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Since its creation in 2022, the Quiet Rooms documentary has been on a journey of screenings, from Emerson College to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI) Concord, from Tufts School of Medicine to Massachusetts General Hospital. On Wednesday, March 1, the documentary was screened at Boston City Hall, bringing the film’s stories and perspectives of gun violence survivors directly to the city’s policymakers for the first time.
Quiet Rooms is a documentary co-created by Emerson College students and people who have been directly impacted by gun violence in Boston. In the documentary, parents from the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute whose children have been taken by gun violence, and mothers from We Are Better Together who have family members impacted on both sides of the gun, tell their stories.
Councillor Worrell set the tone for the screening and panel discussion with words inspired by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley: “Those that are closest to the pain need to be closest to the policy.” This reflects the hope behind the screening at City Hall: that the documentary, by sharing the stories of those who have been most impacted, would positively influence the City Council’s approach to issues of gun violence in Boston.
The panel discussion after the screening worked to extend the conversation and provide context as to why the documentary was made and what the initiative hopes to accomplish with participation from those in positions of authority. The panelists included Pace McConkie Jr., Policy Coordinator at the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, Chana Sacks, Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and co-director of MGH Center for Gun Violence Prevention, and Eric Gordon, Professor at Emerson College and Director of the Engagement Lab.
In response to the question about the role of elected officials in transforming these narratives posed by Councillor Worrell, Pace McConkie began saying that he “loves the term ‘Representative’” when speaking to that role as it suggests a reciprocal relationship. McConkie extended an invitation to survivors to “build that relationship” and an equal invitation to representatives to engage more deeply with the perspectives of their constituents. “I’m talking about policy, budgets, city initiatives,” continued McConkie. “You’re more equipped to serve your constituents when you know them, and this film is a perfect example of how you can know, deeply, what your constituents feel and believe.”
Chana Sacks added that the existing power structures have become siloed, and that sitting in a room and trying to guess what’s needed isn’t the solution. As a Physician who faces the effects of gun violence, Sacks stressed the importance of de-siloing resources and learnings across Boston’s hospitals, particularly regarding providing trauma-based care.
When asked what the plan is to amplify these new narratives and stories to larger audiences through mainstream media, Sacks' response centered on how each person can affect change where they are at, citing the hospitals as an example.
Pace McConkie raised another point about the value of films like Quiet Rooms: , that not all survivors feel comfortable or safe telling their stories repeatedly in public spaces, and not all spaces are conducive to receiving these stories. Now that those stories are represented in Quiet Rooms, those survivors don’t have to share their stories repeatedly to advocate for change.
But McConkie also reminds us that while the film only features a handful of perspectives, those stories are reflective of the experiences of many more people throughout the city, who share their stories daily in community spaces like the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. “This film plays a role in sharing with the masses so that survivors don’t have to carry the burden of voicing it time and time again, but then places in the community—neutral, safe, and comfortable spaces—that are equipped to support you through sharing and what you need after sharing…those are the spaces where those thousands share their narrative out loud to peers.”
Eric Gordon speaks to the collective effort of the survivors, the community partners, and students at Emerson College working together to produce the documentary and creating these spaces where conversations can continue to happen.
“We are creating structures to invite more community members into our spaces, and to make those safe spaces.” By doing so, the Engagement Lab aims to leverage the power and resources of higher education to make an impact. Professor Gordon adds that partners can now receive free, transferable college credit for their participation in Social Impact Studios.
The Engagement Lab and the community partners of the initiative are committed to creating more connection points between affected members of the community and elected officials through more co-created media such as Quiet Rooms.
ELab Writing Assistant