"The First Step," a documentary that will screen at Shepherd on Wednesday, Nov. 17, features CNN opinion commentator Van Jones in his quest to pass criminal justice reform legislation. Photo courtesy of Meridian Hill Pictures and Magic Labs Media

‘The First Step’ Comes to Shepherd University

At the beginning of October, I got the chance to attend a screening of “The First Step” at the Berkeley Springs Film Festival.

Directed by Brandon Kramer, this film is a political documentary following Van Jones, the prolific CNN political commentator and progressive activist, in a course of three years as he spearheads The First Step Act, a criminal justice reform act.

Van Jones is known for his outspoken progressive views, and when the Trump administration was in power, he never held back his critical opinions about the former president and his elections.

However, as we see in the documentary, in order to pass The First Step Act, Jones must have bipartisan support, so he focuses on building bridges rather than burning them.

I thought the very intimate look we’re given into the life of Van Jones was fascinating. I was also so captivated by the complicated nuances of Jones’s mission and the way he executed his plan to gain bipartisan support.

A scene from the documentary “The First Step,” which will screen at Shepherd on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Photo courtesy of Meridian Hill Pictures and Magic Labs Media

Much of this film also takes place in West Virginia, as Jones engages with his organization, From the Hood to the Holler. Jones and representatives from South L.A. met with community members from rural West Virginia towns struck hard by the opioid crisis and connected with them on a human level while also striving to take action against the drug epidemic hitting their respective communities.

This documentary is absolutely compelling, and it hit so close to home (literally) to see awareness about such imperative issues in West Virginia being spread in such a compassionate yet illuminating way.

The film will screen on Shepherd’s campus this upcoming Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m. at the Frank Center Theater. The Stubblefield Institute is presenting the film screening as part of its American Conversation series. 

The film screening will be followed by a discussion panel that includes, according to the event organizers, “Brandon and Lance Kramer, producers of The First Step, Louis Reed, Senior Director of Membership and Partnership for the REFORM Alliance, Pete White, an activist and organizer who has served as director of LACommunity Action Network on Skid Row for 25 years, and Doug Copenhaver, the president of the Berkeley County Council, in West Virginia”.

The event will be moderated by CNN contributor Amanda Carpenter. This will provide a  opportunity to have a discussion with a panel that includes several guests that were featured in the film.

If you go to the events tab on RamPulse, you can RSVP your tickets now.

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