Ava DuVernay Launches Education Initiative and 'When They See Us' Learning Companion

When They See Us-court-Publicity Still-H 2019
Courtesy of Netflix

ARRAY 101's learning guides allow participants to "explore systemic injustice" and "take action to change themselves, institutions and systems."

A year after the release of her Emmy-winning Netflix series When They See Us, filmmaker Ava DuVernay is continuing to share the story of the Exonerated Five while also furthering the conversation around social justice. 

In a new online education initiative called ARRAY 101, launched by DuVernay's multiplatform media company and arts collective ARRAY, learning guides will be created for the company's films and television series.

The first to receive a guide is DuVernay's Netflix miniseries recounting five teenagers — Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray, Raymond Santana Jr., Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam — who were wrongfully convicted of a Central Park rape in 1989.

"We’re thrilled to partner with Participant to launch our first ARRAY 101 learning companion, which expands on themes and topics in When They See Us. I firmly believe that there must be a stronger bridge between what our industry produces and real teachers in classrooms," said DuVernay in a statement. "The one-year broadcast anniversary of the series was the ideal time to release this social impact learning supplement and kick-off ARRAY’s upcoming study guide initiative overall."

"When They See Us shines a timely and important light on the many challenges and pitfalls of the criminal justice system, which are heightened even more by COVID-19," added David Linde, CEO of Participant in a statement. "We are proud to partner with Ava DuVernay and ARRAY on the When They See Us Learning Companion to educate the public, building from the power of an artist’s original voice, about the state of criminal justice reform and offer students, advocates and organizations resources to take action."

While sharing news of the initiative's launch Thursday on her Instagram, DuVernay noted that the question she is most asked after people watch her films is, "What do I do now?"

Thanks to this new initiative, not only can such questions be answered but according to DuVernay, all those who watch can find "fresh ways to broaden our knowledge and challenge our thinking."

ARRAY 101 will produce supplemental learning materials for students in grades nine and above, becoming a resource to those looking to further their knowledge of social justice and advocacy. Beginning Thursday, the When They See Us Learning Companion is available via download from ARRAY 101 and Participant. The guide includes an interactive section, featuring eight project-based, field study lessons that invite students to create news stories around the Exonerated Five case using public data analysis.

Along with the release of the inaugural guide for ARRAY 101, DuVernay will host an Instagram Live Watch event on May 31 featuring a screening with commentary on When They See Us' first episode, and discussion on the series overall. The event pays tribute to the one-year anniversary of the Netflix broadcast, and will go live at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET. from the the filmmaker's own Instagram account

Future guides will feature ARRAY projects Burning Cane, Jezebel, They’ve Gotta Have Us and The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open in the coming months.