Melissa DenizardNew York, NY Award Year: 2022
Melissa Denizard is a documentarian with a commitment to social justice, particularly pro-Black liberation, that began in high school when she founded StrongER Students, a student group that advocated for a just educational system in the East Ramapo Central School District. She organized a student-led rally that led to a meeting with state legislators that resulted in restoration of a NY State-funded arts and music program and full-day kindergarten in the East Ramapo Central School District. She also created “Los Olvidados”, a documentary about Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, the effects of Hurricane Maria on the island, and whether Puerto Rico should pursue independence or statehood from the US. This project included organizing a film screening followed by a student panel that provided a platform for the audience to learn more about social justice issues in Puerto Rico. Denizard also researched and created a docu-series on the Flint, Michigan water crisis, “How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Without Clean Water,” that explores this environmental and human rights disaster. Summer of 2020, Denizard digitally organized a COVID-19 relief fund, marketed through instagram and operated on Venmo and Cash App. That summer, she also successfully raised and donated $11,000 to seventy-five Black people across the nation, in wake of the racial justice protests.