Charlotte Talks: 'What We Told Our Sons' Talking To Kids About Race And Police-Involved Shootings

Jul 18, 2017

Venetia St Vilus shows a photo of her son Stanley, left, compared to a photo of Trayvon Martin. "I got chills because I said 'oh my goodness,' seven or eight years from now, he could be in that same pose, and that could have been my son."
Credit Screenshot from the documentary 'What We Told Our Sons.'

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, started a national conversation about race and racism that continues. Part of that conversation includes what we tell children about this. We explore that.

When George Zimmerman was acquitted for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager four years ago, it ignited a national conversation about race and justice. It also sharply divided people. Some viewed the photo of Martin - a young man in a hoodie - and saw a threat. Others - including President Obama - saw someone who could be their son.

Venetia St Vilus with her son Stanley St Vilus. She joined Mike Collins to discuss the talks families of color have with their kids. Venetia says "because of the melanin in your skin, other people are going to view you differently. You have to have that in mind."
Credit Erin Keever

For some families of color especially, the incident started a deeply personal conversation that stems from news reports of police-involved shootings of young black men, but also from being black in America.

A filmmaker explored reactions after that verdict in the short documentary "What We Told Our Sons," which is coming to Charlotte this week. The filmmaker, Dayvee Sutton, wanted to use everyday people’s stories to start a conversation about race and racism. Mike Collins talks with her and others about how we talk with kids about race, interactions with police, and what they see in the news.


Dayvee Sutton - Journalist and filmmaker, she made the short documentary "What We Told Our Sons: Families React to the Trayvon Martin Verdict" that will be screened in Charlotte this week.

Venetia St Vilus - Local parent, she appeared in the film.

Stanley St Vilus - Venetia's son, he also appears in the film (he was 9 years old). He's 13 years old now and goes to Piedmont Middle School.

Dr. Hank Harris - Chair & Professor, Department of Counseling at UNC Charlotte. 

Event info:

Levine Museum will screen "What We Told Our Sons" and host a discussion with filmmaker Dayvee Sutton on Thursday, July 20, 6:30-9:00pm. Details.

What We Told Our Sons - trailer from Dream Network Media on Vimeo.