The Freedom Writers Erin Gruwell with Zlata Filipovich



hi I'm Erin Gruwell an English teacher 150 students put their stories together in a book the freedom ours diary and we are so honored that this book led to the release of this incredible film that will take each and every one of you through a journey of what it means to find your voice to have a second chance and to believe in yourself I hope you find yourself within the pages of a book or on the big screen but most importantly after you read and after you watch I hope you find the courage to pick up a pin to pick up a blank piece of paper and to tell your own story and may you write what needs to be written and I hope that you too can tell the world what it needs to be told because I'm an English teacher I was always looking for metaphors and analogies to give what we were doing substance and so the name Freedom Writers was obviously our first metaphor and the idea of using the pin to to write to liberate and to give ourselves a voice in the freedom writer mantra are our basis is really looking at the past so we're not doing to repeat it and in really understanding that when diverse worlds come together that beauty is inevitable and so the fabric of our story is bringing all of these different cultures and religions and beliefs and erases together and learning from one another and I think that's why our story was so strong is that my students initially were students but they became teachers and I initially was a teacher and I became a student and I think that's the best kind of learning is when you can learn from the past and learn from the present to make a better future I am an idealist and I embrace I embrace that because I feel that we have been so fortunate myself and the freedom ours to to put these ideas in the universe and hope they come to fruition and one of my students who's a freedom writer made a comment one time he said if Miss G says we're going to the moon somebody better called NASA and it's been this exciting journey of just throwing these ideas out that seems so impractical taking my students to Auschwitz taking my students to Sarajevo fitting a letter off like a message in a bottle to zlata philipovich and inviting her to come to california and all of those very idealistic ideas came to fruition and so I tell my dying day I'll continue to be impractical and idealistic I was always trying to make education relevant and and substitute and build a bridge to what my students knew whether it was pop culture and what I wanted to teach them and so for me was constantly bringing the world into our classroom and taking my students out into the world I was blessed I was scrambling to try to to find a way to have my students really appreciate literature and this was a group of students who did not read and did not write so I was trying to find books written by for and about teenagers who lived in Wars and rather than reaching for weapons and and fighting back they reached for words and so initially the the cortex was going to be the diary van Frank and I was so amazed when I picked up in Newsweek and on the cover of Newsweek was thought to Philip Povich during the war in Bosnia and which was lasted from 92 to 95 I was keeping a diary now the thing is that an awful lot of girls keep Diaries and at any time of their life but the interesting thing about my diary was that it was a diary that was being written during this war time inside Newsweek were all these incredible excerpts from her diary and juxtaposing what happened in Bosnia Herzegovina and what was happening in America and what happened during World War two with the Holocaust following that there was a classic magazine series in America that profiled sought to fill but which I got a hold of that magazine and once again they had excerpts and so I waited for the book to come out got the book and thought this has to be the next book that that follows in the footsteps of the Diary of Anne Frank and the irony of teaching about slaughter philipovich was symbolically Anne Frank was 15 years old and she was captured and went off to program Belson my students at the time were fifteen and slaughter philipovich was 15 well I moved to Island in my 95 and it was kind of several months after that I was living in Bosnia and I lived in Paris for a while and then I moved to Ireland and several months into kind of adjusting to life over there I get this big envelope full of colorful letters written by over 100 young people exactly the same age as me and an attached letter from their teacher and this had happened before and I've had certain letters from people who read my diary and responded to it some way and it's always incredibly moving to hear this but then these guys really kind of were extremely powerful in just the sheer volume of them and and the way in which they responded to what they read about me so after picking up her book the idea was how can we take her story and use her story as a way to share our story and rather than doing a book report rather than taking a test let's write her letters we'll bind them together like a book send them across the sea like a message in a bottle and invite her to come and visit us and as one of my students said it was like kids wishing for candy how can we get this international icon to read our letters and then agree to come to America and tell her story and she did and in doing so it was even more symbolic because she said I wanna bring my mother who was a Croat I want to bring my father who was a Muslim and I want to be my best friend who was Serbian and so we got four people to visit our culture and to really demystify what was happening in this war what happened in Croatia what was happening in Bosnia and throughout the former you Savio I think we can always find that we can divide people along certain lines all of us are the same in different in different ways so you could go along religious lines you could go along ethnic group lines you could go along race lines you can go along socio-economic lines you can always divide people if you want to and or you can also make them realize that there and off similar and the same if you want to so it was I lived in a country which was extremely mixed mixed in terms of religions and ethnic groups it had a kind of a colorful history and each element of history left its own layer on it which made it so interesting and so beautiful and I was raised very much in a family in