By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS — Making sure he left no stone unturned, Millington Central High School senior Ryan Garcia wanted his road to redemption as smooth as possible.
In one of the competition rooms in the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Garcia set among his classmates and competitiors during the NAACP ACT-SO Memphis Competition Filmmaking category.
With the judges reviewing the first three films, Garcia sent a text message out to one of his advisors in the room for some advance on how to present his projects. Minutes away from his presentation, Garcia wanted to make a stronger impression on the judges after his disappointing finish in the competition the previous year.
Garcia executed the advice by presenting his storyboard after the viewing of the video. Garcia’s film, presentation and attention to details from the criticisms he received in 2018 led to his first-place finish in Filmmaking 2019. Garcia will be heading to Nationals this summer in Detroit.
Garcia finished ahead of fellow MCHS students in Marshonn Calvin’s Broadcasting program Maurice Wooten Jr. with second place (”Strength”) and Maryam Alexander with third place (“My Story”).
Calvin brought seven students to Memphis last Thursday for the competition: Garcia “Cinta Diri,” Wooten “Strength,” Alexander “My Story,” Lauren Briscoe “Piece,” Savannah Spearman “Jackson’s Journey,” Timothy Andrews “Offspring of Sin,” and Daisha Spencer “Where were you?”
Also participating in ACT-SO for Millington was Alexandra Goodman in Poetry-Performance and Music Vocals.
When it comes to ACT-SO, the Trojans are known as a force in the Filmmaking category. Calvin noted the strong history of Millington starting with projects of Edward Jones back in 2005. The late Jordan Brooks brought home the first-place prize setting a high standard for future Millington students.
“I do it for Jordan Brooks and to honor him,” Calvin said. “Brooks helped inspired things we do in the program today like Trojan TV and ACT-SO. We believe in ACT-SO and that it pays tribute to Jordan because this organization was found on the principle of giving voice to the voiceless.
Calvin’s 2019 bunch was happy to continue the tradition in honor of Brooks and have a chance to give voice to their concerns.
Third-place finisher Alexander is a freshman who reached the metal stand sharing her trails and tribulations. She has endured living in foster care and being separated from her family.
Wooten’s second-place project was inspired by his time as a wrestler and watching his father Maurice Wooten Sr. step up to manhood when his son was born. Wooten outlined what strength means to him.
Spearman, a freshman, got a chance to shine a light on the strength of her family during a time of a baby battling cancer.
“I made this film in memory of my late cousin Jackson who passed away from pediatric cancer,” she said. “I didn’t originally signed up to be in Mr. Calvin’s class, but when I found out about the ACT-SO competition, I wanted to use this platform to raise awareness about pediatric cancer and honor his memory.”
Andrews doesn’t have many memories of his birth parents. Their drug use led to him being raised by his grandparents. The junior found the courage to share his pain and perseverance with his peers.
“My project was personal but everything in this world nowadays you wish it was happy, rainbows and everything,” he said. “A lot of times, life just throws you a curveball. You’ve got to deal with it how you can.
“My purpose was that people would understand how drug use not only effects the person who is using the drugs,” Andrews added. “It effects the people around them, their family. It’s not just a one-person, isolated thing. It has a chain reaction. There was a need, definitely a need. There is a problem out there and I just want people to know they are not alone.”
Garcia’s winning film has a similar motivation. Battling depression, Garcia has been known as a bright light around MCHS from pep rallies to sporting events.
In 2018, Garcia focused on himself and his internal pains. Calvin and the judges saw his potential and challenged him to improve.
“My video is called Cinta Diri which is Indonesia for self love,” he noted. “You might not get if for the first half, but you’ll definitely get through the second half that it is about self love when I ask people do you love yourself.
“And I do struggle with self love and stuff,” Garcia continued. “I am one of my biggest critics. We don’t talk about it. It is something that we do hide and try not to have in the open. I just try to put it out there to help people. I tried to let them make it about themselves, see if they loved themselves. Only one person named themselves in their top three. I tried to give them an opportunity to say it themselves and give themselves credit. Most of them didn’t and that’s when I hit them with it.”
Garcia overwhelmed the judges to earn the first-place prize and a trip to Nationals.
Calvin said Garcia has the talent to be the next great filmmaker. The senior said he was glad to get redemption and that the ACT-SO platform is their for him and his peers.
“It’s for young adults and kids in high schools,” he said. “It’s really one of the big competitions you can actually win something and it can be meaningful.”
ACT-SO has additional meanings for students like Spearman.
“I’m the third Spearman kid,” she said. “Both my brothers (Anderson and William) were super talented, ‘They were the best kids to come through my class.’ I’ve always lived in their shadows.
“One would do this and the other would do that,” Spearman continued. “This is my chance to show him I can do anything they could do and 10 times better. Not only show it to them, but to my community. I want to make a name for myself and not just be baby sister.”
Millington has made a name for itself in ACT-SO. Andrews said he glad to be a part of the legacy now while trying to make his instructor proud.
“One thing that I’ve always known about Mr. Calvin since the day I met him, he’s really passionate about ACT-SO,” he concluded. “He’s passionate about this program. He was talking to me one day and finally convinced me to come out about it. He told me it would help me and I really appreciate that about him. He is honestly one of my biggest inspirations.”