By Haley Costen
The Simmons Chapter of the National Association for Black Social Workers (NASBW) presented a screening of John Oluwole Adekoje’s film “Knockaround Kids” on Friday in the Special Functions Room.
The film depicts the everyday struggles of life for children and workers in a residential group home in Massachusetts.
The screening was followed a talk by Adekoje, a local artist and faculty member of the Boston Arts Academy, and gave attendees the chance to share their own concerns and ideas about residential care.
The film focused in detail on the lives of five children and the adults that are tasked with supervising and caring for them.
The adults in the facility were tasked with caring for children suffering from mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression, often combined with an unsafe home life.
While many audience members felt compassion for the child characters like Stacy, a young teen with a penchant for fairy wings and getting into sometimes dangerous trouble, there was an almost resounding dislike for the negligent staff.
With many social workers and social work majors in the audience, much of the talkback concerned the dangerous methods the staff used to subdue the children and the apathy showed when caring for the children, especially at night, when the staff would often fall asleep in the hallway.
Many attendees shared their own tips for making residential homes a better experience for the workers and those being cared for, emphasizing the importance of community and transparency.
Roxann Mascoll coordinated the event and spoke of her own experience working in residential care and shared how simply throwing an open house revitalized the environment for those working and living there.
Another element of the film the crowd debated was race. Several viewers spoke about their own theories as to why a white teenage boy suffering from schizophrenia had imaginary conversations with an older black male and what he represented or meant to the child.
Adekoje said that his one regret was not featuring an African American male as a child in the group home, adding that the actor that had been cast in the role had to be replaced last minute.
Adekoje based much of the film’s material on his own experiences working the night shift in a residential group home for a year.
“You see mistakes and you see things that work,” Adekoje said. “It was something I wanted to address.”
He spent three years writing the film and cast his own students at the Boston Arts Academy in the roles of the children in the group home.
“I said, ‘you act up all the time—you’re in!’” he joked.
Mascoll said she asked Adekoje to screen “Knockaround Kids” after knowing him for several years and seeing several drafts of the film.
“I always want to support John’s work,” she said, adding that most of his work has a human interest and would be beneficial for the NABSW to see.
During the film, the NABSW sold candy, drinks, popcorn, and homemade baked goods to support their trip to the organization’s 47 annual conference in Chicago.
Every chapter of the NABSW attends the conference, as well as social work professionals.
While Mascoll complimented the social work program, she stated that the program lacks information on the practices involved in working in an African American or black community, making the annual NABSW conference an essential part of the club.
The next scheduled event for the NABSW is Taste the Difference, which calls on students of all races and cultures to make a cultural dish to share with the community to try to build sensitivity and confidence.
“That’s how you build community,” Mascoll said, adding that while it’s important that the Simmons community came out for tragedies like Ferguson, it’s also important to be a community in good times as well.