By Darlene L. Williams, Contributing Writer

Approximately 80 parents, children, and others turned out for “Movie Night” at the AMC Bakersfield 6 Theater at 4200 California Avenue for the premiere screening of the movie, “Miss Virginia,” an inspirational true story about one mother’s fight all the way to Congress to get better education for her son and other low-income families in the DC area.

The event was held Saturday, February 1, 2020 just in time to kick-start the first day of Black History Month.

Movie-goers were treated to popcorn and drinks, as well as free admission with prior registration. Once inside the theater, draped over the back of every seat, were bright yellow scarves with an inscription,” National School Choice Week.”

Special guest speaker, Christina Laster (MBA, NAACP California-Hawaii Executive Committee for Economic Justice, NAACP Southwest Riverside County) spoke to the audience prior to the start of the movie.

When a teacher told Laster that she had a plan for her son,” three strikes and you’re out”, Laster replied, that sounds like the California Penal System!”

“I had three girls and my son”, she said. “So, the school to prison pipeline became a reality in my household and I had to do something about that.”

“As a civil rights activist, Laster said, there is nothing that anyone has told me yet that has shocked me, from the 4-year-old black boy that got slapped four times in the face by his teacher about a month ago… and so, I focus on putting parents back in power, especially in our community because what we see is historical , generational, and perpetual.”

The Bakersfield News Observer spoke with several in attendance about their knowledge or lack thereof of the movie, “Miss Virginia.”

“ I don’t know much about the movie,” said Azucena Cruz, but when it was mentioned to us that this woman was really fighting for education and I strongly believe in education; that’s what appealed to me.”

Noel Cruz stated,” Virginia was strong and powerful, it’s about empowering our community.”

Shakira McCombs, Advocate for education and parents right to choose; was determined to bring the movie, “Miss Virginia” to the Bakersfield community. She could be seen greeting and interacting with those in attendance.

“Before I even had children, I was frustrated“McCombs said. “We couldn’t do private schools, none of my friends could. I went to Seibert, West High and that was fine, but I was frustrated that all this money is going into schools and things aren’t changing and a lot of times private schools are cheaper that what they(government) pay for me to go to a public school.”

“I hated school” she said. “I really did because I got bullied at school. So, fighting for the right to choose schools became a passion of mine.” When I heard about this movie, Miss Virginia, I said, I’ve got to get it to Bakersfield; this lady did it! And, I want to follow her footsteps”

In a social media post, McCombs wrote” I “REALLY” wanted to get the movie to Bakersfield. I tried to find a place and or a donor with no such luck, but God led me to “School Choice Week.” I applied for the grant and I was able to get it!

“I’m here with my church, Compassion Christian Center,” Andora Gipson said. “I wanted to find out about this movie that says we should have a right to send our children to the schools of their choice and not have the city make the choice for us because of the jurisdiction we live in.”

“Shakira McCombs and I both are home-school moms,” Krissy Warren explained.”This movie is about empowered parents who fight for school choices for their children.”

“Whether a parent chooses a traditional school, charter, or parochial school, we’re passionate about educating parents about not allowing the government to dictate what’s best for their kids”, Warren said.

The actress portraying Virginia Walden Ford (Uzo Aduba) many times during the movie stirred the audience to cheers and hand clapping. Walden, a single mother, raising a black son, refused to allow the environment they lived in or the circumstances that befell them—to write the conclusion to their destiny. Instead, she fought to give the power back to parents to decide which schools their children should attend; based on education and not the district they lived in.

“It’s always been a passion of mine to advocate for student rights,” said parent of three, Tykesha Bingham. Despite the No Child Left Behind Act, I feel that many of our children are left behind.” “We as parents have to be a voice of force at the schools, Bingham said. Classrooms are too full; teachers are too fresh; too young; too new!”

The 3-hour-event concluded with applause and a feeling of strength and empowerment for parents to walk through the education process with their children

Founder of She Power, Arleana Waller, said this movie empowers parents about how to fight for their children. Every child deserves quality education and shouldn’t be an act of whether they can afford it or not.”

“Our children’s education is very serious, very serious, said Marisa Banks,(Associate Pastor at Compassion Christian Center), and I think for too long a lot of us just didn’t know.”

8-year-old, Carter Richard (student at Casa Loma School) said,” I learned that school is important, good friends have your back, and never give up.”

Event sponsors were: The Bakersfield News Observer, Compassion Christian Center, She Power, and National School Choice Week.