Winning Essay by Michelle T. From Texas Attending UNT
          “Women have been trained in our culture and society to ask for what we want instead of taking what we want.” Being a film major, my inspiration is Ava DuVernay. She has broken barriers and set the bar high for women of color in the film industry, and I pray that I can follow in her footsteps. Being a young, African-American woman at a predominately Caucasian institution can at times be intimidating because not many people in the classroom look like me. With this being the case, I learn everything I can so that I too, can excel and inspire the younger African-American generation that will come after me. 
One contribution I admire the most from DuVernay is her documentary, 13th, because it brings awareness to the African-American community about incarceration. Often times it is said that African-Americans become a product of their environment, such as living in the projects or being in the low socio-economic status. I choose to rise above those stereotypes. DuVernay also produces films focused on African-American women, which gives them, as well as others, the opportunity to see more accurate representations of African-American women, such as in I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere. In addition to those films, she produces work that gets African-American people, as well as other races, thinking and progressing. Selma gained a lot of attention because of its intensity and reminder that the issues during the civil rights movement are still prevalent today.

          During times when I am feeling like an outsider, I refer to “Sankofa,” which is represented by a bird facing forward but reaching behind to get an egg that represents the future. The Sankofa bird symbolizes that in order to move forward, one must remember the lessons of the past and bring the good from them into the present. There are many distractions and obstacles that African-Americans face which limits their minds as to how far they can excel. From living in single-parent households to growing up in the projects, the African-American community is lacking a sense of encouragement and self-respect. Ava DuVernay is a great role model and inspiration. She motivates me to continue to strive to achieve my dreams and reminds me that nothing is out of reach. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” I will continue moving forward.

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