Free and open to the public on a first come, first served basis!
Directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson will discuss American Promise. They will be joined by Debbie Almontaser, the Special Education Director of the Benjamin Banneker Academy and Dr. Lisa Yvette Waller, Director of the High School at the Dalton School. Moderated by the New York Film Festival’s Director of Programming, Kent Jones.
In 1999 Brooklyn parents and filmmaking partners Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson went in search of the right kindergarten for their son Idris. They looked at both public and private schools and settled on the prestigious Dalton School in Manhattan. In addition to a top-notch education, Dalton promised a commitment to maintaining a racially diverse student body. When Idris and his close friend Seun enrolled, their respective educations became the jumping off point for this one–of-a-kind documentary, 14 years in the making. As Joe and Michèle followed the boys on their divergent journeys through grade school and high school, they also turned the cameras on themselves, acknowledging their own ordeals and mistakes as they raised their son from childhood to young adulthood. A personal story of two young men coming of age and the terrible personal and institutional struggles they faced, American Promise is also a frank accounting of the state of our supposedly “post-racial” society.
Debbie Almontaser is the founding and former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. As a 23-year veteran of the NYC public school system, she taught special education, inclusion, trained teachers in literacy, and served as a multicultural specialist and diversity advisor. Currently, Ms. Almontaser is the Special Education Director at Benjamin Banneker Academy and a doctoral student at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education in the Urban School Leadership Program. Ms. Almontaser was featured in American Promise.
Lisa Yvette Waller, Ph.D. is currently Director of the High School at the Dalton School in New York City. Dr. Waller has held this position since 2005 and has been at Dalton since 1995. During her time at Dalton she has been Associate Director of Admissions, K-12; Assistant to the Head of School for Academic Affairs, and a member of the History Department. Dr. Waller earned her Ph.D. in history from Duke University, where she focused on 20th-century U.S. social movements. Her dissertation explores the New York City school desegregation movement of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, calling for a more complicated reading of what she posits to have been a northern civil rights movement. Dr. Waller serves on the President's Advisory Council of her alma mater, Oberlin College. Currently, she is shepherding the implementation of a collaborative, multi-disciplinary, progressive educational initiative that she conceived. This project was awarded an Edward E. Ford Foundation grant.