On Thursday, June 25, 2015, POV partnered with DCTV for the New York City premiere of Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie), as part of DCTV Presents, at the historic firehouse near Manhattan’s Civic Center, where the community media center is based.
Directed by Brooklyn-based filmmaker Mikaela Shwer, Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) follows Angy Rivera, an activist for undocumented youth who runs an advice blog and popular YouTube channel boasting more than 27,000 views. Though unafraid to declare she is undocumented, the film reveals how Angy must balance the fears of her undocumented mother and the demands of her schoolwork, tuition bills and activism.
Family, friends, fellow community members and filmmakers packed DCTV’s main screening room, requiring the community center to open an overflow room to accommodate extra guests.
Aubrey Gallegos, community engagement and education manager at POV, moderated a panel discussion following the film. Panelists included Shwer, Rivera, Lauren Burke, co-founder and executive director of Atlas: DIY, and Melissa Garcia Velez, a member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council.
During the following half-hour, Gallegos, panelists and community members discussed topics ranging from Angy’s personal growth during the film’s creation, to broader viewpoints on community organizing, providing both organizers and general members of the public an understanding of her advocacy work and the complex issues at hand.
Though long accustomed to her visibility as an activist blogger, Rivera noted that Shwer’s project required tapping into even more personal aspects of her life, such as her family and home life. When asked by an audience member on how the family grew throughout the making of the film, Angy’s mother, Maria Rivera, replied in Spanish: “We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We’re thankful Mikaela is a good person.”
Sometimes, the younger Rivera explained, the family required more space, and would ask Shwer to reschedule, or simply come over to talk without cameras. “Mikaela has always been flexible and open-minded about that.”
“But after a few years,” she added, “I forgot that the cameras were even there.”
The discussion then turned to ways in which community members and organizers can take action. Lauren Burke, whose non-profit Atlas: DIY works with undocumented youth to provide a number of free services, noted how undocumented youth face challenges in navigating and understanding the services, permits and paths to permanent residency. This was the main mission of Atlas: DIY, Burke explained, who was inspired by Angy to create her own YouTube channel to help youth navigate various immigration services.
Burke also reflected on Angy’s catch-22 moment in the film, when she realized she had the chance to apply for permanent residency because of a past sexual assault. “The hardest thing, weirdly, is not when you find out that a client has been through [sexual assault]… it’s when they haven’t, and you know there’s no path. Even with DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], even with the Dream Act, there are so many people with nothing at all…It’s hugely problematic that we define people by the way America has victimized them.”
But Rivera refused to let her assault and documentation status weigh her down: “For many years, we’ve had people speak for us. One of our core values is for us [youth leaders] to be at the forefront” of the conversation.
When one audience member asked what allies could do, Melissa Garcia Velez, Angy’s friend and colleague on the New York State Youth Leadership Council, encouraged audience members to speak out against negativity and misinformation—online and offline—and explore educational resources to provide family and friends more information on the issues.
As for Angy’s life after the film? Angy updated the audience that she recently came back from a vacation in Florida with her mother, who had always feared complications with airport security and hadn’t been on a plane since arriving in the U.S. The younger Rivera also announced that she will continue her work at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health starting in July, and expects to complete school in December. Her announcement was met with uproarious applause as the Q & A came to a close.
Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) will have its PBS broadcast premiere on POV on Monday, September 21st, at 10PM (check local listings).
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