TED Talks - Re-Imagining Civil Rights: Marta Cunningham at TEDxOlympicBlvdWomen
Marta is available for speaking engagements regarding "Valentine Road". Please e-mail for booking information. Marta has recently held screenings and speaking engagements at: American University, the USC TV Symposium, UCLA Law School, Columbia University of Journalism, San Fransisco State University, and a GLSEN DC Capitol screening with Congresswoman Lois Capps, among many others.
"Valentine Road" - Director Statement
It’s more than a movie – it’s a movement.
This film has the potential to plant the seed for a powerful change in our understanding of
difference. Through relationships with child advocacy groups against the cruel and unusual
punishment of Proposition 21, as well as mentorship and outreach programs for LGBTQ youth,
this film has the potential to continue it’s life beyond the screen in a practical and hands-on way;
with expanded resources for youth in need.
When I first read about Lawrence King and Brandon McInerney, I realized how layered
the injustices were that were being committed not by the youth but by the adults within the
community where these boys lived. It was clear to me that both victim and perpetrator had
experienced extremely difficult childhoods, and that this informed the tragic outcome of their
story. The media’s depiction of two boys who were complete opposites (one ostracized, multi-
racial, and exploring his gender expression, the other popular, white, and straight) struck me as
over-simplistic and by playing to stereotypes and looking for kids to blame, let us off the hook.
As I explored the similarities in their stories I witnessed how the systems that were designed to
serve them had failed to protect either of them, or to prevent an avoidable tragedy.
Our country’s juvenile justice system has reached the limit of it’s power to punish and detain,
while unwittingly scapegoating one child for the shortcomings of a wider society, and in so doing
distract us from looking deeper at the causes of this kind of hatred. I believe that Brandon is fully
responsible for his actions, but I ask myself, and the audience this question: is putting a 14 year-
old boy in adult prison for the rest of his life the best our society has to offer?
We are failing our children. It’s our responsibility as adults, as parents, as educators, as citizens
to teach acceptance and understanding - to widen our circle of empathy and awareness and
embrace the change that It’s our gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual kids yearn for. For
them to feel safe just being who they are we are required to be more than bystanders.
I made this film so that we can all feel empowered to make a difference for the future of our
youth, so that tragedies of this kind are recognized for what they are. Until then, we cannot say
that justice has been truly served. We must demand change in our communities, our schools
and our institutions. The time to act is now.
- Marta Cunningham, Director/Producer of "Valentine Road"