Campus News

Parham Policy Day focuses on issues of poverty, race

The 11th annual Parham Policy Day, held Nov. 18 at the Georgia Museum of Art, highlighted the plight of disenfranchised people of color with a screening of the award-winning documentary The Throwaways. The film depicts the problems of ghetto residents in upstate New York and their struggles for better treatment by local government and law enforcement agencies.

A panel discussion of the film followed the screening. Panelists included the film’s co-directors Ira McKinley and Bhawin Suchak, fresh from receiving the New York Civil Liberties Union Carol S. Knox Award for their work on the documentary. Other panelists included Rebecca Matthew, an assistant professor of social work; Russell Gabriel, director of Georgia Law’s Criminal Defense Clinic; and Obie Clayton, the Asa Edmund Ware Distinguished Professor and chair of the sociology and criminal justice department at Clark Atlanta University.

The discussion focused on several issues raised in the film: the profiling and mass incarceration of people of color, education and how to empower poor communities.

McKinley, a U.S. Air Force veteran who had experienced drug addiction, homelessness and imprisonment, described his recent involvement with community gardens and urged attendees to consider creative economic solutions.

“Start thinking outside of the box,” he said. “These policies and procedures are not working, so let’s think of new policies that can work.”

Suchak, who worked as an educator prior to becoming a filmmaker, emphasized the importance of communication about sensitive issues.

“Our purpose in this film is to spark conversations,” he said. “Something that we want to be part of the message of The Throwaways is a large issue in the country that people don’t want to talk about, and that is racism, which has left a legacy on this country.”

The event was organized by graduate students in the School of Social Work under the guidance of June Gary Hopps, the Thomas M. “Jim” Parham Professor of Family and Children Studies.