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In 2010, director Ava DuVernay was not the Golden Globe-nominated success that she is today.

In fact, she had just finished her first narrative film, called "I Will Follow."

[rebelmouse-image 19481606 dam="1" original_size="640x427" caption="DuVernay on the red carpet at the 2017 Oscars. Photo via Tyler Golden/Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr." expand=1]DuVernay on the red carpet at the 2017 Oscars. Photo via Tyler Golden/Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr.


Inspired by DuVernay's own life experiences, the film tells the story of a young artist who moves in with her eccentric, ailing aunt and is then forced to contend with her death.

It was a labor of love for a filmmaker who had, until then, only worked in journalism or on documentary projects. After studying English and African American studies at UCLA, DuVernay made the film in between working in public relations in the film industry. Made on limited time and a limited budget — just $50,000 and 15 days — it was spectacular.

The only problem: DuVernay couldn’t find anyone to release it.

[rebelmouse-image 19481607 dam="1" original_size="750x420" caption="A still from the trailer for "I Will Follow."" expand=1]A still from the trailer for "I Will Follow."

She spent months pitching her film to production studios, meeting with distribution companies, and contacting representation. But no one believed the film could be commercially successful.

Like many women of color, she finally decided that if no one would give her the opportunity she needed, she would create that opportunity herself.

Since she couldn't get anyone to market her movie, she founded a distribution collective of her own: the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, or AFFRM.

With a team of just three people, DuVernay took on the project of distributing her film herself. She created marketing materials, launched a social media campaign, recruited volunteer photographers and videographers, and formed partnerships with theaters and small film collectives willing to give "I Will Follow"a screening.

[rebelmouse-image 19481608 dam="1" original_size="1040x1600" caption="A movie poster for a screening of "I Will Follow"in New York City." expand=1]A movie poster for a screening of "I Will Follow"in New York City.

Finally, in 2011, "I Will Follow" was released, and was met with rave reviews from audiences and critics alike.

Roger Ebert called it a "wonderful independent film." Though it never received a massive audience, it resonated with the people who saw it, and ultimately,it launched DuVernay’s career.

Just three years later, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director on the 2014 film "Selma."

[rebelmouse-image 19481609 dam="1" original_size="640x427" caption="DuVernay with stars Colman Domingo (left) and David Oyelowo at a screening of "Selma" in Berlin. Photo via U.S. Embassy/Flickr." expand=1]DuVernay with stars Colman Domingo (left) and David Oyelowo at a screening of "Selma" in Berlin. Photo via U.S. Embassy/Flickr.

Now, DuVernay no longer needs a grassroots effort to bring attention to her projects.

But rather than walking away from the collection she founded, she's repurposed it to help other budding filmmakers like herself find their first steps toward success.

[rebelmouse-image 19481610 dam="1" original_size="640x427" caption="DuVernay accepts a Peabody Award for her film "13th." Photo by Stephanie Moreno/Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications for Peabody Awards/Flickr." expand=1]DuVernay accepts a Peabody Award for her film "13th." Photo by Stephanie Moreno/Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications for Peabody Awards/Flickr.

"Ava really felt that there was a wider need for filmmakers of multiple ethnicities that didn’t have distribution options available for their works to be seen by larger audiences," says Mercedes Cooper, director of marketing for the film collective.

It's DuVernay's philosophy that she should use her success to bring others into the industry.  She calls it "lifting while she climbs" — in other words, using every possible opportunity to pass her success onto others.

"Ava often says that she doesn’t want to be alone in the room," Cooper says. "She doesn’t want to be the only person of color in the room. She doesn’t want to be the only woman in the room."

That's why DuVernay expanded the focus of her company, now called Array, to seek out talent and invite them into the room with her.  

"If you’re a person in the room that has an opportunity to let someone else in," Cooper says, "then it’s kind of important to do so."

Array works to identify independent films made by women and filmmakers of color, then acquires them and uses its resources to find places for those films to be seen.

An audience awaits a screening of Ousmane Sembène's "Black Girl," an independent film distributed by Array. Photo via Array/Twitter.

Today, Array has launched dozens of films, and, along with them, the careers of dozens of filmmakers who may never have gotten started without DuVernay's help. And it is always adding more films to its roster.

By distributing films, Array shines a light not just on the work, but on the directors and their lives.

Consider, for example, Array's recent release by up-and-coming filmmaker Heidi Saman.

"In March we released a film called 'Namour' from an Egyptian-American filmmaker. We don't get to see Egyptian-American families portrayed very much on U.S. screens," Cooper says.

[rebelmouse-image 19481612 dam="1" original_size="1440x812" caption="A still from "Namour," a film about a Los Angeles valet caught between the pressures of his job and of his Arab-American immigrant family. Photo via Array." expand=1]A still from "Namour," a film about a Los Angeles valet caught between the pressures of his job and of his Arab-American immigrant family. Photo via Array.

The film follows a Los Angeles postgrad struggling with common problems — motivation, his career, his relationships, and his future — but also showcases the added dynamic of what it's like to come from an Arab-American immigrant family.

"Everybody wants to see someone that looks like them, that has the same experiences," Cooper says. "To have that reflected on screen just makes you feel even more a part of this world."

And now, more people have the opportunity to see themselves on-screen: "Namour," along with a handful of other films distributed by Array, are now available on Netflix.

[rebelmouse-image 19481613 dam="1" original_size="500x372" caption="Photo via Array." expand=1]Photo via Array.

Ultimately, Array's goal is to expand people's perspectives by exposing them to works by people who are different from them.

"Take a chance," she says. "Hit that 'play' button on something small that you've never heard about, that may not have people in it that look like you."

Either way, you'll learn something new about someone who's different from you. But there's also a chance that you'll discover the first title from the next Ava DuVernay.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.