which none of this ever mattered it was never explained to me and probably the people that my parents would have associated with it was exactly the same it didn't matter to them neither so we all like each other because we were good people and maybe the only distinction that you can make is between good people and bad people that's that's pretty much it so I was raised surrounded by all this diversity that diversity was never pointed out to me in any way except that some people celebrate this holiday and other people celebrate that holiday and this is what you do when it's this holiday and this is what you say and this is the kind of present you bring in the kind of food you eat and when I reflected how difficult it was and it was really difficult I think about what my students had to go through at the end of the day I had a roof over my head food in my refrigerator I had family members who loved me I had an education and I was safe and I didn't have to go through my students had to go through every day some of them being homeless some of them having family members abused them mentally physically sexually I didn't have to look over my shoulder every single day and wonder do I have a bull's-eye in the back of my my back or on the front of my chest I didn't bury my friends on a weekly basis I had students who stood in assembly lines at funeral parlors or were pallbearers baring friend after friend I never spent a night in jail I never knew what it was like to to have a deadbeat dad who didn't show up on a birthday or Christmas and so when I brought all that together I realized as difficult as it may be for me it pales in comparison to how difficult is for my students and so that was really what gave me the impetus and the courage every day that if if they can get themselves out and make their way to room 203 and so can i it's quite sort of remarkable to have these hundred and fifty American teenagers from the west coast from Long Beach California wandering around this city straight after the war and after all there is experiences of going to Amsterdam Indian Frank house and then to Poland and Auschwitz and um and then sorry abou so it was quite the kind of remarkable group of people and the teacher Aaron and the way in which she led them and changed their lives and impacted on their lives through literature through writing through getting them to write was really quite astounding and eventually they actually got a book out and they asked me to write a foreword for it and and it was it was a huge honor as well and the book did very well and they became very well known and had a film art and a documentary coming out so their kind of show very very clearly a power of one teacher a power of writing and how you can actually gather people around an idea and change people's lives purely through relating to other people I mean one of the most interesting things perhaps is that the Freedom Writers responded so incredibly well to certain pieces of writing which were have coming out of conflicts and they related to it because it made sense to their own kind of conflicts of their own lives they were living in a very tough area in a suburb of Los Angeles and the conflict they read about from 1940s or you know early 90s made sense to them even though they were living in a officially and non conflict zone and one of them developed countries in the world so it was interesting how you can actually find these links and how they found links and their teacher managed to kind of find those links for them and help them and show them different parts of the world teach them about conflict and resolution and making a personal change making a more of a community group change and the power of writing and reading I think I think teachers can be some of the most remarkable inspiring people and I know that I've had some in my life where I've really felt played a huge huge role whether they create make things a little bit difficult for you and then you want to prove yourself whether they open things up for you or point you in directions of things or they recognize your own particular interesting qualities perhaps even before you even recognize them yourself so you know and at the end you know how much time do we actually spend in school an awful lot of our own lives you know particularly now there's so much less time that we're spending interacting with our parents with other family members within communities so we spend an awful lot of time in schools and this is really an incredibly fertile ground in which you can actually create things for for young people so teachers are hugely hugely can be hugely inspirational people and they leave a mark on you for the rest of your life so if if you find a really good one if you find one if you're extremely lucky to find one who actually wants to engage with you beyond just teaching you those basic skills of adding up and you know learning what different part of your body is called or you know names of battles through history but actually manages to use all that knowledge all that information to kind of in a more of a holistic manner in which they create a more of a person out of you or help you become greater person yourself that's I think where that kind of personal change can happen and then you interacting with other people within a social surrounding can actually teach you how to be a better person in life this is my love letter to slot to philipovich who not only changed my life but changed the lives of a hundred and fifty students and we are forever feeling your ripple you inspired my students to put down their fists pick up a pin and follow in your footsteps and tell their story and in doing so change the lives of millions of kids and so we are so indebted to you we are so in our view and we are so appreciative of everything that you taught us about fighting the good fight standing up for the little guy and giving a voice of the voiceless so we love you we honor you and we will continue spreading the word of justice for all people at all times in all places because of you so keep keep fighting the good fight and fighting for the underdogs Lata and know that Erin and a hundred and fifty Freedom Riders and all that we've touched got our inspiration from you and you will continue to inspire us and continue to be our dedication and our acknowledgement so thank you we miss you and we love you and we want to bring you to the US as soon as we can so thank you

