Jury Coordination and Notes

Intelligent Lives – Eye Opener About the Power to Contribute Regardless of One’s Intellectual Ability

September 17th, 2018

From award-winning filmmaker Dan Habib comes Intelligent Lives, a catalyst to transform the label of intellectual disability from a life sentence of isolation into a life of possibility for the most systematically segregated people in America. Intelligent Lives stars three pioneering young American adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer, and Naomie – who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce. Academy Award-winning actor and narrator Chris Cooper contextualizes the lives of these central characters through the emotional personal story of his son Jesse, as the film unpacks the shameful and ongoing track record of intelligence testing in the U.S. Intelligent Lives challenges what it means to be intelligent, and points to a future in which people of all abilities can fully participate in higher education, meaningful employment and intimate relationships.

Intelligent Lives

By Terry Solowey, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

This documentary opens one’s eyes to the power of determination to contribute to society regardless of the label of “intellectual disability”. We follow three young adults through their personal journeys to make a life for themselves. They had me rooting for them throughout the entire film. I admire their chutzpah and determination.

What amazed me are the historical references showing how they would have been treated if born in the early 20th century. They would have been sent to institutions or might have been forcibly sterilized like the 60,000 that were before 1950. This was called the eugenics movement.  As recently as 1975, they would  have had no legal access to a public education.

This film’s mission is to transform the label of intellectual disability once known as “mentally retarded” into a life of possibility.  We watch Naieer, Micah and Naomie as they work through high school, college and the workforce to accomplish their goals. Micah, born in 1984, is determined to succeed. He goes to Syracuse University and graduates with a certificate from the school of education to become a teaching assistant. He gives us a new outlook and perspective on someone with an IQ of 40, being quite savvy with social media.  He is a constant reminder not to underestimate what people can do. After college, he learns to live on his own and becomes close with a fellow classmate, Meghan and helps her to advocate for herself.

Naieer, born in 1999, has a great talent for art, takes general education in inclusion classes, and is a great basketball player at a public high school in Massachusetts. Through the Art for Cultural Inclusion show, he creates six wonderful paintings.  Naomie is 25, loves to sing and dance at her church in Rhode Island with her hip-hop producer brother, and works toward and gets her first paying job through a job training program at a hair salon.

There are many poignant moments as we watch these three work toward their goals.  I have admiration for all of them. Their circles of support – the people,  teachers and family who work with them – have great patience and show great caring for each one of them. My favorite moments are seeing Micah visit Meghan’s family and socialize with her at a party, watching Naieer at his art show and cheering Naomie on  when she learns she has a position at a beauty parlor. Viewing this film gives you a real glimpse and sense of their individual personalities.

These three stories are brought together to examine the nature of intelligence by the actor Chris Cooper and his wife Marianne as they share the connection to the film and tell us about their son Jesse, whose intelligence has been questioned because he has cerebral palsy. Jesse however, became a high school honor student and a poet, before his death at age 17.

We see the fight against segregation based on ability in action.  Intelligence looks different for everyone.

This film gives one a new perspective on disability and labels. Differences make us stronger, not divide us. These three young adults show us what perseverance and chutzpah can to do to work through challenges. It is quite uplifting and makes a powerful statement. People of all abilities and talents can fully participate in life in an inclusive world.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, as well as adults. I highly recommend this film for the insights, knowledge, awareness and accomplishments that have been made by these young peoples who continue to do so. It opens in New York City on September 21, 2018 with a national release to follow.

Digimon Adventure Tri: Coexistence – Graphics and Action that Draw You In!

August 30th, 2018

The Adventure Continues…The arrival of the super powerful Meicoomon starts a countdown to the real world’s collapse. The DigiDestined are cast out of the Digital World, and even after returning to the real world, are driven away by people, due to their partnerships with the Digimon. Meanwhile, a cruel fate appears imminent for Kari, who has a more honest and sensitive spirit than anyone. KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror Kimbirly M. comments, “With the well-known Japanese anime style, Digimon-tri has sharp-edge graphics and action sequences that draw the viewers in.” See the rest of her review below.

