On Sunday, April 2nd, 130 sixth and seventh graders gathered at a movie theater in Jerusalem to watch ‘Moana.’ For those (very few) of you who have not seen this latest critically acclaimed Disney movie, ‘Moana’ is about a daring young girl who sails out to sea in order to save her people and island. It is a moving film, with a female protagonist, which passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, and allows youth to be swept off their feet by the imaginative, diverse and creative movie plot and characters. Probably one of the more diverse and empowering Disney movies I have seen, it felt very appropriate to be watching this film with a group of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth in Jerusalem.
In Kids4Peace, we work on youth empowerment and development. We work on helping these youth build their own sense of identity, both group and personal, and we guide them as they become leaders and activists in their communities.
After the film, the Pathways to Peace (6th and 7th grade) advisors led a dialogue for the youth. The youth and staff together discussed how the film showed a young girl, who despite all odds and despite the lack of belief in her, was able to go out in the world and make change. Real, lasting change. The youth liked this, and they liked to think of themselves as making change in their families, neighborhoods, and city, too. They all felt like Moana was an interesting and inspiring character who they hope to be like – brave, resilient, kind and spirited.
During the discussion, one of the youth mentioned language as an obstacle to understanding and equality. They discussed how this made them feel, and imagined, like Moana, being able to impact their community. Another youth jumped in, saying that it felt great being in a public movie theater in Jerusalem, a place they had gone often with friends and family, but this time with their Kids4Peace friends. They were speaking Hebrew and Arabic, laughing together and enjoying a movie together, and this felt important. For the advisors, too, being in this public space together was an important step in feeling like a group of empowered youth and leaders in Jerusalem, making a difference and remaining a strong community.
At the end of the evening, the youth left feeling encouraged, inspired and excited to change the world, just like Moana.
Thank you to USAID for making this evening possible.