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Millington diversifies ACT-SO filmmaking competition

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ACT-SO judges ACT-SO medalists

MCHS Instructor Mr. Calvin poses with 2018 NAACP ACT-SO participants Nicholas Hutcheson, Kenny Harris, Ryan Garcia, Arjasha Clark, DeMarcia Reed, Gena Parker and Max Castro-Mendoza.

MCHS Instructor Mr. Calvin poses with 2018 NAACP ACT-SO participants Nicholas Hutcheson, Kenny Harris, Ryan Garcia, Arjasha Clark, DeMarcia Reed, Gena Parker and Max Castro-Mendoza.

MEMPHIS — Millington Central High School was in full force at the 2018 NAACP ACT-SO held in Memphis last Thursday.
Despite having two medalist and a pair of honorable mentions, MCHS will not be represent at Nationals in Texas this summer. After MCHS students, DeMarcia Reed, Max Castro-Mendoza, Kenny Harris and Gena Parker were recognized the chairperson for ACT-SO explained in order to qualify for Nationals, a student must score a 95 or above. All first-place finisher in each category in the fields of Business, Humanities, Performing Arts, STEM and Visual Arts must have accumulate 95 points from the judges in order to receive a spot in the next round.
The Millington students under the guidance of Broadcasting teacher Marshonn Calvin competed in Filmmaking. Joining the medalists and honorable mentions in the competition were Arjasha Clark, Ryan Garcia, Elisha Gwyn and Willie Johnson III.
Calvin and the students left Parkway Gardens United Presbyterian Church with mixed emotions. While Reed and Castro-Mendoza were happy with their medals, the rest of their peers were confused by the final outcome.
Prior to the competition the students sent weeks working on the short films and documentaries. Having to be under 5 minutes long, several hours of shooting, writing, acting, editing and more went in the projects.
“Giving kids the opportunity, whether the be African American or not, we started something in 2003 being in ACT-SO,” Calvin noted. “We came in at second and third the first time. Now to see where we’re at now, not only taking African Americans into ACT-SO.
“We’re talking all people of color and breaking the color line,” he added. “It’s all about giving kids an opportunity. I think that’s the reason God put me here to give kids an opportunity to see what they can really do with film. They’ve got to have a voice and believe in themselves. It allows them to do that with filmmaking. They get a chance to see how valuable the work is. That’s what I’ve been able to learn.”
The misconception about ACT-SO is that the competition is only for Blacks. But the Millington group featured White, Hispanic and Asian decedent students in Harris, Castro-Mendoza and Parker respectively.
All the students focused on universal topics that are effecting their age groups. Junior Ryan Garcia brought the self-documentary “How Come?” to ACT-SO. It was the first of its kind from Calvin’s class. The piece gave viewers an inside look at the mind, heart and soul of Garcia.
Castro-Mendoza hit the hot topic of DACA and how it has impacted his family and his future. He gave the spotlight in the short film to his mother as she explained leaving her life behind in Mexico to give him a brighter future.
Reed, the second-place winner, produced the short film “Watch Your Back.” It was a brief movie depicting an African-American male trying to find his way in life between gangs or his athletic future. And like several of his peers, he meets a violent end. Then Reed’s film drives home the point with several news clips illustrating violence taking out minority males.
Harris’ “Fading Reflection” tackled the topic of how males deal with bullying. Using black and white to set the tempo, a young male is hit with physical shots and is mentally beaten down through his cell phone. He ended his pains with suicide.
Freshman Gena Ann Parker blew the judges away with her maturity and film “Mending America.” Parker used her film to shine a light on school shootings and she gave her reasons behind the recent rash of violence torturing her generation.
Her fellow freshman Nicholas Hutcheson submitted “Has the Injury Reached a Verdict.” His piece was informative and broke down the most common aches and pains for athletes.
Sophomore Arjasha Clark also featured bullying with “Human Rights Torture.” Clark hit the wider view of how teens are bullying in 2018 from their phones to old-school methods of using notes.
Her fellow 10th grader Elisha Gwyn made the short film “Cyber Bullying.” She was motivated to do the piece because she experience bullying in person and through the Internet. She hopes her film shows people that they’re not alone in the world.
Although Millington didn’t add to its first-place legacy with past winners like Randall Davis, Janesha Cade and the late Jordan Brooks, Calvin said he was proud of his current group’s range and awareness to social issues.
“When Jordan Brooks passed away, I felt it was my mission to keep this going on with ACT-SO,” he said. “When it gets around this time, I think this is the most emotional time for me because I feel what he could have become. We’ve been searching for that next Jordan. They can never fill that void, but it gives me inspiration to keep his memory alive.
“Really transcend and grow with this new group coming in as freshmen,” Calvin added. “To see Gena Parker come in and doing what she’s doing. She’s already stellar inside the show. But to see her doing films and documentaries, it shows she’s an intellectual and she thinks. I love being able to see them grow. I feel I got some kids with some good projects. I have a feeling we’re going to do well.”

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