Digimon Adventure Tri: Coexistence
By Kimberly Michelle Mullins, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

With the well-known Japanese anime style, Digimon-tri has sharp-edge graphics and action sequences that draw the viewers in. We see them dealing with educational and social struggles similar to those that many have to deal with, but with friends helping out.

This is a continuation of the popular Digimon-tri series. The storyline, generally about dark forces taking over, flows well. There are no lagging sequences that would bore the viewer. One becomes empathetic with the protagonist Kari and even the evil force overtaking Meicoomon. The vocabulary and concepts are appropriate for its intended age group and could further enhance vocabulary and concepts that the viewer may not understand. It portrays pro-social models such as when Kari feels that she might be responsible for a specific situation and one of the others reassures her that this definitely isn’t the case. This entire series is very good at displaying consequences of both negative and positive behaviors. There are also good models of problem solving such as when a Digimon character decides on an action and another vehemently opposes it. The rest of the group has to come to a general consensus to make a final determination.

The underlying message is about seeking out others when you are experiencing tough times. Life has complicated challenges, but you can overcome them. You should be aware that there are two things that make this more appropriate for older viewers. First, a character pulls out a gun, but there is no blast. And second, we see a powerful being shaped like a naked woman, although there are no graphic features. For that reason, I recommend it for ages 10 to 18, as well as young adults and give it 4 out of 5 stars. I would raise the highest age to 25 if I could, because it is so thought-provoking and intelligent. The DVD allows you to select specific scenes and has a bonus feature interview. Reviewed by Kimberly M., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

Uncle Drew – Very Funny Underdog Sports Flick. Great for Families.

June 28th, 2018

After draining his life savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem, Dax (Lil Rel Howery) is dealt a series of unfortunate setbacks, including losing his team to his longtime rival (Nick Kroll). Desperate to win the tournament and the cash prize, Dax stumbles upon the man, the myth, the legend Uncle Drew (NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving) and convinces him to return to the court one more time. The two men embark on a road trip to round up Drew’s old basketball squad (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie) and prove that a group of septuagenarians can still win the big one. After a successful five years as a fan-favorite digital episodic series, originally conceived by Pepsi, Uncle Drew, will hit theaters June 29, 2018. KIDS FIRST! Juror, Juanita L. comments, “Uncle Drew has strong messages about team work, taking risks to reach your goals and playing for the love of the game.” See her full review below.

Uncle Drew
By Juanita Seon Leary, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Uncle Drew is a very funny, underdog sports film. While I am unfamiliar with all the NBA and WBA stars, I enjoyed the film because I related to the feelings and thoughts of the senior athletes. The use of make-up and prosthetics makes it even funnier.

Dax (LilRel Howery), a basketball obsessed Foot Locker salesman whose dream to coach a tournament- winning street ball team, is drowned by his longtime rival, Mookie (Nick Kroll). Mookie steals his prize player Casper (Orlando Magic Forward, Aaron Gordon), his team and his materialistic girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish).

Dax spends his life savings on Harlem’s Rucker Classic registration entry fee and is desperate to get another team when he learns from Louis (Mike Epps) and Angelo (J.B. Smoove) about the legendary street player Uncle Drew. Dax finds 70-something Uncle Drew (NBA all Star Kyrie Irving), a street-ball legend who famously played in the same tournament 50 years earlier.  Uncle Drew agrees to play for Dax if he can recruit his own roster of players. The adventure begins as the duo road trips to convince Drew’s old teammates to join the team. We see Preacher (Chris Webber), wheel-chair bound Boots (Nate Robinson), Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neil and legally blind Lights (Reggie Miller).

