Ambrose and Lillian Bennett awarded $10,000 grant for ‘Racism in America’ project

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NORTHERN Marianas Humanities Council Executive Director Leo Pangelinan said a $10,000 grant has been awarded to former Kagman High School teacher Ambrose Bennett and his wife Lillian Bennett for “The Origins & Evolution of Racism in America” project.

In a press conference on Thursday at the KSPN studio, Mr. Bennett  said the project aims to educate the community regarding racism.

“Racism has been with us ever since the first race of people fought against the other race of people,” he said.

He said, “The Origins & Evolution of Racism in America” project will highlight the critically acclaimed 1997 film “Amistad,” and  the award-winning 1977 TV mini-series, “Roots.”

Mr. Bennett said when he saw George Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” moment, he told himself that he had to do something.

George Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020 in Minnesota while being arrested. A white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed, lying face down.

“It was clear that racism is still a real problem in America and the world — it must come to an end,” Mr. Bennett said. “It came to me that I have to do this film festival, which I actually did in my classroom when I was a Social Studies teacher.” 

NMI Humanities Council Executive Director Leo Pangelinan, left, with Ambrose Bennett at the KSPN studio. Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

He added, “We must understand that racism is a learned behavior. Nobody comes in the world a racist. Racism continues to exist because there are young people still being helplessly raised and educated to be racist. We should always use education as our most powerful tool to end racism.”

He said, “Racism comes in many forms…. When we talk about ‘local’ versus ‘everybody else,’ it is a form of racism. We are all in this together and I have always said that we are all going to find prosperity together or we are not going to find it at all.”

He said technology has also helped people witness racism. “Without these cellphones and videos and things, we would still be in the dark about how bad it really is.”

NMI Humanities Council Executive Director Leo  Pangelinan said Mr. Bennett’s project is timely and relevant, “not just in the United States, but also throughout the world.

“Mr. Ambrose Bennett has a background teaching on this subject and trying to integrate deeper understanding of racism,” Pangelinan added.

The  highlight of the project is a three-day film festival that aims to help people understand racism, he said.

Mr. Bennett is now coordinating with Marianas High School, which will be the venue of the film festival.

It is tentatively set for  Oct. 10 , 11 and 12, at the MHS gym from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

People are advised to come early due to limited seats.

“ ‘Amistad’ and ‘Roots’ are full of adventure and drama,” Mr. Bennett said. “People will be fully entertained and will also learn something they didn’t know about how racism evolved and there may even be those who will forever be changed for the better.”

The films will be shown on wide screen from Soundhire.

“They normally charge $6,000 a day, but donated two-thirds of the costs,” Mr. Bennett said.


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