between 1968 and 2018 and reminding the viewer of the continued relevance of RFK’s work.

On April 24, 2018, Mwï and Ming-Wei will premiere their video at the Tribeca Film Festival at an event titled Moving Pictures: How Can Film Inspire Students to Take Action? In addition, we will also screen the first place winner of the high school category, Tarana Burke, #MeToo, and will end the hour-long premiere with a panel discussion on the intersection of activism and film. The panel will feature Global Citizen’s Liann Kaye, educator Benjamin Higgins and 2016 Video Contest winner Patrick McGarry.

On behalf of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Speak Truth to Power, congratulations to Mwï, Ming-Wei and the rest of the contest participants! The complete list of finalists is available below.


Gary Tyler, My Neighbor

Mwï Epalle and Ming-Wei Fasquelle

Faculty Advisor: Mathieu Mondange

International School of Los Angeles

Burbank, CA




Tarana Burke #MeToo

Brooke Vitulli and Marie Carpenter

Faculty Advisor: Joan Rosenthal

Smithtown High School West

Smithtown, New York


Child Abuse

Lily Lagoe and Teagan Murphy

Faculty Advisor: Cherylyn Wilson

Spry Middle School

Webster, NY


Child Bride

Lora Sahmarani

Faculty Advisor: Mona Al-Hayani

Toledo Early College High School

Toledo, OH



Analiesse Brown and Carley Casteline

Faculty Advisor: Cherylyn Wilson

Spry Middle School

Webster, NY


The Rise of Women

Emma French and Hadeel Obeid

Faculty Advisor:

Valerie Chiarenzelli

Potsdam High School

Potsdam, NY


LGBT Rights

Jaymee Espiritu

Faculty Advisor: Linda Guthrie

Thomas Starr King Middle School

Los Angeles, California