Monday, January 18, 2010

Unsung S-heroes

If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream. -Martin Luther King Jr.

S-heroes, heroines. Can't we come up with a better name for amazing, courageous women? But I digress. On this day of honoring Martin Luther King Jr., I'd like to pause and honor special s-heroes, specifically the 7 women whose stories are featured in our new documentary, "It's All About the Children."

We've struggled to find a name for this film, an hour-long look at homelessness from  women's perspective. It's All About the Children comes from words spoken by Darlene Newsom, CEO of the impressive Phoenix program, UMOM, that houses and assists homeless families and women. It is all about the children. That's why we do anything worthwhile in this world--so children can have it better. That's what led me to my s-heroes.

My current cross-country journey now has several purposes, but my deepest pleasure comes from sitting down with each woman in our film and letting them see it privately. Julianna (left) in Tempe was the first. Her gripping account, augmented by footage from home movies, shares a saga known by many women, told by few, domestic abuse that traps and debilitates, inevitably destroying the mom and her kids in the process, unless they escape.

Watching her modest, hand-me-down TV with her as these stories unfolded was humbling. While the other six stories touched her, leaving her in admiration of her "cine-sisters," I, knowing the painful details of her story, remain so grateful that she, and the rest of our ensemble, had the courage to share their unique but similar personal accounts of how their lives fell apart and their struggles to regain forward movement. Each woman has deep insight into the underlying causes and effects of their tribulations, as well as hopes and dreams for the future.

Homelessness is, was and will always be misunderstood and misconstrued by unenlightened ones. Blaming the victim, Pat Robertson's specialty, is pointless. The bootstraps theory--insensitive, maybe well-intentioned--oozes from people who don't know the rest of the story. The one antidote to misunderstanding is learning from experts. It's All About the Children provides that opportunity.

My s-heroes are these women, and so many more like them, who struggle to survive, to help their children not only survive but thrive. They fight the injustices that MLK railed against in his campaign for justice, injustices that seem to multiply with each passing day.

Our best hope is to direct today's efforts to the future, ensuring this world will be ready for the children. Julianna, the women of "Children," and countless s-heroes are doing just that. I'm just the humbled, honored instrument. Their stories fuel my quest for justice and equality, especially for the children. We cannot rest until that happens. 

Julianna's photo provided by her

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