The Nina Turner Show: Educating and Engaging with Ally Sheedy

The Nina Turner Show: Educating and Engaging with Ally Sheedy

September 20, 2019 9 By Ronny Jaskolski


Nina Turner: Let’s get down to the real business
of taking care of the people! We can’t have a testimony without a test,
and we are being tested whether we have courage enough, conviction enough, people power enough
to stand up and do what is right for ourselves and generations yet unborn. Joining me now is Ally Sheedy. She is an actress, a director, a writer, a
mom,and just an all-around creator of all things good. You may remember her from the Breakfast Club,
Elmo’s Fire, High Art, Little Sister, and wait for this: The X-Men: Apocalypse. How are you? Ally Sheedy: Good, how are you? Nina Turner: I am fabulous now that you’re
here. Ally Sheedy: You’re happy you’re in New York. Nina Turner: Yeah, glad to be in New York. You are a New Yorker through and through. Ally Sheedy: Yes, I am a New Yorker through
and through, yep! Born and raised. I guess growing up here, there’s just so much
here and I did live in Los Angeles for a period of time when I was working, but in Los Angeles
everything, at least then, felt to me that it was all about film and TV world and I missed
New York. There’s publishing here, people do a million
different things for a living. There’s people in this street, you can just
get on a subway and go wherever… Nina Turner: Your mama’s here. Ally Sheedy: My mama’s here, yes. So when I had Beck, my kid, I moved back and
raised him here and never left again. Nina Turner: Yeah, well I’m just delighted
to be here in your home, your hometown with you. So you’re a teacher and a lot of people don’t
know that about you. What is it that motivates you to teach and
can you talk about how some of the latest events, the election of President Trump and
some of the emotions that your students were feeling at the time, and how you maybe used
art, the art of teaching to try to get them to see a brighter future? Ally Sheedy: I didn’t know that teaching was
something that was just going to open up in my life, just happened. I didn’t know I was going to love it so much. But when Beck went off to college, so, I’m
now in my fifth year of working with students. When Beck went off to college, a friend of
mine was associated with LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts here in New York and said
to me “Listen, you’re not just gonna sit around looking for this job and doing whatever you’re
gonna do looking for the next thing and have nothing creative to do. When Beck goes you’re gonna feel an emptiness
and so why don’t you just go in? The school would love to have you.” And I went in, fell in love with the students,
I was working with them on scene study, so suddenly, I was surrounded by a hundred seventeen
year olds. Nina Turner: You’re not surprised by that? Ally Sheedy: No, and I was just like, great! I have a hundred babies now! Nina Turner: From all walks of life? Ally Sheedy: From all walks of life. Those kids are, that school has, it’s everything. It’s visual arts, it’s music, it’s tech,
it’s dance, and I’m in the theater department and I started working with them on scene study
and I get to do my particular thing there with the kids. Nina Turner: But you’re sharing your gift
and I know you and I talked a lot about what’s happening in the world right now… Ally Sheedy: Right. Nina Turner: And I remember getting a call
from you, just really frantic emotionally about the toll that this particular political
climate was taking on your students. Can you share a little bit about that and
how I know, pretty much high alert, but now I think things have calmed a little bit even
as we work and they have a position in there too, to work to create a better world. But you were really concerned about them as
a mother, as a teacher? Ally Sheedy: I was devastated, and when the,
I was working when the election happened, I was working both at Bard College and with
my high school kids. And I have a lot of undocumented kids that
I’m teaching in the various classes. And at Bard, there are a lot of kids that
come from another country to come and study here, so it was a great big mix and aside
from the students in general, especially the high school students who didn’t get a chance
to vote in this election and they didn’t understand what happened. But the emotional devastation in the school,
a great deal that I was feeling from the kids had to do with being undocumented, being set
back. There was one girl that, the one that called
you that was because she just started to cry, she’s said “I’m terrified, and my parents
are gonna get sent away and I’m gonna be here by myself.” Nina Turner: She’s a dreamer, so she’s in
