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POV: Let The Little Light Shine

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POV
A group of students from the National Teachers' Academy pose for a picture with artist Chance the Rapper.

Premieres Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV + Saturday, Dec. 17 at 9 a.m. on KPBS 2 / PBS Video App

POV takes a look at the dynamic between parents, educators, and students embroiled in a battle over closing a top-ranked elementary school with a predominantly Black student population in a gentrified Chicago neighborhood in the inspiring documentary "Let The Little Light Shine".

POV: Trailer | Let the Little Light Shine
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South Side Chicago’s National Teachers Academy (NTA), a high-performing elementary school, is considered a beacon for Black children. The school has served as a safe haven for children and a community bedrock in “The South Loop,” Chicago’s fastest growing neighborhood.

When NTA is threatened to be transformed into a high school favoring the needs of the community’s wealthier residents, African American parents-turned-organizers, alongside students and staff advocate to keep the school open.

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POV
Two protestors hold up a sign saying "National Teachers' Academy" in a crowd of other protestors holding similar signs.

In "Let The Little Light Shine", Shaw focuses on the stories of Elisabeth, a parent-turned activist; Isaac, the school’s steadfast principal; Taylor, an empowered student; and Audrey, a community member with long ties to the area. They are among those impacted by the discourse showcasing their unique perspectives about the situation. The film also posits the point-of-view of residents in favor of changing NTA into a high school that is sorely needed for its neighborhood.

School Film LLC
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POV
Person reads a speech at a rally. In the surrounding crowd people hold up signs saying "Save NTA" and "#WeAreNTA."
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Filmmaker Quotes:

“I made this film to understand why there was a movement in a booming Chicago neighborhood to close a high-performing, top-ranked elementary school that serviced a majority Black student population and transform that institution into a high school, potentially causing more harm than good to neighborhood families. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, the adage goes. Race, obviously and unfortunately, figured into the equation, but there were other factors at play – class, which is intertwined with race, gentrification, power, privilege, and politics all had a hand in creating discord amongst a community that wanted the same thing -- the best possible education for their children. The ways to achieve that goal were different for each set of residents, reminding us of harsh inequities and bias existing in our country. This story is not unique to Chicago; it is reflective of our American experience, one where Black and Brown communities still must fight for not only a seat at the table, but in this instance, an equitable place to learn,” said Kevin Shaw, director/producer, “Let the Little Light Shine.”

“I knew from working with Kevin before that he’d be the ideal filmmaker to shine a light on what’s going on in the fraught Chicago public school system. Here’s a predominantly Black grammar school that’s doing everything right by its students yet has to fight for its life against bureaucracy and gentrification. The beauty of Kevin’s film is that it is not a polemic. It’s incisive, thoughtful, and very moving, telling a story we’ve not seen before," said Steve James, executive producer, “Let the Little Light Shine.”

School Film LLC
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POV
A student sits in a classroom.

Watch On Your Schedule:

"Let The Little Light Shine" makes its national broadcast premiere on POV Monday, Dec. 12, 2022 and will be available to stream through March 12, 2023 at pbs.org, and the PBS Video app.

In addition to standard closed captioning for the film, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.

Credits:

A co-production of POV and ITVS, in association with Black Public Media. Kevin Shaw is the director/producer, Rachel Dickson is the producer and Steve James, Sally Jo Fifer, Leslie Fields Cruz, Erika Dilday and Chris White are the executive producers.