Shaunelle Curry’s Fast Pitch presentation at the event in 2011 was one of the most memorable the audience heard that night. In her pitch (which you can see here) Shaunelle described the impact that Mother’s Day Radio, the media literacy and peer mentoring program she founded, had on students who participated: 9 out of 10 now students talk to their friends about breaking the cycle of emulating media violence.
One of those students is 16-year-old Sean.* When Sean arrived at his first Mother’s Day Radio class, it was clear that he wasn’t interested in hearing anything the program had to teach. “He was wearing the whole ‘cool thug’ thing, just laughing at the whole process,” says executive director Shaunelle Curry.
One of the peer mentors assigned to Sean’s class, a college student whose high school days weren’t that far behind him, saw himself in Sean. He understood the pressure young men faced to live up to a tough guy persona. He took the time to talk to Sean one on one, and went through an exercise with him. He asked him to think of a woman that he knew and respected. Sean chose his mom. They then inserted her name into the lyrics of a violent and misogynistic song. When you disrespect women as a group, the peer mentor pointed out, you’re disrespecting the women in your life.
They sat down to talk about this, and Sean’s whole façade just fell apart. The significance of what Mother’s Day Radio was trying to teach clicked for him. From that day on, he stopped treating the program like a joke.
Sean became the class’s most outspoken advocate. When the class was discussing whether trying to put a stop to violence and misogyny in the media was even possible, he was the first to stand up and say, “We have the power to make a change. We have the power and creativity to come up with solutions.”
The difference that Mother’s Day Radio makes in the lives of young men is just as important as the impact it has on young women. “They learn that they have a choice to define their manhood in their own way,” says Shaunelle.
Since participating in the Fast Pitch, Shaunelle has made several new connections, including one that led to meeting with Mayor Villaraigosa. “Fast Pitch has been an amazing experience.”