My favorite scene is when Dax, because of a declined credit card at a gas station, makes a $100 bet with a girls’ high school coach. His team is defeated and his guys pitch in to cover it and fill the van’s tank. Dax learns about their hearts and realizes they are a team.

The film contains some suggestive jokes, a few curse words and a brief scene with nudity. Uncle Drew has strong messages about team work, taking risks to reach your goals and playing for the love of the game. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, as well ad adults. The film opens in theaters nationwide June 29, 2018.  Be sure to check your local theater’s listings.

Jesus Live: A Remarkable Performance That Will Stay in Your Mind Forever

June 7th, 2018

Recently, I attended Sight & Sound’s production of Jesus Live in Lancaster, PA. For more than 40 years, Sight & Sound Theaters have produced live entertainment with a purpose – bringing stories from the Bible to the stage.

I watched this production with some knowledge of the Bible, as a former practitioner of Christianity and a lay practitioner of Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism for more than 31 years.

We see the streets of Jerusalem and the raging Sea of Galilee, as Jesus befriends outcasts and heals those who are suffering. He presents challenges to “social norms and confronts hypocrisy.” In the two-act production we experience Jesus (Jonathan Blair) who sets sail with fisherman and talks with religious scholars, touching and changing many lives along the way.

I enjoyed watching this bigger than life stage production, partly due to one of the largest LED screens ever used in a theatrical production. It is 113 feet wide, almost 30 feet tall and weighs 12 tons. It is made up of 1,242 individual 500 mm x 500 mm panels with almost 21 million pixels.

One of my favorite scenes is the story of the Prodigal Son. The younger son asks his father for his share of his inheritance, then goes off and is gone for many years. When he returns penniless, hungry and tired, his father rejoices and welcomes him, much to the distain of the older son. It is a reminder that there is always hope for reconciliation. Often our children think they know more than their parents and need to go out to spread their wings. Most parents welcome them back into the fold and help them to go forward.

Jesus Live features 368 costume designs for 882 costumes and 2,400 costume pieces. The seamstresses of Sight & Sound sewed 14,000 snaps by hand and used 7,644 yards of fabric (that’s 4.3 miles). The show features 288 wigs. Jesus Live includes live animals including horses, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, camels, alpacas and more! All the cast members are excellent singers, dances and actors. The 45 member cast including people from across the country and around the globe. I had the remarkable opportunity to interview many of them which you can see here:

I give Jesus Live 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 as well as adults. This production is playing through January 5, 2019 so check it out. For details, visit https://www.sight-sound.com/ticketing/shows/title

Juanita Seon Leary, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror


The Big Apple Circus: Truly Spectacular!

June 1st, 2018

Acclaimed Ringmaster Ty McFarlan welcomes the crowd and introduces the various acts from the BIG APPLE CIRCUS including 10-time world record-holding high wire artist Nik Wallenda, award-winning contortionist Elayne Kramer, third-generation animal trainer Jenny Vidbel, and acclaimed acrobats The Anastasini Brothers. World renowned for its one-ring, intimate and artistic style, where no seat is more than 50 feet from the performers, BIG APPLE CIRCUS is passionate about revitalizing the circus for modern-day audiences with unique and astounding human feats, and innovative design and technology. The 40th anniversary season program features the famous seven-person pyramid on the high wire with Nik Wallenda and The Fabulous Wallendas and the daring quadruple somersault attempted on the trapeze by The Flying Tunizianis – the first time in circus history that both legendary feats are performed under the same big top. The record-setting acts are joined by Dandino & Luciana, a dynamic duo who combine speed, acrobatics and daredevil grace on roller-skates; award-winning contortionist Elayne Kramer; master juggler Gamal Garcia; Jan Damm on the Rola Bola; acclaimed Risley acrobats The Anastasini Brothers (who broke the World Record for Most Flips on November 9, 2017); Ringmaster Ty McFarlan; hilarious clowns Skip & Mr. Joel; and circus trainer & presenter Jenny Vidbel, who performs in the ring with 16 horses and ponies, as well as six rescue dogs. KIDS FIRST! Juror, Juanita L. comments, “I was very surprised and truly enjoyed every minute of it.” See her full review below.

