On June 10, CNN Films held an exclusive private screening of their original documentary Citizen Ashe to students from four New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) Bronx after-school programs. The film documents the evolution of NYJTL’s visionary founder Arthur Ashe, and his rise from tennis legend to global human rights activist.
“NYJTL is the culmination of our founder Arthur Ashe’s vision to combine tennis and education to change the lives of underserved youth,” says NYJTL President & CEO, Udai Tambar. “We are proud to screen this original film to instill in our children Ashe’s principles of justice, advocacy, and resilience against life’s greatest challenges, teaching them through his example that tennis is much greater than solely what is played on court.”
An additional thirty NYJTL ACES Afterschool Program (ACES) sites will enjoy exclusive virtual screenings of Citizen Ashe and post-screening reflections during program hours this month, introducing thousands of children to this work.
The ACES students, all coming from the local south Bronx community and poorest Congressional district in the nation, gathered in the state-of-the-art Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning to hear from the film’s creator Rex Miller. The afternoon included an on-court component to actualize Ashe’s vision of utilizing tennis and education as tools for social good.
“This screening really represents why I love making documentaries,” says Citizen Ashe filmmaker Rex Miller. “Johnnie Ashe, Arthur’s brother, told me that the importance of this project is the educational component, and sharing Arthur’s story. A room of kids, mostly of color, all now know who Arthur Ashe is. I played high school tennis with many of those involved with the creation of the Cary Leeds Center, so it was extra special for me to return and bring this legacy here.”
Following the film, the students engaged in a weighty discussion. Many students spoke about Ashe’s resilience, leadership, and compassion, especially as he navigated his own struggles with AIDS while fighting for marginalized communities. They were struck by the different life skills that tennis taught Ashe, along with his passion for bringing inclusivity to the sport.
“This NYJTL event is so important because it uses film and storytelling as a catalyst to start conversation,” says Chief Operating Officer of Picture Motion Campaigns LLC Juliette Richey, “it introduces a generation to Arthur and his activism for racial injustice and inclusion. Arthur and tennis teach these young kids discipline and leadership. Whether they become athletes or not, these youth build a foundation into adulthood.”
NYJTL hopes to continue to provide creative mediums to spark meaningful conversations with the youth that we serve, especially connecting them to the life and legacy of Arthur Ashe.