Monday, October 16, 2006

Akleelah and the Bee

One of my blog buddies, Sharla Earlandson, suggested that I blog about Akeelah and the Bee, A Starbucks sponsored, Lionsgate movie about an eleven year old girl in Los Angeles, who faced her fears and insecurities, and won the national spelling bee. It is an inspiring and heart-warming movie that we took all of the kids in our Breakthrough Youth and Family Program to see because of the positive influence we believed it would have in their lives.

We, at Breakthrough, have connected with this story on many levels, especially in the way the community came together to help Akeelah learn her last 5,000 words and to cheer her on to victory. Bringing a community together to ensure the success of its stars is central to Breakthrough's philosophy of ministry.

I could write about the movie, but I can't think of a better way for you to learn about it than to link to the Earlandson's Raindrops of Sunshine blog and read what Sharla has written. She has also posted a You Tube video trailer of the movie.

Thanks Sharla. I agree. This is one of the best movies I have seen that brings hope to inner city youth.


Westy said...

Funny you should write about this, Arloa, my wife and I just watched it this weekend!
We were thinking of the kids who're a part of Breakthrough as well. I'm curious, what sort of reaction did some of them have?

Marcie Curry, Director of Youth and Family Services said...

The youth at Breakthrough were incredibly inspired by the movie. Usually when we attend movies with that many kids,we have a lot of kids moving around, visits to the restrooms and of course, the concession stands. During Akeelah and the Bee, no one moved. The kids were cheering for her outloud in the theater. In the movie, there is a scene when Akeelah almost beats Dylan at Scrabble; she overhears his father saying something about "almost losing to a silly, black girl.." The kids went crazy when he said this; they were very offended by his racism. It took several minutes for them to calm down after that. I have to say that I did see some tears in kids eyes at several points, but I won't out them here :) It was our best field trip ever! Of course, now the kids want us to host a spelling bee...We'll see...

Anonymous said...

I am part of the staff at BTUM. This is pretty weird timing, because on our bus from time to time, we have an informal "movie of the week". This week's feature is Akeelah :)Arloa, didn't know this when she wrote this entry.

The kids at Breakthrough enjoy this movie alot. Spelling has become really popular, at least in the short term. Several kids now spell out every word they speak...kind of annoying :)H-E-L-L-O B-I-L-L. But a very positive action compared to other options.

For several of the kids, the movie has increased hope and provided a positive view not only of Akeelah but also her community who backed her during the struggle. I really like the fact that combined resources from inside and outside of her community worked together for her good.

A few kids laugh it off and see lofty goals as something to be laughed at on the outside, and then out of the same breath talk about their future NBA career.

Regardless of the external behavior of the kids, I believe that the movie challenges each young person's world view in a significant way.

I am reminded of the story from the new testament when we were discouraged from trying to identify the "wheat" from the "tares" too early.

It is likely to be several years before we see what kind of difference positive media like Akeelah has made in the lives of children. I pray that a greater volume of movies, music and books are produced that give an entire library of positive images and hope to our young people.

Sharla said...

You both give me tears of admiration. You are the people I want to be like. Who are my hero's? It's those in places where it really matters. Where you are, is where it really matters. I always thought of my sweet kids in Chicago as little eggs, a hard outer shell but incredibly soft beyond that.....if you stick around long enough to figure out how to get to their hearts. Thanks! These stories are important.

Westy said...

Great insights! It's awesome to see a movie like this made, and let's hope there are more like it. Especially insightful is the reaction to Dylan's father's comment. I hardly noticed it (although I was outraged at how he pushed his son).

One more question from me. The one hesitation I had with the movie was the positive light it painted the 'gangster' with. I thought it was great that they made a point of the community surrounding her to help the studying, but why was he included? What are your thoughts on that?
Or am I missing that the point is he recognized that he regretted the path he had chosen and yearned for more innocent times and the chance to choose again...

sharla said...

Great question. I could be totally wrong but I think what they were trying to accomplish through that was to show how even a little girl can inspire even "gangsters" to come back to the light. He discouraged her brother from hanging out with him to help her learn. He himself helped her learn. Would he have made those time choices if he wasn't personally inspired by her choices? I think the power in that moment is in a little girl changing her community, even the "gangsters" by HER personal choices. Would those in many of Chicago's gangs be more influenced for evil if it were not for the presence of Breakthrough? Would kids be more likely to choose light or choose gang life if the light wasn't there?

bill said...

I feel the tension as well, and I have experienced the older fellas of our neighborhood protecting the "extreme high achiever" from corruption.

In my 6 years in East Garfield Park, I have listened about 4 times to older gang members (in their 20's) discourage an 12-13 year old from getting involved with the gang or drug economy...encouraging them to hang with Breakthrough instead. while I am thankful for that type of is still true that their words speak softer than actions.

I think the movie did a good job of reminding us of the humanness (sp?) of a drug dealer. While in America we tend to gain our primary identity from our occupation, this same pattern serves to label people and reduce them to a resource to build economy, rather than a creation of God. Still created in God's image, yet without hope and connectedness to the larger society. Propably some skilled marketers, salesman are currently stationed as dealers :)

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting for me to read the post. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Truly yours