that protected category that President Obama set up. But her fear and the fears of some of her
colleagues was her parents. So what is that like, how did she explain
that fear to you and to maybe some of her classmates about “I might be okay to stay
here, but my parents might not.”? Ally Sheedy: She said “They’re gonna take
my parents away from me. They want to send my parents away. I’m gonna have to leave, I can’t stay in this
country anymore. They’re gonna take my mom.” You know, this is a teenager. She was basically saying to me “Can that
really happen? Is what he said can that really happen?” And I said we’re going to have to … Nina Turner: “He” being President Trump? Ally Sheedy: Yeah, Trump. And I said we’re going to have to see how
this one falls but what I can tell you is that you are a living in a place right now
and in a city right now where there is people, I believe, people will find places of sanctuary
and that asininity particularly I think people are going to go out into the street to keep
that from happening. I can’t see some force coming in here and
pulling people out of their homes. I just can’t even envision that and it’s frightening
because now it seems that it is some of what’s happening. I wanted to tell her “I’ll protect you,
we will all protect you. Nothing is going to happen to you,” but
what’s so, a people of this election, it’s just too much to take in. I felt like this can’t be happening, this
isn’t gonna happen to these kids. At the same time, not being able to say: “I
promise you that there’s everything in place to protect you.” At the moment when she said that to me I absolutely
said to her with 100% conviction this just can’t happen. That as time has gone by and I’m reading every,
and I know she’s got this, she’s got her papers in place, and there’s another kid who’s telling
me that they’re afraid if their mom’s not home and somebody knocks on the door they
turn the lights off. And the little sister goes and hides in the
closet. There was a kid at … Nina Turner: Thinking that ICR, that they’re
going to be taken away. So how does the fear of some of your students
really connect with the failure of the federal government, not just under Republicans, but
under Democrats to really come up with a real immigration reform that we’re in this limbo
because Democrats and Republicans failed to deal with our immigration concerns in this
country? Ally Sheedy: For some reason, for various
reasons, for whatever the political calculation has been, nothing got put in place to, especially
for me, I’m just speaking of where I live and what I’m doing to protect the young people
of the country. And my first thought when there were just
sort of two days of silence after the election was “Get up! Somebody get out!” Somebody has to get on television. Somebody has to get out there and say something
to their children because now they’re hearing this and thinking, “This is what happened,
we’re abandoned.” And there is still a lot of fear and going
up to college, and then the other kid who came here to study from India. He said to me, “I can’t be in class today
because I’m from India, and I’m not wanted in this country anymore. And I think, I don’t know if I’m going to
finish my education here. I don’t think I should, maybe I should go
home. If I go home, will they let me back in?” It’s one thing to be a bit older and first
of all to have been somebody who was actually able to vote, none of these kids were able
to vote in the election, but also there’s just been … I guess I’ve been under this
illusion of the two, we have basic moral, ethical structures in place and somebody can’t
go into this kid’s house or the other kid’s dorm room and tell him “No, you have to get
out.” We can’t let that happen in this country. That doesn’t happen here. Not here. Nina Turner: But is there a disconnect between
our values and morals and what actually happens? I mean you do believe, Ally, that Democrats
failed? Ally Sheedy: I think Democrats failed and
Republicans failed. I think we all failed. This is the big fail for this to have happened,
and for these kids to be in this kind of an emotional danger. There are no adults in the room, that’s what
I was calling to ask you. Where’s the adult in the room? Where’s the person who can come out and say
“We’re not going to let that happen. This doesn’t happen in this country, this
is not who we are as a people.” I guess there was a complacency of not having
that policy put into place. There was a feeling of meh… Nina Turner: You wanted people to come out
and say something but are we not that country or are we that country? I think about what happened to the Japanese,
