Activism explored through media lens

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, April 11, 2018

MEMPHIS, TENN. — While setting out to make a social activism documentary, D’Andrei Pittman and Austin Scioneaux of East St. John High School became a part of history and learned the importance of advocating for personal freedoms.

Along with other members of LaPlace-based nonprofit Motionphics in Action, Pittman and Scioneaux marched on the front lines of I AM 2018, a rally for justice held in Memphis last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

Based at 105 West Fifth St. Suite C in LaPlace, Motionphics in Action challenges youth to leave their mark on the world by using media-driven exercises to advocate for societal change.

Documentary makers D’Andrei Pittman, left, and Austin Scioneaux, right, stand with Motionphics in Action Founder Derron Cook.

Founder and Director Derron C. Cook also serves as a media teacher at East St. John High, and he considers it his responsibility as an educator to relay to his students that their voices dictate the future of society.

“It was young people who changed our world as we know it back in the ’60s, and it’s young people who are going to change it again,” Cook said.

“Our goal is to empower our kids, tell them they are the difference.”

Cook said the seniors in his class are tasked with bringing awareness to activism using documentary style techniques.

With social activist leaders Martin Luther King III, Christ Tucker, Bernie Sanders, Jesse Jackson and more than 10,000 other walkers drawn to I AM 2018, Pittman and Scioneaux saw an opportunity to fuel their documentary with influential voices.

Motionphics in Action members and their families traveled to Memphis with UNITE HERE, a labor union representing hospitality workers throughout the United States and Canada.

Stanford Williams III and Madison Williams sit near a Rosa Parks statue at the Lorraine Motel Museum.

Volunteer educator Keila Cook said Pittman and Scioneaux were “tech savages” on the trip, interviewing political advocate Angela Rye, a young lady from Stoneman Douglas High School and a NAACP youth director with as much eloquence as professionals.

Marchers lined the streets holding I AM A MAN posters, which the labor unions used to seek respect, dignity and equal pay in the past, many of the values shared by the Black Lives Matter protests.

Scioneaux said the rally bridged the past and present, illuminating the fact that there is still progress to be made.

“We wanted to tell the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, but we also want to show the impact he had on people and how his assassination changed the world,” Scioneaux said.

Motionphics in Action Founder and Director Derron C. Cook takes a picture during a march in Memphis, Tenn., last week.

He said young people comprise a large demographic but tend to not get involved with politics. With the recent Parkland shootings — a major theme of discussion during I AM 2018 — Scioneaux believes change is coming.

“We want to inform people what we’re still fighting for and encourage them to get involved,” Scioneaux said. “It shows young people that we have a voice.”

Pittman said the documentary, set to premiere at the third annual Live & Direct Summer Media Arts Festival Aug. 23-25, highlights what still needs to be done to achieve equal treatment while also honoring the progress King facilitated.

“With Dr. King, it might not have been possible for me to have gotten a full college scholarship,” Pittman said.

Volunteer educator Reianda Rousseau said school safety, equal pay and strength in voting numbers are issues that need attention.

“We need to do a better job of telling our children that their voices matter,” Rousseau said. “We have to teach them that we are still fighting for a lot of the things King did, just in a different way.”

That mindset is what drove Cook to found Motionphics in Action. Technology as small as a cell phone is a means to disseminate information that can change the world, Cook said, and standing behind a camera is a way to get young people to think critically about issues affecting society.

While in Memphis, the group also visited Greater White Stone Baptist Church and Mason Temple, where King delivered his final speech.

Afterward, they toured the museum stationed at the Lorraine Motel, the location where King was assassinated, and learned of conspiracy theories concerning the infamous murder.

Motionphics in Action seeks out young go-getters with talents in writing, reporting, photography, art, poetry or music. For more information, call 912-604-6348 or email