31 thoughts on “The Freedom Writers Erin Gruwell with Zlata Filipovich

  1. This is a great book and a great effort to help kids discover their greatness that they didn't know they had.

  2. If Erin Gruwell ever reads this,I just want to let her know that she is my role model.  I plan on becoming certified as a teacher and when I read The Freedom Writers Diary, I learned a great deal from her and her students.  Being a teacher, as I came to realize, can be extremely difficult but Ms. Gruwell taught me, in a sense, what it is like to teach a group of "unteachables" but then change their way of thinking through writing what is now a famous diary.  If the Freedom Writers were to ever write something else any time soon, I'll be sure to read it.  So please, Ms. Gruwell, keep teaching your way of thinking and don't ever stop.  I love your work and I wish you nothing but the best for years to come.

  3. The Freedom Writers Book and Movie were both excellent!! So was Zlata's Diary. But it's been many years since I read them. Back in the 1990s I think.

  4. It's DIVIDE AND CONQUER PROGRAMMING that we are brainwashed with from the time of birth. It is the strongest weapon of the ruling class ,,and as they control all the money they own all the commercial media where most of this deceptive programming is perpetrated upon us from helpless children whatching the violence on TV to the sophisticated disinformation this interviewer is presenting.
    DIVIDE AND CONQUER is being purposly OMITTED form the dialogue here!!!!
    Wake up people you are being mind controlled!

  5. Me enamoré de esta maravillosa persona, considero a Erin Gruwell como la Michael Jordan, la Messi en Educación, me encantaría conocerla, intercambiar una charla, es una genia sin lugar a duda.

  6. I remember people talking about Filipovic during the Bosnian wars when I was young. She was cute then, very attractive now.

  7. If just a few more teachers were as dedicated as Ms. Gruwell, what a better world we would have! A true inspiration for all ages.

  8. If you like the book Freedom Writer Diary or the 2007 movie Freedom Writers Starring Hilary Swank then you will love Diary of A Freedom Writer "The Experience" by Darrius Garrett. He is an author/actor/motivational speaker and Original Freedom Writer. the heart wrenching character "Marcus" that was homeless as well as his friend shot himself in the film is about Darrius Garrett as well
    for more Google Darriusonline or add him on twitter: @herbanprince

  9. wow amazing im out of word i just whatch the movie Thank God there is love and caring people out there

  10. คุณเป็นครูที่ดีจริงๆค่ะ ดูหนังแล้วทำให้มีกำลังใจมากๆ คุณคือแรงบัลดาลใจ คุณคือผู้นำในการทำสิ่งที่ดี น่าประทับใจ และยกย่องความดี ของครู ♡♡♡

  11. Je dois réécouter sa pour Lundi le démon je comprend rien sa va trop viteeeeeeeee!
    Lycée Jean Cocteau T STG B Karim le ham's aiiiight

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