Amilia Blackcrow, who will be a junior at Harlem High School next year, is the winner of the prestigious 2021 Media Arts in the Public Schools (MAPS) Media Institute Jake Rowley Merit Award. Dru Carr, Director of Programming at MAPS Media Institute, was on hand from Hamilton to present the award at a luncheon on June 16, 2021.
The Jake Rowley Merit Award was founded by those who wish to support students like the award’s namesake. According to Carr, Rowley was one of the first talented youth to step through MAPS’ doors. His ability in the media arts and with writing is still being recognized and appreciated through this memorial tribute.
Reading to those gathered in the Industrial Technology Center at Harlem High School (HHS), Carr explained the award’s purpose: “Jake was extremely lucky to have realized the beauty he could contribute to the world just by doing what he loved: media arts, especially writing. Jake shared his spirit of creativity, passion, team effort, and commitment to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
“For exhibiting those same traits, I present Amilia with the Jake Rowley Merit Award. Like Jake, Amilia has found her voice and developed her creative soul through MAPS. Amilia, your creativity, passion, and willingness to be yourself are qualities which make a positive difference in both your life and in the lives of those around you. Please keep sharing, creating, and dreaming.”
According to Janna Williams, the MAPS Communications and Marketing Director, “Amilia is receiving this award because she is a creative and technical artist who believes in harnessing the power of media arts to impact her community and the wider world. After participating in two films produced by MAPS and Milk River Productions, she has shown her ability to think through complex thematic issues and communicate them in the documentary film medium. As she now works toward a finished film, her artistic vision and leadership make her a very deserving awardee.”
Carr, who is known at MAPS as being a “Jedi master at conducting interviews,” gifted Blackcrow with a glass plaque, a commemorative MAPS t-shirt, and a picture of Rowley bearing not only the award’s origin story but a testimony to Blackcrow’s own talent.
Although he has worked with students at HHS since 2016, Carr was especially impressed by this year’s group that contributed to the Native American Week Project. “All of them were committed, but the work on editing is almost all due to Amilia; and Nellie (referring to Nellie King) really knocked out the dialogue. Because of the tenacity, commitment, creativity, and diligence of these two, we’re going to have a good film.”
Carr went on to explain that Blackcrow is using Premiere Pro to put a mass of complex material together. Somewhat advanced and technical, Premiere Pro is the industry-leading video editing software used by professional film editors.
The working title of the film is Waking the Generations, and Carr believes it will air on Montana PBS in October. About the group that is creating Waking the Generations, Carr commented not only that they already knew a lot of the technical aspects of filming from their previous involvement in MAPS but that their skill and commitment to the project surpassed the typical.
“They were laser-focused and excited to tell their story about the sense of loss and appreciation for the connection they share to the past. As they tell their story, the film addresses generational issues and where the youth are in relation to the community. Because of their community engagement and connection to culture, they are on a path to a stronger future. The underlying theme is community through culture,” Carr said.
Blackcrow tells a similar tale. “I wanted the film to talk about what our grandparents are afraid to talk about-the Boarding School Era and the trauma that it has caused. With its culturally significant images of buffalo, tipis, hand games, stick games, and dancing, I see the film as telling a story about our community now and its connection to history. We want our voices to be heard, our story to be told. We are a strong people. We don’t need to be saved; we need to be heard.”
Speaking about her daughter and the award that she had won, Val Blackcrow stated: “We’re so proud of her! She surprises us every day with her creativity.”
Carr added: “If one person is willing to give of herself, that’s Amilia. In working on this project, she was instrumental in opening that space for others to tell how they’re feeling. That’s what MAPS is all about, creating that place where you can tell the stories you want to tell in the way that you want to tell them while making space for creative thought.”
Looking ahead to the coming year, Carr wondered what the group might do for their next film. Encouraging them to consider something fictional, Carr disclosed that the legacy of trauma is not the only story to tell. He also talked about the roles of humor and having fun while tapping creative thought.
When Izzy Baker suggested a murder mystery, Carr vowed that he would veto anything with blood and gore and zombies. With the group of students, he discussed how murder mysteries have the key element of tension built in: “Writers take the idea of horror and find a human connection. So much of literature reflects our own lives. In fact, life itself is a story arc. We take on conflict and look for some kind of positive redemption-a resolution, discovery, or some kind of growth where we atone for our flaws or overcome them.”
The onsite supervisor of the student filmmaking group, Craig Todd hosted the award luncheon in his classroom. Previously the Instructor of Industrial Technology at HHS, Todd retired at the end of the school year. To celebrate the achievement of all of the student filmmakers, he prepared smoked pork ribs, which were accompanied by various side dishes.