what happened to African Americans, there was a point in time in this country where
ethnic whites, if they were not from the northern part of Europe, I’m thinking of Irish in particular,
signs on windows when they were, NINA, not me, but NINA: No Irish Need Apply. Is there some kind of disconnect between the
rhetoric and the promise of this country and what actually happens generation after generations? Are we really so far removed from what really
happens in this country when crisis and people want to point the finger at somebody else? Ally Sheedy: I thought we were removed from
that, I thought that was in the past. That kind of thing isn’t going to happen,
it can’t happen here. And now every day, open the newspaper or see
what’s on television: it’s another horror story. These deportation forces are showing up. It’s really happening, this is happening,
that’s happening, environmental regulations being rolled back, there’s so many different
things happening politically but for me because I was also saying this too, I feel like I’m
right on the front lines here with these kids. This is my daily experience, is dealing emotionally
with these kids and what do I want to say? What I said that first day, which is: not
in this country, it’s not going to happen in this country, nobody’s going to do that
here. And now I think we haven’t taken care of it
and we, obviously I was wrong. The election happened and there are people
cheering about ripping parents away from kids and sending them out of the country. It’s really hard to conceive. Nina Turner: Have we lost love and empathy
for one another or maybe we didn’t have it to begin with? Was all of this an illusion? Because there would be some people, Ally,
that would say to you “Ally Sheedy, we are a nation of laws. And so if someone came in here illegally,
it’s their own fault and we have a right as a country to adhere to our laws. Now we feel bad about their children but they’re
here illegally.” What would you say? Ally Sheedy: I have read those kind of quotes
in the newspaper. We read them in the newspaper all the time,
right? There always interviewing somebody who’s saying
something like that. I think it’s immoral. I think it’s immoral, I think it is unethical. I think it’s a travesty to say that refugees
from Syria who have nothing can’t come into this country. That we’re not going be a haven, that we’re
not going to welcome anybody here. Yes, we should be taking care of our own people
and we can take care of the children who are here, and we have room for refugees to come. What is this? This is an enormous country! There is an expansiveness and an inclusiveness
that we can have in this country and I don’t subscribe to the idea that somebody gets something
that means it comes away from me. Nina Turner: Well, you’re going to run for
office, huh? Ally Sheedy: Nope. Nina Turner: Why wouldn’t you take on the
challenge in elective office? Ally Sheedy: I would rather teach, I would
rather be with my students. I’d rather be able to have these kind of conversations
but you’re not the first person who’s asked me that. I don’t… No. Nina Turner: You’re going to keep making a
difference in the space that you’re in? Ally Sheedy: That’s exactly right. Nina Turner: And speaking of making a difference,
your mother has an author by the, right? By the name of Lynda Blackmon Lowery and my
God, the book. Ally Sheedy: “Turning 15 on the Road to
Freedom.” Nina Turner: So, you were able to take that
book, which is a must-read for all ages and turn that into a one-woman play. Ally Sheedy: That’s right. Nina Turner: What was that like and tell us
a little bit about Lynda. Ally Sheedy: Lynda Blackmon, now Lynda Blackmon
Lowery, she was the youngest person on the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, the
voting rights march. She had started going out and marching with
the children in Selma. She got beat up terribly on Pettus bridge
on Bloody Sunday. She was allowed to go because she was determined
to go to march and confront George Wallis, was what she was thinking. She was allowed to go on that very long march. She turned fifteen while the march was… Nina Turner: And was the youngest marcher. Ally Sheedy: Youngest one. Nina Turner: Why don’t we know about her in
history? Ally Sheedy: Now we do! Nina Turner: Oh my god! Ally Sheedy: Because she never told her story. A couple of women who were researching a book
on voting rights were in Selma, they found Lynda. They convinced her to give her oral history
and she started talking and they recorded it, and they all put it together into this
book. And she’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