The Big Apple Circus
Juanita L., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

On Monday, May 28, 2018 I attended The Bi Apple Circus. I was very surprised and truly enjoyed every minute of it.

The Big Apple Circus completely changed my feelings about circuses. My early memories of the circus included smelly dirty elephants, weird people and animals. Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Big Apple Circus, promises an afternoon or evening of thrills and laughs – and a lifetime of memories!

I love the historical background of this circus. After traveling in Europe, Paul Binder and Michael Christensen returned to New York City and founded the Big Apple Circus in 1977. It began as alternative to the glitz and spectacle of the traditional American three ring circus. Big Apple Circus has epitomized the intimacy and artistry associated with the European one ring circus.

As part of this year’s celebration, Big Apple Circus presents 10 time World Record Holder, Nik Wallenda. Hailed as “The King of The High Wire” and the “Greatest Daredevil of Our Generation.” Nik and the Fabulous Wallendas amaze the audience with dare-devil feats never before seen under the Big Apple Circus Big top.

There are so many thrilling and amazing acts and talented performers, I don’t know where to begin. My favorites include Ty McFarlan, the Ring Master and the two clowns that interact and have fun with audience members. The daring seven person pyramid on the high wire by Nik Wallenda and The Fabulous Wallendas is breathtaking.

I recommend The Big Apple Circus for ages 4 to 18 as well as adults and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Reviewed by Juanita S. L.

For more information on the BIG APPLE CIRCUS, its schedule and for tickets, please visit bigapplecircus.com.




Show Dogs – Family Friendly Action Filled, Family-Friendly Adventure

May 21st, 2018

After a failed attempt to recover a stolen baby panda, police dog Max reluctantly teams up with a human FBI agent named Frank. A hot tip leads Max and Frank to Las Vegas for the world’s most exclusive dog show. To find the panda, Max goes under cover as a contestant to get the lowdown from his fellow canines. With help from their new friends, the crime-fighting duo must now foil another kidnapping plot and rescue other valuable animals from a gang of greedy smugglers. KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer Juanita L. comments, “I thoroughly enjoyed watching Show Dogs. This is a family friendly film which combines humans and talking canine characters to give one an adventure, action-filled and funny story.” See her full review below.

Show Dogs
By Juanita L., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Show Dogs. This is a family friendly film which combines humans and talking canine characters to give one an adventure, action-filled and funny story.

The storyline follows Max (Ludacris), a rugged lone-wolf Rottweiler NYPD police dog and his human FBI partner Frank (Will Arnett) who set out to investigate the kidnapping of a baby panda by an unknown network of illegal animal traders. They get a tip that the ring of thieves is planning to sell the panda at the prestigious Canini Invitational Dog Show.

Macho Max must undergo a complete makeover with the help of a seasoned trainer (Natasha Lyonne) including mud baths, ballet lessons and Brazilian waxing in order to take on this undercover mission to thwart the thieves. Working with Frank, his new human handler, Max discovers his inner show dog. He also learns that trust and working with the help of others can often be more rewarding than working alone. There are great examples of team work with Max’s other canine friends – Sprinkles (Gabriel Iglesias) and Karma (Shaquille O’Neal) to catch the would-be kidnappers.

One scene that is questionable happens when Max is challenged by one aspect of the dog show – the inspection of his private parts. Frank helps him by telling him to go to his happy place, so he will not be bothered by the inspection. When Max goes to his happy place, we see a display of colorful visuals, along with moving music and Max is not bothered by the inspection. I understand that Global Road is re-cutting the film now after complaints from mommy bloggers and others. The new cut of the film will be available by this weekend.

Although there is some rude humor and suggestive language, I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18 as well as adults and give it 4 out of 5 stars. Show Dogs opens nationwide in theaters May 18, 2018. Check it out and experience a prestigious dog show from the inside.

