Professor and Screenwriter Stephane Dunn’s Grand Prize winner in the first Tirota/Finish Line Social Impact Script Competition was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s activism in the Summer of 1966.
Morehouse College Professor Stephane Dunn took inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impactful but largely forgotten crusade in Chicago in writing her screenplay, Chicago ’66, which earned the Grand Prize in the first Tirota/Finish Line Social Impact Script Competition.
In the summer of 1966, a coalition of civil rights and community organizations came together in a high visibility initiative across a range of social and economic issues to encourage an end to discrimination and de facto segregation in Chicago, an effort amplified when Dr. King joined them.
For at least one summer, Chicago became the frontline in America’s civil rights battle. Chicago ’66 tells the story of a grieving young boy living with his grandfather in a Chicago slum who becomes inspired and emboldened when Dr. and Mrs. King become his neighbors that summer.
The Tirota/Finish Line Social Impact Script Competition – just added to the Finish Line Script Competition, now in its fifth cycle of recognizing talented new screenwriters – was launched this year tocelebrate writers of film and television screenplays who aim to raise awareness and inspire change around critical social issues.
As Grand Prize winner, Dr. Dunn receives a package including $1,000 for an option on the script, along with meetings with literary agents, managers and development executives.
Stephane Dunn, PhD, is a co-founder and academic coordinator for the Morehouse College’s Cinema, Television & Emerging Media Studies Program (CTEMS). Her work focuses on race, gender and class in American and African American culture, particularly popular culture, TV and film. Dr. Dunn also consults about issues of race and diversity on screen and beyond, and is author of the book Baad Bitches & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films (University of Illinois Press).
“I’ve been intrigued by the last years of Dr. King’s life, when his politics were at their most radical,” Dr. Dunn said. “ He criticized capitalism, militarism and poverty, and in going north to Chicago he showed that change was needed all over the country. Plus, my mother, who was just 18 at that time, had arrived in Chicago from the South, and moved into an apartment just a short walk from Dr. and Mrs. King’s place. I hope this honor will help call attention to this important and overlooked story of the summer of 1966, so resonant with our times more than 50 years later.”
“Chicago ’66’s authenticity shows how Stephane consistently embodies the world of Dr. King’s fight for justice,” Finish Line Script Competition co-founder Jenny Frankfurt said.“But her choice to fictionalize the family aspect of the screenplay shows an emotional and relatable aspect of the story that will touch all those who read the material, and it will connect with actors and filmmakers.”
“The Tirota/Finish Line Social Impact Script Competition was designed to address the public’s hunger for purposeful entertainment that raises awareness, creates empathy and leads to social change, and Chicago ’66 absolutely fits with that goal,” Tirota partner Rob Densen said. “Dr. Dunn is a talented storyteller and knowledgeable academic who brings both of those attributes to bear on an important, excruciatingly timely, and largely untold story.”