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DCPS Kids Document Obama Inaugural

The euphoria and boundless promise of the moment seems more distant than a mere six months ago. But it returned to life last night in a Georgetown University auditorium as a group of DCPS high school juniors and seniors screened short films they produced.

The D.C. Public Schools Inauguration Documentary Project began when PNC Bank invited students to view the event from its prime location at 15th and Pennsylvania. It also provided them with flip video cameras to create 5-to-8 minute films about the impact of the Obama presidency on their lives and school communities.

The results were a striking series of pieces that combine the bone-chilling whirlwind of the moment--on packed Metro trains and long lines--with footage of the civil rights movement that places Obama's achievement in historic context. It also provides vivid glimpses of life in D.C high schools. Coolidge students walked the camera down their corridors, where it found 18-year-old Brittani Williams of Coolidge hoping that "the next fight doesn't include weapons to harm kids who are watching." They also captured the exuberance of a pre-inaugural appearance in the school gym by the Obamas, where the president-elect urged students against "waiting around for someone else" to fix their communities.

Some of the high notes were as much vocal as visual, like the soaring version National Anthem sung by Banneker's Siera Toney, over footage of the inaugural parade, and Ellington vocal major Jordan Allen's crystalline "Times They are a Changin.'"

Students from Roosevelt, Eastern, School Without Walls, McKinley and Luke C. Moore and H.D. Woodson also contributed films. Many said the rigors of the production experience taught them much about teamwork and deadlines.

"It was quite difficult at first," said Erwin Sweetwine of Banneker, whose team named their film "The American Dream."

Michael Harreld, PNC's regional resident, said the 15th and Penn branch, the former Riggs Bank, has an archive rich with Washington history, containing documents on everything from the financing of the Mexican American War to the Alaska purchase and the building of the C&O Canal.

"You made your own history in you own way," Harreld told them last night. "Your work now becomes a part of those archives."

Here's one of the videos:

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  June 4, 2009; 12:55 PM ET
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