School of Rock: The Musical – Thrilling Production With Great Cast and Message

April 6th, 2018

Based on the cult film and with a rocking new score from Andrew Lloyd Webber, School of Rock follows slacker Dewey Finn as he turns a class of straight–A  students into an ear-popping, riff-scorching, all-conquering rock band! As they prepare for the Battle of the Bands, can Dewey make them embrace the empowering message of rock? KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer Juanita Seon L. comments, “If you want to be entertained, as well as inspired, this is the show for you. The determination of Dewey and his students to uncover their talents and show their parents the importance of listening deliver a wonderful message in this show.” See her full review below.

School of Rock: The Musical
By Juanita Seon L., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Recently, I was thrilled to attend the musical production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. The musical, based on the Paramount movie written by Mike White, brought out my love of musicals. The production has two acts, with a total of 20 musical scenes. The sets are very well designed and the flow of scene changes is excellent.

School of Rock is the story of a Dewey Finn (Rob Colletti), a wannabe rock star who needs to earn money to pay rent. He poses as his friend Ned (Matt Bittner) to be a substitute teacher in a very prestigious private school. Dewey sees an opportunity to realize his life-long dream to compete in a battle of the band competition as he turns a class of straight A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band.

I enjoyed watching Dewey pretending to be Ned. He is not a licensed teacher and has no clue about how to teach.  When he discovers the students at Horace Green are very musically talented, he sees a chance to compete in the Battle of the Bands.  He awakens the students to their inner strengths and talent while working very hard to keep the principal, Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp) from learning the truth about him.

My favorite scene is when the students express their feelings about their parents as they sing “If Only You Would Listen.”  We get the sense that often young people feel that their parents want to live their dream through their kids instead of letting them pursue their own dreams.

All the cast members are excellent singers, dances and actors. The cast members are also are exceptional musicians and they all play instruments in the play. If you want to be entertained, as well as inspired, this is the show for you. The determination of Dewey and his students to uncover their talents and show their parents the importance of listening deliver a wonderful message in this show. You should know that there are some elements of adult language. I recommend this for ages 8 to 18 as well as adults and give it 5 out of 5 stars. School of Rock: The Musical is touring the US now. Next stop: Detroit, April 10 through 22, 2018.   For the full tour dates, visit  https://ustour.schoolofrockthemusical.com.



Director’s Close Up: Real Life vs. Reel Life

March 27th, 2018

While there are plenty of challenges to bringing a fictional universe to the big screen like in, Wrinkle in Time, or getting the complex daughter/mother relationship just right in Lady Bird, neither face the unique challenge of presenting a real-world story to an audience in an entertaining matter.

The fifth and final week of 2018 Director’s Close Up featured directors of many IRL-based-productions. These directors not only question the real-life results but also allow the viewers to question it themselves. A brand-new film, I, Tonya talks about a scenario just like this. The director of the film, Craig Gillespie, talked about what they want the audience of the film to feel, which is a realistic issue for realistic films. Often the real-life story has a clear and cut result driven by journalistic feeds, but as many know, humans are much more three-dimensional than that. This allows these realistic films to give the viewer a whole new perspective on judging infamous people in society.

This principal is great in theory, but rarely in practice. A film may indeed show the third dimension, but also show a skewed truth. Jonathan Dayton, director of films like Battle of the Sexes and Little Miss talked about just this. Twisting the truth can be necessary to make a good film, but can also hurt the concept terribly by making the film more like fiction than reality. It causes false impressions of real-life people, or even worst, changes their place in history due to a false description. In this way, the people who create these films also take the risk of altering history and ruining people’s lives. Yet, if done right, it can reveal new truths and remind people of forgotten values.

