Another prize-winning documentary Gerety Rho and Wells return to nationals

Another prize-winning documentary
Gerety, Rho, and Wells return to nationals

GUILDERLAND — For the second year in a row, the same trio of Farnsworth Middle School students — Casey Gerety, Sohee Rho, and Katie Wells — have produced a documentary that won first place in the New York State History Day competition and will now go on to compete nationally.

While they were in Washington, D.C. last year with their documentary, WRGB: Broadcasting Pioneer, they toured the nation’s capitol.

There they saw and photographed an inscription which begins their prize-winning documentary this year. It is a quotation by Martin Luther King Jr.

The film, says their advisor, Farnsworth enrichment teacher Deb Escobar, is much stronger than last year’s. It focuses on the civil rights struggle in 1963 and is called, The March on Washington: Standing Up for Freedom.

Escobar said the girls’ film won easily at the state level
"The information they dug out was amazing," said Escobar, adding, "I get goose bumps when I see it."

She describes the riveting start of the 10-minute film. It begins with pictures of violence — people sprayed with hoses, beaten with billy clubs — interspersed with a thud sound.
"Each image is a second and a half; they go boom! boom! boom! Then it fades into the Martin Luther King quote — without justice for all there is justice for no one — white letters on a black ground."

Love of learning

The three documentarians — Gerety, Rho, and Wells — work well together and are fueled by their enthusiasm for learning.
"In the middle of the summer, they called me to meet them at the public library," said Escobar. She did; the girls were already hard at work on their research.

Eighth-graders this year, the three friends are diverse in their goals and outlooks.
"I want to go into history or law," Rho told The Enterprise last year. She said it is important for people to learn from history, from "all the mistakes that people have made."

Gerety, whose father is an endocrinologist, said she hoped to become a doctor, too.
"I like math and science," she said.
"I think I’d like to be a lawyer or a journalist," said Wells. "I like to debate with people about what’s happened."

Although the trio didn’t place in the national competition last year — their film was the last to be viewed by judges at the end of a long day — they were not discouraged, said Escobar.
"Some people look at the contest like, ‘I’m here to win and won’t do it any more if I don’t.’ Their attitude was, ‘We loved the learning.’ They’re really dedicated to the learning."

The students will compete this year June 11 to 15 in College Park, Maryland.

"Too gory"
For this year’s documentary, the girls interviewed local people who had marched in 1963. Two of them were Presbyterian ministers, both white. "An African American was in the car with them; they experienced prejudice even on the way down," said Escobar.

A third interview is with Leon VanDyke, an African American who marched.

A pivotal moment in their research came, Escobar said, when they viewed an FBI microfilm on Asa Philip Randolph, who organized the march.
"They found a letter Randolph had written to [FBI Director J. Edgar] Hoover, asking for help. He had been sent a severed black hand in the mail. The girls were shocked," said Escobar. "They had seen pictures of dogs attacking. They had heard about lynching. It didn’t strike them personally until they saw that letter," she said. "They didn’t include it in the video itself; it was too gory."

The film ends with a quotation from Randolph, which Escobar paraphrased — You have to continue to fight for justice because it’s never easily won.

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