Kelly Deranek, Saint Mary’s senior, presented a proposal asking for funding for Dance Marathon. The event is in its fifth year at the College and raises money for the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. One of the final things SGA has done for the students of Saint Mary’s College is to help fund one of the bigger events on campus — Dance Marathon. Chesley and Smith were shadowing the current president and vice president in preparation for their terms in office. They will continue to observe until they are sworn in to office and, after elections for the other offices this week, the new class officers will also be attending the SGA meetings. “The event’s goal is to celebrate the hard work Dance Marathon has done all year to raise money for the hospital,” Deranek said. “It promotes awareness of the hospital but the Marathon night is all about fun.” In preparation for their upcoming term as leaders of Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) beginning April 1, juniors Rachael Chesley and Laura Smith attended Wednesday’s meeting. Chesley and Smith were voted in as SGA president and vice president, respectively, for the 2010-11 academic year during the election Feb. 26. Dance marathon will be held in Angela Athletic Facility from 8 p.m. March 26 to 8 a.m. March 27. The event is for Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross students. Deranek said they are expecting around 550 people, which is the largest attendance the event has ever had. The marathon is 12 hours of dancing with live entertainment and a DJ. It also includes food, games, last minute donations and a counting of how much money was raised. Hoffman also said she and the current SGA vice president and junior, Megan Griffin, were attempting to initiate a Saint Mary’ s heritage course. The course would be one credit and would teach students about the origins and founding values of the College. “The year is coming to a close very quickly and our term in office is almost over,” current SGA president and senior Jenny Hoffman said. “It’s time to think of what final things you would like to accomplish for the student body.” The board members for the event have already begun fundraising, but because all the money has been donated to the hospital, they still needed funding for the event, Deranek said. SGA has started to prepare for the end of the 2009-10 term and will meet only three more times before the newly elected officers are sworn in on April 1. Some of the suggestions made by the SGA members included vending machines in the Student Center and new vacuums in the dorms.
“Documentary film, for a long time, had at least one important strand or trend within it — trying to draw public attention to some kind of injustice,” Renov said. Some criminal justice reform has occurred over the years. In 2007, 175,000 juveniles were tried as adults and, in 2014, that number dropped to just over 90,000, according to a 2017 report by the Campaign for Youth Justice. In 2018, Tennessee established the Juvenile Justice Reform Act aimed at increasing outreach to youth and reserving detention for those who committed serious crimes. Brown, an alleged victim of child sex trafficking and prostitution, was arrested for murder in 2004 and sentenced to life in prison in 2006, after killing a man who she claimed paid her for sex. After hearing about her story, Birman, along with a team of students and other community members, began to work on a project documenting Brown’s life and the enslavement to a pimp referred to as “Kut Throat.” “We caused people on platforms, young, old … to take a look at an issue with their own lens and talk about it,” Birman said. “It really gives me great hope that the form of documentary can really make a difference.” Although she was only 16 during the incident, Brown was tried as an adult and sentenced to 60 years in prison. As of now, she has served 15 years. Following her release from prison in August, she will undergo 10 years of parole supervision. Megan Chao, an adjunct professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, worked as an associate producer and researcher for the documentary. She said that when she heard that Brown had been granted clemency, it hit her on a personal level. But movements like #FreeCyntoiaBrown exploded on social media, with celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and LeBron James voicing their support. Organizations such as Color of Change, The Sentencing Project and the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth joined efforts to support her appeal. “One of the pillars our organization believes in is youth justice,” said Clarise McCants, criminal justice campaign director for Color for Change. “Children need to be treated like children. No child should be sentenced to serve the rest of their life in prison. Everything she’s been put through is a miscarriage of justice.” “For the first six years while I was working on the project, my fear was that we might not make a big impact, and we might not make noise, and that was a scary thought,” Birman said. Cyntoia Brown, the subject of Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Professor Dan Birman’s documentary, was granted clemency on Jan. 7. The decision by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam comes nearly eight years after the release of “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” He said he believes that documentaries have the ability to humanize large issues, like the Brown case, in a way other mediums may not be able. Renov also said good films can shape an audience’s perception and can potentially change lives. “It was just very emotional to think that someone would have a second chance at life that wasn’t even a possibility 15 years ago,” Chao said. “I think this is a historic time for Cyntoia [and] for juvenile justice in general.” Professor Dan Birman is currently making the sequel to his 2011 documentary on Cyntoia Brown, which will follow the events leading up to her release from prison in August. (Sinead Chang/Daily Trojan) “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Haslam said in a statement released by the governor’s office on Jan. 7. “Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope.” Brown’s story also received support from Black Lives Matter organizers, who cited systemic criminal justice discrimination of black and brown people in statements voicing their support. According to a 2018 report from The Sentencing Project, black girls are 3.5 times more likely to be placed in juvenile detention. “Art has the power to transform,” Renov said. “It can make the familiar entirely unfamiliar and, in making it strange, it can show us [something] in a very different way. It can change the way we perceive ourselves in the world.” The documentary ignited a national conversation and sparked a movement of people across the country who have called for her release, much to Birman’s surprise. “It is so important to pay attention to the thousands of Cyntoia Browns out there,” Birman said. “We just hope that the conversation that we started with the first documentary and that we will continue with the new documentary, will really help to illuminate new narratives in juvenile justice.” During her time in prison, Brown obtained her GED and a degree from Lipscomb University and mentored troubled youth, according to reports by Vox and NPR. In his decision to release Brown from prison, Haslam cited Brown’s educational progress and outreach behind bars. Michael Renov, documentary expert and vice dean of academic affairs at the School of Cinematic Arts, said that Birman’s documentary is one of many to have influenced social movements. Chao and Birman are currently working on a sequel to the documentary entitled “Me Facing Life 2: Cyntoia’s Fight for Freedom.” The documentary will be a follow-up on Brown’s life, covering recent events all the way up to her release this summer. Birman said that it was a “sobering thought” to see his film have such an impact. The second documentary is expected to be released this fall. read more