Angela Robinson, director of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, had a unique story to tell. Instead of making a film based on modern or somewhat modern events, she went nearly a century back to the creation of the famous superhero, Wonder Woman. While the story details may be commonly known, the intricate reasons for her creation are revealed and can be rather shocking. This is a perfect example of how a film can add to history, instead of destroying it. Before this film was made, little was known about the creators of Wonder Woman and was most likely kept secret. Now, it has been made public and adds a new side to the classic superhero. One could argue that these filmmakers are also historians, piecing together the past for our enjoyment.

In many ways, this was the perfect ending to the Director’s Close Up for 2018. It perfectly defines the concept of the event which is to show a whole new side of filmmaking that is not revealed from simply watching the film. There are often months, sometimes years of work and research dedicated to making these two hours of (hopefully) entertainment. Behind the camera of a motion picture is a small world that events such as these allow us to enter. Even if it is just for a moment, it opens up a whole new way of watching movies.

Images courtesy of
Wireimage and Film Independent

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: It’s a Beautiful Day Collection – Comprehensive Set of Shows by the Esteemed Mister Rogers

March 26th, 2018

This special set of 32 memorable episodes and over 15 hours of content celebrates the 50th anniversary of the beloved Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the pioneering children’s television series from The Fred Rogers Company. Mister Rogers helps children learn the importance of being kind to others, appreciating what makes everyone unique, recycling and taking care of our planet, and much more in the classic series. The new release also includes a very special bonus episode – the series premiere, in original black-and-white! Through his popular daily TV visits, generations of young children have grown up with the kind and gentle Mister Rogers, who created a calm and safe place that welcomed all to his neighborhood. With real-life guests, adventurous field trips and charming make-believe segments, the iconic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood encouraged kids ages 2 to 5 to learn about themselves and the world around them, speaking directly to the series’ young audience with his unique one-to-one affirmation of their self-worth. Celebrity guest stars have included: Tony Bennett, Julia Child, Margaret Hamilton, Michael Keaton, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Rita Moreno, and Bill Nye. KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer, Terry S. comments, “I will always have a special place in my heart for Fred Rogers, for his kindness and understanding of teaching and learning for the preschooler.” See her full review below.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: It’s a Beautiful Day
By Terry Solowey, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

This is a wonderful collection of shows by the iconic Mister Rogers. I have fond memories of representing this program when I worked at WNET in New York launching the Ready to Learn program. I represented all the programs on PBS at that time, in workshops teaching preschool instructors how to use TV as an educational, interactive tool to supplement and enhance their curriculum. I will always have a special place in my heart for Fred Rogers, for his kindness and understanding of teaching and learning for the preschooler.

It is a walk down memory lane to view several episodes from the 60s to the following decades. It is interesting to note that, through the years, Mr. Rogers maintained the same routine which made him unique, influential and well celebrated for his kind manner – teaching children that they are special and unique in their own right. He is known for greeting children everyday by coming through his door, taking off his jacket and shoes, and putting on his sweater and sneakers. He invites his audience to share some time to explore, discover and learn new things. He sings to “make the most of this beautiful day, won’t you be my neighbor?” You feel as if he is talking directly to you.

The topics of the episodes varies, from helping children know what to expect on their first day at school to talking about different kinds of families from birds to people, learning about sharing, giving and receiving, and encouraging generosity and gratitude. Children learn about the world and how to live in it.

We are introduced to friends, neighbors and workers such as Mr. McFeeley, the speedy delivery man, Lady Aberlin, a good friend and Joe Negri, a music shop owner, photographer, builder, handyman and guitar player – a man of many talents and trades. We are also introduced to Daniel Tiger, who currently carries on Mister Rogers’ tradition in the animated series.