being. Very funny, and has had so much experience
that we can only imagine, or read about. Nina Turner: She was beaten, I mean this wasn’t
fun and games. Ally Sheedy: No, no, she was beaten badly. Nina Turner: She knows many adults in her
life who suffered the same consequences. Now, why was that march primarily led, or
at least the foundation of that march were younger people, contrary to what people think
about this march? Because they see Dr. Martin Luther King, they
see lots of adults but you and I both know, and through Lynda’s story that this march
was primarily dominated by young people. Can you talk to us about why that is the case? Ally Sheedy: It’s one of the things that’s
so powerful, I think, about the play and about the book. When she writes that the Selma movement, she
says, the Selma movement was a kid’s movement. It’s gonna make you cry because the Civil
Rights leaders in Selma, they needed the children to go out and march every single day because
the adults could have their picture taken and lose their jobs. They needed to organize the kids to go out
on the street every day, every day, every day. And they would go to jail over and over and
over and over again. And that’s when she talked about it: She was
like “Now, I was in the Civil Rights Movement!” Do you know what I mean? She’s like twelve, eleven, twelve, thirteen
and then Bloody Sunday happened. Then after that, I think for her it turns
into a spiritual journey. She needed to go back on the march after she
got so severely beaten. She felt that she needed to go back onto the
bridge and cross the bridge. Nina Turner: Did she go back for the fiftieth
march across? Ally Sheedy: She’s still there! Nina Turner: She’s still there. I mean did she march during the fiftieth. Ally Sheedy: She did, and she said she … Nina Turner: With President Obama? Ally Sheedy: And she said she showed Michelle
Obama her scars. Michelle Obama felt sorry about it. Nina Turner: So she has physical scars from
standing up? Ally Sheedy: Yes. All over her head. Nina Turner: There has to be some kind of
connection between her story and the young people that you teach every day in terms of
instilling hope and also letting young people know that they don’t have to be twenty and
thirty and even forty to make a difference. She made a difference as a teenager. What do you say to the young people that you
are around on a regular basis to encourage, as Rosario Dawson once said, to encourage
their courage about what their future can be? I mean there were three things that you could
say, not just to your students in your classroom, but to the students and the adults who are
watching us. What would you say to them about the promise
of the future? Ally Sheedy: I think number one is, and I’m
speaking specifically right now to any young person watching, the number one thing is to
educate yourself. Read everything, watch everything, figure
out what’s real news. “What do I need to know about this?” Nina Turner: Well, we’re on The Real News
right now! Ally Sheedy: That’s right. So you educate, educate. Get as much knowledge as you can. Then, the second thing is you engage. So you find out who are my people? Who are the people that I need to find? And find them, as we know, this happens, you
find them and you start to… Nina Turner: That’s how we found each other. Ally Sheedy: Yes. So, you connect with them and make relationships
with them. How do you engage? Those people will show you how to engage in
your community. You go out, like Lynda did. You go across the bridge, you go out in the
street. You speak, you stand up, you run for office. I don’t want to do it, but if you’re 16 and
you’re thinking about it, do it. So educate, engage and then the third thing
is trust yourself, always. And that’s the thing with the kids that I
have in class too. I feel like yeah, there will be directors
and teachers and you’re all young actors but the thing is you must trust yourself. Capital S, right? Your gift, your voice, your truth, your intuition. You just let that guide you along. Nobody needs to explain to you what you should
be doing. If you’re educating yourself and you’re engaging,
you’re gonna know exactly where to go. What action you should take. And then you just keep empowering yourself
that way. It’s the only way that anything changes. Nina Turner: Yes, how beautiful is that? So educate, engage and trust yourself. Ally Sheedy: Yep! Nina Turner: Words not just for young people,
but for more seasoned people as well. Ally Sheedy: That’s true. Nina Turner: Well, thank you so much for joining
us today, Ally. It has been just been a blast. You’ve been watching the Nina Turner Show
on The Real News Network. See you next time.