America to Me premieres to sold-out crowds in Oak Park, Chicago

Audiences turned out in droves for two special preview screenings this week of the upcoming docu-series America to Me by Steve James. The series airs on Starz beginning August 26, 9PM CST.

The epic 10-part series follows students, teachers and administrators in suburban Chicago's Oak Park and River Forest High School, one of the country's most exemplary and diverse public schools, over the course of a year as they grapple with decades-long racial and educational inequities – in addition to the challenges that today's teenagers face.

The first-ever public screening in Oak Park of episodes one and two of the series took place on Monday, August 13th at the Lake Theatre, and was presented by Kartemquin Films, Participant Media, Starz, and Oak Park and River Forest High School. All 500-plus free tickets to the event were reserved in less than an hour.

The post-screening discussion featured a panel included series director Steve James, Oak Park and River Forest High School Superintendent Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams, OPRF High School Board of Education President Dr. Jacqueline Moore, current OPRF High School students (and series participants) Grant Lee and Caroline Robling-Griest, current OPRF High School English teacher Paul Noble, and moderated by Steve Edwards, Chief Content Officer at WBEZ.

Former and current OPRF High School students, families, and faculty participated in a Q&A session with the filmmakers and administrators following the screening. Read coverage of the screening in the James, Lee, and Robling-Griest were also interviewed on ABC 7's Windy City Live.

The series then travelled to Chicago proper for a screening in partnership with Cinema Chicago, screening at AMC River East 21 on Tuesday, August 14. Episodes one and two once again screened to a packed theater, including many of the members of the series' massive filmmaking team. A post-screening discussion featured a panel including series director Steve James, segment director Kevin Shaw, former OPRF High School English teacher Jessica Stovall and former OPRF High School student Tiara Oliphant. Moderated by film critic and programmer Anthony Kaufman.

Variety recently wrote of the series, "Showing an isolated racist comment is one thing, revealing how deeply racism is embedded in our culture - even in places where people say they recognize it - is another, much harder task that ‘America to Me’ tackles with patience, compassion and crucially, a willingness to let its subjects speak for themselves."

Watch the Trailer

To inspire action on the educational equity issues highlighted in America to Me, Participant Media and Starz are partnering to launch a social impact campaign. The campaign is designed to encourage candid conversations about racism through a downloadable Community Conversation Toolkit and elevate student voices through a national spoken-word poetry contest. Alongside the release of each new episode, the campaign will host a high-profile screening event in one city across the country. Join the conversation here.

Join the conversation on social media using #AmericatoMe. Learn more about the series and meet the series participants here.