One of my favorite segments is on disc four, Encouraging Generosity and Gratitude. Here we see how fortune cookies are made: from mixing flour and eggs, that become cookie batter ready to go into baking pans on a conveyer belt, to how the fortune message is put into the baked cookie shape and packaged. Mr. McFeeley delivers fortune cookies to Mister Rogers, who shares some with him. Both men are happy to give and receive. In the trolley car segment and land of make believe, even though King Friday thinks fortune cookies are silly, others on the show love them. The magical part is when a special fortune cookie man pops out and speaks in Spanish and delivers fortune cookies through his fortune cookie hat to others. Daniel Tiger says, “Anything can happen in the land of make believe.”

Another segment that stands out features the celebrated children’s author Eric Carle, who invites Fred into his art studio and shows him how he makes his colorful art papers, which he turns into collages for his picture books. He reads “Head to Toe,” pointing out how different animals move their body parts and they both move their body parts along with the story. Eric Carle gives him a book as a gift, reinforcing the lesson of generosity and gratitude.

I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for young children ages 2 to 5 as well as parents, caregivers and early childhood teachers. If you are a fan of the current Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, then Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is a must see for its ground breaking educational and entertaining programming. This DVD streets on March 27, 2018 so be sure to check it out.

Mascots Matter: Gender and Race Representation in Branding

March 15th, 2018

Mascots Matter: Gender and Race Representation in Branding
Presented by Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

How are products being marketed to children through brand mascots? And what role does gender and race play? Are boys and girls being marketed to differently and if so how does that effect the way they perceive gender roles? Join us as we answer these questions and present the first findings from our Mascots Matter: Gender and Race in Branding Study. Panelists include: Tiffanie Darke, Moderator, Editor in Chief, A+E channels History, Biography and A&E; Sarah Barclay, Global Executive Creative Director, J. Walter Thompson New York; Madeline Di Nonno, CEO, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; Torsten Gross, Executive Planning Director, J. Walter Thompson New York; Courtney Parker, Writer; Laura Treviño, Vice President, Marketing, The Jel Sert Company.

Mascots Matter: Gender and Race Representation in Branding
By Imani Baptiste-Green, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media presented a Salon recently called Mascots Matter: Gender and Race Representation in Branding.  This salon touched upon varioua points of gender and race. The event’s main focus is on power, and how people succeed as long as they put their mind to it, no matter what the circumstances. The event was hosted by Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, whom I had the pleasure to meet and talk with. The branding of mascots was discussed as how they convey the essence of brand marketing. This topic helped me formulate my own thoughts on the issues discussed.  

The atmosphere of this event has such a welcoming feeling, from when you walk through the front doors. I really enjoyed speaking with the other guests to get a better sense of the importance on how branding plays a role in how we view things! The mingling and meeting of new people made the night that much more memorable.

The five panelists shared their own stories which showed their strengths and the hardships that they still deal with, but embrace. For instance, being a woman of color, Courtney Parker, Executive Creative Director, JWT New York, expressed how she had to accept who she is in order to fight for what she wanted to do in life. And she has! I really admire every word that she had to say, especially since I too am a woman of color and have big dreams in life. She also quoted something her father once said to her: “There are two things that you will never be able to change and have to accept –  being black and a woman.” This really stuck with me, because I am now learning to embrace the skin that I’m in and loving it. Our society sends out so many hurtful stereotyping of people of color and women in general, which makes it difficult to work our way to the top. This event really enlightened how powerful women are and I adored it.

Torsten Gross, Executive Planning Director, J. Walter Thompson New York, was the only male panelist and had an amazing and powerful story to offer. He appeared to be very strong and comfortable, despite the fact that he has a disability. Not many people in this world accept people who struggle with disabilities, but Torsten did not let that affect his accomplishing what he wished to achieve in life. Sure, people treated him differently, but Torsten did not let that define who he is as a person. That too is a powerful message that was brought forward by this panel.

Women need to have a platform that gives them a place to show their projects and uniqueness that men cannot always offer. Their voices need to be brought forward and heard because, even though we are not men, we are equally important and have the same or more to offer. Our creativity needs to be expressed throughout the world and acknowledged! Without women, there would be no world!

Photo: Imani B. G. and mother
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