While eating dinner in front of the television isn’t something we recommend every night, sometimes a change of pace can help promote more fun, conversation and connection than the same old routine! That’s why we’ve launched our Dinner and a Movie feature. We’re teaming up with our friends at Common Sense Media to choose family-friendly movies that can help you promote character building while enjoying some fun time together. When you pair them with our suggestions for food, fun and conversation, you can have a memorable Dinner and a Movie experience that turns screen time into family bonding time that everyone will look forward to.
Explore Food, Fun and Conversation About Anti-Racism and Equity
As an organization that promotes the well-being of all families, we know that racism has a profound negative impact on the health of families and whole communities. While we understand that truly addressing racism in all its forms requires structural and systemic changes, we also believe that families play a crucial role. Important anti-racism work can be done at home through welcoming, discussing and modeling anti-racist behavior and conversation. And while the topic is serious, making space for these discussions in your family life doesn’t always have to feel heavy or tense. Kids learn in many ways, including through entertainment. Using family movies to share your expectations around racism is one way to include an important topic in enjoyable family time.
Please note: While we usually include movies for younger viewers in our Dinner and a Movie selections, the movies selected by our friends at Common Sense Media for this important topic are all suggested for ages 10 and up. We encourage parents of younger viewers to make their own decisions about sharing some of these films with their children, as well as to check out some of these other great resources from Common Sense Media on tackling race and racism with kids.
Movie Recommendations from The Family Dinner Project and the Common Sense Media Common Sense Seal Program
Too often, ideas about food and Black culture in America come from demeaning stereotypes. We encourage you to explore more deeply with your family. Together, you can learn a bit about traditional African foodways and how they have shaped the culinary experience of enslaved people in the United States. This interview with Chef Michael Twitty and his blog, Afroculinaria, are good places to start. You can also try recipes from Black culinary writers, like this list of 28 Recipes for Black History Month compiled by Black food bloggers.
After you’ve watched one or more of the movies suggested, play “Who Did You See?” using characters from the movie. You can also vary the game to test your family’s knowledge of influential figures from Black history.
For a deeper experience, we suggest using your Dinner and a Movie experience to jumpstart a family “Book Babble” club. You can pick one of the books that inspired the above films, like Sounder or Hidden Figures, or check out some of the book recommendations in this blog post from Common Sense Media. Over the course of the next week or two, read a chapter at dinner or between dinner and dessert, and talk about what you’re reading together.
Talking about the films and some of the challenging themes they show is a crucial part of helping kids of all ages process racism. Our friends at Common Sense Media have shared their conversation starter ideas for these movies, and we encourage you to also try our conversation ideas about Anti-Racism.
Talk About: Anti-Racism
If You’re Watching Hidden Figures:
- How do the lessons from the civil rights movement apply today?
- What has changed? What hasn’t?
- Talk about the true story behind Hidden Figures. How accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers sometimes choose to alter the facts in movies based on real life?
- How could you find out more about the women and people of color who worked for NASA in its early years?
If You’re Watching Loving:
- What does this movie teach us about how both laws and public opinion change over time?
- Can you think of other laws targeting specific groups of people that have been amended or overturned?
- Are Richard and Mildred role models? Why? How do they demonstrate perseverance? Why is that an important character strength?
If You’re Watching Sounder:
- Why are the types of books the main character is given by White and African American teachers so different?
- What does the boy need to overcome to pursue his dream of learning?
- Why do you think it was possible for the boy’s father to go to jail and then virtually disappear into the prison system? Do you think that could happen today?
If You’re Watching Just Mercy:
- How would you describe the relationship between racism and justice/the law? Does that align with what you’ve seen in movies and on TV?
- Talk about Just Mercy’s violence. Given that the movie chooses not to show its most violent acts, does that make the movie less violent?
If You’re Watching Hoop Dreams:
- How are issues of race and class linked, especially in urban America? How does this movie shed light on those issues?
- Talk about the experiences of William Gates and Arthur Agee both on and off the high school basketball court in Hoop Dreams. How are William and Arthur’s high school experiences different? How are they the same? How do their family environments both help and hurt each of them?
If You’re Watching Selma:
- Is there a difference between a protest and a riot? How are protests/riots typically shown on TV or in the movies?
- What is the lasting legacy of the civil rights movement?
- How have things changed since 1965 when Selma takes place? How haven’t they?
- What methods could kids today use to protest injustice?
Did you enjoy your Dinner and a Movie experience? Check out more ideas in our Dinner and a Movie: Family History and Dinner and a Movie: Earth and the Environment features, and look for more Dinner and a Movie ideas coming soon!