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Paper City, a documentary film by Akil Gibbons 08F, follows Hampshire alum Iesha Ramos 09F, a Holyoke native who mentors students in her afterschool program, the Teen Resource Project.
Paper City, a documentary film by Akil Gibbons 08F, was screened at the Northampton Film Festival on October 11 at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton.
Paper City started as Gibbons’ Division III project at Hampshire. The film is “a story about the American dream in the age of the school-to-prison pipeline, the nationwide phenomenon in which high dropout rates coincide with mass incarceration of urban youth,” Gibbons says.
The film follows Hampshire alum Iesha Ramos 09F, a Holyoke native who returns to her city every day to mentor students in her afterschool program, the Teen Resource Project. The film began with interviews with her students, who must navigate through booming drug economies, struggling school systems, gang warfare, and unprecedented rates of mass incarceration.
In response, a community of teachers, law officers, filmmakers, activists, and politicians created Paper City for students to realize their own dreams outside the school-to-prison pipeline.
“We’re trying to educate these kids who are at risk, and the larger community, about these socioeconomic issues,” Gibbons says. “We have designed a full curriculum inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? to bring a civil rights perspective to modern day America.”
After graduating from Hampshire College, Gibbons was hired to work for the Sundance and Peabody award-winning documentary The House I Live In, which is about the war on drugs and mass incarceration.
Gibbons stresses the importance of the Hampshire community, both during his time in college and after. “The fact that I had so many Hampshire alumni and students working with me on this project, and the support I had from media services, made all of this happen” he says.
Gibbons started a kickstarter campaign to help "complete the curriculum for youth to counteract the school-to-prison pipeline and to build a website where it can be accessed for free," he says. For more information, go here.