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A CONVERSATION WITH ZINHLE ESSAMUAH By Sydney McKinley

Update: Zinhle travelled to Ferguson, Missouri in March 2015. While there, she conducted over 25 interviews, attended protests and documented community meetings and religious services. A preview screening of her documentary is scheduled for Friday, May 1 at 7 p.m. in the Marvin Center Amphitheater.

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n an effort to explore the impact of the recent Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases on black, young adults, senior Zinhle Essamuah has begun producing a documentary titled Hands Up, which features interviews with students from the GW community and beyond.

experiences. For example, she said interested in documenting the experiences of “those who are African immigrants, those who identify as African American and everyone in between.” In particular, Essamuah hopes that this project will produce a better understanding of the direct action young people took in response to the Brown and Garner cases.

Essamuah, a third year senior majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication, was one of the two undergraduates in SMPA to be awarded the Manheim-Sterling Research Prize. She is utilizing this prize money to execute her project.

In a world that tends to hold the view that millennials are “lazy,” Essamuah so far has been surprised by what she has learned about the action young people have actually taken.

“Last semester when these cases were unfolding, I was intrigued by the reactions of all my peers and, specifically, the diverse responses of my black friends,” Essamuah said about the inspiration for her project. “I think there was an assumption by the general American public that all African-Americans and black people in the country felt the same way, but it’s not true.”

“I guess I just assumed that millennials were only tweeting and hashtagging and that was it. But I met a group of young women on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day who were distributing pamphlets to black people that detailed how to respond if a cop pulls you over or stops you on the street,” Essamuah explained. “Just the fact that these girls went to that extent, to hand out pamphlets at the MLK Memorial … I wasn’t expecting that.”

Essamuah hopes to uncover these various perspectives and opinions in hopes of adding to the new body of research on the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

Essamuah plans to host screenings of her documentary on our campus, to distribute the film online and to submit the film to festivals. Ultimately, she hopes that her project will spark a widespread conversation.

“This isn’t a topic that has been explored much,” Essamuah said. “I have not seen a study of what young black people are thinking about America’s race relations following the recent high-profile killings of unarmed black men.”

“For people who have felt stumped about all of the Ferguson and Garner stuff, maybe you’re saying, ‘I don’t even know how to start talking about Ferguson’ or ‘I don’t have any role in it,’ this film could be a good starting point for you,” she said.

In order to explore this topic, Essamuah is engaging in a series of informational interviews with different young black millennials around the DC, Maryland and Virginia area.

“I want everyone to leave the theatre having been a little challenged or, at least, thinking about this topic in a new way.”

She explained that she is looking specifically at the DMV area because she hopes to represent individuals with varied socioeconomic statuses and diverse

Follow Zinhle’s documentary website at: handsupdocumentary.com.

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