He Named Me Malala Inspires Vineyard Youth
On Sunday, November 1st the Martha's Vineyard Film Center was packed for a free youth screening of
He Named Me Malala. The new documentary film by Davis Guggenheim is about Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.  The young woman was shot by the Taliban because she stood up for the right of girls to go to school. 

The screening was organized by the Martha's Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative (MVYLI) and included an interactive dialogue with MVYLI Youth.  Free pizza and lemonade were enjoyed by all.

Malala's story made a powerful impact on the MVYLI teens who took the stage after the film with MVYLI Project Coordinator Gia Winsryg Ulmer. "[That] Malala risked her life to get an education makes me realize how luck me and my peers are," says 18-year-old Iris Albert.  17-year-old Arden Bezahler spoke of "how hard [Malala] is working just to get the simple pleasure of the free education we get here."  18-year-old Chris Aring found that Malala's story reminds us that through struggle "a new drive and skill set" can be earned leading to success.  

In response to the words of the MVYLI youth, writer/director of He Named Me Malala, Davis Guggenheim responded that we was "thrilled to hear that He Named Me Malala had a special screening in Martha's Vineyard.  It was especially gratifying to read the comments from students who had just seen the movie.  This is why I do the work that I do to connect people to import issues.  There are 66 million girls who are out of school and we must do everything we can to help fix it."

The audience was a lively group of children, teens and adults. Their engagement with Malala's story was evident during the show because of the laughter, gasps and the occasional whispers.  Young people and adults alike were inspired, uplifted and motivated by Malala's courage and determination.  "Very inspiring. I go to school everyday and almost never miss a day. I can't imagine not being able to read or write or have an education at all."  14-year-old Matthew James Jenkins was clearly moved after the movie when he said that a voice has the "power to convince" and to "light fires in the souls of others." 
The audience was invited to write their thoughts to send to Guggenheim.  Another viewer said, "Magnificent. What a glorious testament of peace and intelligence in action."  And another, "This movie was breathtaking. The truth that she spoke was so emotional. Her story is remarkable but what is more remarkable is how she is still a normal girl with normal problems. I loved how she made her issue to the world powerful with out violence." I was deeply moved by her beautiful spirit as well as the deep relationship she had with her father.  She is clearly such an independent thinker." And a mother said, "We have been following Malala's story for years and sharing it with our children. Thank you so much for giving my children the gift of her story from Malala herself. The visual image is so powerful and will give them a more meaningful image."

Vineyard summer visitor Dick Pierce noted how "important [it is] that young people see this kind of movie about the lives of poor, disadvantaged young people around the world and it is so, so important that they have a chance to dialog about it." 

Another telling of Malala's story could have left people sad and angry, but He Named Me Malala did something else, it helped us see Malala as an ordinary teenager who made the extraordinary decision to stand up in the face of adversity and fight for what she believed in.  She helped us see that possibility in us all.


Martha's Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative

PO Box 4551 Vineyard Haven, MA 02568

mvyouthleaders@gmail.com * www.mvyli.org

Stone Soup Leadership Institute * www.soup4worldinstitute.com