White House Screening
In 2000, back when GroundSpark was still known as Women’s Educational Media, That’s a Family! screened at the White House. Here is the press release about that event.
December 19, 2000
Women’s Educational Media Showcases Powerful New Film on Family Diversity at the White House
Leaders of the PTA, Child Welfare League of America and Others Offer Strong Support for New Resource to Prevent Prejudice Among Children
WASHINGTON, December 20, 2000 — Women’s Educational Media yesterday presented That’s a Family! to an audience of more than 100 leaders of national children’s, family, education and civil rights organizations at the White House.
The first film for children to explore all family types, That’s a Family! takes a tour from a child’s point of view through a diverse range of family structures. The children who star in the film come from families that include single parent, multiracial, divorced, guardian, adoptive and gay- and lesbian-headed households.
Ben Johnson, Assistant to the President and Director of One America, welcomed the audience to The Presidential Hall and spoke about the need for more educational tools that encourage appreciation of differences of all kinds
Some of the speakers at the event included Debra Chasnoff, Director of That’s a Family!, Rose Ochi, Director of Community Services, Department of Justice; Shay Bilchik, Executive Director, Child Welfare League and Ginny Markell, President, National PTA. Speakers at the reception included Jane Smith, President and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women, and Connie L. Matsui, President of the Girl Scouts of the USA
“We’re honored to have been invited to screen That’s a Family! at the White House and to have the support of such a powerful and impressive group of educators, children’s advocates and policy makers,” said Debra Chasnoff. “It’s clear that people are rallying behind this film because of its inclusive message about respect and its potential as a resource to help prevent prejudice and violence.”
“That’s a Family! should be seen by both young people and adults,” said Shay Bilchik, Executive Director of the Child Welfare League of America. In his remarks, Bilchik spoke about the film and the powerful impact kids can have when speaking to other kids. The Child Welfare League of America, he said, wants to distribute the film to its 1,000 agencies to ensure that as many kids as possible have the opportunity to benefit from its important message. “The children and families profiled are compelling and emotionally engaging,” said Bilchik. “They make us aware of the many different kinds of families in America today and how much children need to feel that their particular family is normal.”
In her remarks, Ginny Markell, called the film “a starting point for all of us to understand our differences.” Pointing out the strong connection between the PTA and the issues of tolerance, respect and dignity for all, Markell said, “It’s time for us to get out of our silos.. get more vocal about what is important for all children and all families.” In 2001 the National PTA will spearhead a new campaign dealing with these important issues and That’s a Family! will be among the resources provided to PTA members, Markell said.
Commenting on the importance of reaching out to children and schools, Julian Potter, Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director of Public Liaison, said, “The White House is pleased to bring together leaders from educational, family, civil rights and faith-based communities to share with them an innovative tool that will help us teach our children about tolerance, diversity and respect for all American families.”
Two of the families featured in the film — Breauna and her parents Gregg and David, and Fernando and his mother Maria, a single parent — traveled to the White House from San Francisco for this screening. “I think it’s good that this film is screening at the White House,” Fernando told the audience, “because it makes it seem that this film is important. And it is!”
Many speakers underscored that this screening was a springboard to an ongoing commitment toward the development of more tolerant and violence-free schools. Connie L. Matsui, President of the Girl Scouts of the USA, spoke movingly about the timely and inclusive message of That’s a Family! Leaders of the National Education Association, the YWCA of the USA, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, National Council of Negro Women and SAA Families of the 21st Century (Stepfamily Association of America), along with scores of other religious, educational, civil rights, and service organizations, expressed their interest in using the film in their programs.
Directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Debra Chasnoff and executive produced by Helen S. Cohen, That’s a Family! is the first in a three-part media series for children entitled Respect for All. A vital resource for schools and family service organizations, That’s a Family! addresses important themes such as school safety, preventing prejudice and recognizing family diversity as the cornerstone to building awareness of, and respect for, differences of all kinds. The film is being distributed with a curriculum guide to schools, religious congregations, social workers, counselors and other organizations that work with children and families.
Founded in 1978, Women’s Educational Media produces and distributes inspirational documentary films and videos on economic and social justice issues. Its highly acclaimed film, It”s Elementary — Talking About Gay Issues in School, has aired on more than 100 PBS stations and is used in teacher-training programs throughout the United States. Director Debra Chasnoff ‘s previous documentary, Deadly Deception — General Electric, Nuclear Weapons & Our Environment, won the 1991 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short.