Charles “Lil Buck” Riley addresses students and teachers of East High School during a screening of Me and the Light at Malco Paradiso. Photo by Andrea Morales.

On January 27, more than 500 East High School students, teachers, and administrators attended a special screening of the unreleased short film, Me and the Light. Produced by Grounded, a Memphis-based artist collaborative, the film couples world-renowned local artists with our “grit and grind” city spirit to unpack both the harsh realities and unlimited potential that Memphis encompasses.

“Grounded is a team of Memphis artists harnessing the power of art, creativity, and movement to inspire healing and galvanize communities around important social issues,” said Alan Spearman, Grounded team member and director of Me and the Light.

Following the film viewing, the entire student body participated in writing and reflection exercises, including an activity in which students discussed specific scenes and quotes from the film. Students also created their own works of art while listening to a special message and song from the film, “Move to Touch Joy,” written by recording artists and Grounded team members Valerie June, Paul Taylor, and Drumma Boy. The day wrapped with an all-school assembly that gave students an opportunity to explore movement through an exercise with Memphis Jookers and Grounded team members Charles “Lil Buck” Riley and Marico “Dr. Rico” Flake, legendary Memphis dancer.

Students received a custom Grounded notebook to capture their thoughts and reflections after the movie screening. Photo by Andrea Morales.

“We have so much gratitude for the energy, emotion, and inspiration displayed by the students, faculty, and administration of East High,” Spearman said. “We’re excited to continue working with them in the months to come as they use their own creativity to redefine Memphis and show us how to #BeWhatABulletCantBe.”

Grounded producers partnered with a number of community organizations to make the screening a reality, including Facing History and Ourselves, Malco Theaters, and the ACE Awareness Foundation.

“We are excited to partner with the ACE Awareness Foundation to add an important awareness layer to this pilot program about adverse childhood experiences,” Spearman said.

The East High School initiative will continue through the end of the school year, with a curriculum focused on tackling difficult aspects of Memphis history.

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