When recent high school graduates Marna Owens and Amma Ababio produced a radio documentary last summer about inequitable discipline practices involving African-American girls, they hoped to provide a voice to those facing injustices.
This week, they found out that voice will be heard at radio stations across the nation.
Their 4-minute, 21-second documentary, “#BlackGirlsMatter: The Criminalization of Black Girls,” will be broadcast on 47 public radio stations across the country.
“I think it’s amazing that it got a chance to be picked up. We want a chance for these girls to have their stories told, to have their voices out there as well,” said Ms. Ababio, 18, a 2015 Pittsburgh Allderdice graduate who now is a freshman at Harvard. Ms. Owens, who graduated in 2015 from Pittsburgh CAPA, now attends Penn State Behrend.
“You hear a lot of about black boys who are being incarcerated at high rates, but not the girls,” Ms. Ababio said.
The documentary was produced as part of a weeklong intensive radio experience that Ms. Owens and Ms. Ababio participated in last summer at the studios of SLB Radio Productions Inc. The experience is open to participants in the Heinz Endowments Summer Youth Philanthropy Internship Program.
It marks the first time in the seven-year history of the program that student work has been picked up by radio stations, said Larry Berger, executive director of SLB Productions.
SLB Productions has posted audio files of the eight documentaries that students produced last summer on its Neighborhoodvoices.org web page. It also uploaded some of the students’ work to the Public Radio Exchange, a public radio clearinghouse, Mr. Berger said.
SLB officials recently were notified that Ms. Owens’ and Ms. Ababio’s documentary would be picked up by “51%,” a 30-minute women’s issues program that airs on Northeast Public Radio, a network of 28 stations in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
It will air Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. and on Jan. 27 at 3 p.m.
It will also be picked up by “PRX Remix,” which has 19 affiliates in 15 states, ranging from New York to California.
The documentary describes how blacks make up 14 percent of the U.S. population but account for 33 percent of the girls who are arrested and sentenced.
It said the school-to-prison pipeline starts with disparate school discipline for black girls and cites a U.S. Department of Education statistic that black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls.
The documentary quotes experts who say the actions of black girls are often interpreted differently by teachers and school officials than those of white girls, leading to the unequal discipline.
But it also urges school officials to treat the traumas that cause black girls to act out in school rather than punishing them.
“Some of this is because these girls hurt,” Ms. Owens said. “If we can fix the hurt, we can fix the problem.”
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1590.