STORY #1: Fly By Light — The Movie

Our FIRST story is FLY BY LIGHT the film because of its pivotal impact. It signals chronologically, the end of our first ten years and the beginning of the next ten years for One Common Unity. This powerful film communicated our story by documenting the unique way we approached and engaged in positive youth development and how we used creative program design to break cycles of violence and heal trauma through the arts.

The impetus for making FLY BY LIGHT the film was that we knew we were about to embark on a deeply creative and audacious pilot project; weaving 10 years of work into one program. Imagine your best of the 1970’s music album all on one CD. That was Fly By Light. It was our “2000-2010 Greatest Hits.” We took all the crystals and gems and placed the best ideas and most effective programming into one holistic package. We just knew we had to tell this story and needed to document the birth of this moment. So after a year of strategic planning with the Board of Directors we decided to discontinue all the other programming we had going, create Fly By Light the program, and make a film about the process. I reached out to a colleague and dear friend from my activism days, Ellie Walton, and asked her if she wanted to make a documentary film about it. She said yes. The rest is history.

When the film first came out, people were drawn to it because of the stories of our youth. The timelessness of the stories explores our fundamental human needs and emotions. We are moved by hope and the possibility of personal transformation. The stories of our youth were raw, authentic, and relatable. And, not all roses. We’re honest about how hard this work really is and that it doesn’t always work out the way you planned. Even on the retreat in the film we had to throw our plans out the window. The film captures where we faltered, where we fell down, and how we got back up again to keep getting better. (The dope music soundtrack and beats also doesn’t hurt:)

Fly By Light the movie altered the trajectory of OCU because the buzz and energy fostered a groundswell of interest and excitement from others, in investing and supporting our work and seeing it grow. The film made it possible for us to share our story with funders and donors in a visceral way where they could really understand what we do and how we do it. What we do is difficult to communicate through grant proposals and long text narratives. Because of the film, and other simultaneous factors, we were able to grow the curriculum and increase the impact of the program to more schools around the city. I also personally believe this film has helped contribute to an important national dialogue on ways we need to incorporate rites of passage ceremony in nature to the growth of our next generation of leaders.

As part of our #20Stories20Years celebration, we invite you, from the comfort of your home, to enjoy a free screening of our award-winning documentary film FLY BY LIGHT! This beautiful film follows the lives of four unforgettable young people on an eight-day journey into the mountains of West Virginia, leaving the streets to participate in our ambitious peace education program. If you haven’t seen the film yet, now is your chance.


Hawah Kasat

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