In the town of Helena-West Helena located in the Arkansas Delta, students of Central High School's Rap Squad — an after school music club — pen lyrics to cope with personal traumas and seek healing for themselves.
Montae and Ray are two sophomore members of Rap Squad who have found themselves positively bolstered by the club. Before joining Rap Squad, Montae was a lonely wallflower, and Ray suffered from bullying and low self-esteem. But after connecting with an understanding English teacher and joining the club, the boys discover a new creative outlet for all of their fears and anxieties. In a space where they can positively connect with others and build themselves up, they start channeling themselves into affecting greater change in their local community.
Situated in one of the poorest counties of Arkansas, the small rural town of Helena-West Helena prepares to vote on a contentious proposal that would raise property taxes in order to build a new public high school as an investment in the future of the community. Proponents of the millage rate highlight the crumbling state of the current building and the negative ripple affect the dearth of public school choice has wrought on the area. Opponents of the proposal cite a distrust in the ability of the school district and local government to capitalize on a new building based on previous academic and fiscal distress, as well as bemoaning how the existing taxes already levied at their community. An underlying racial tension is also threaded into the lead up to election day, as wealthier, and disproportionately white, parents have the option of sending their kids to private school.
In witnessing the ongoing debate over their educational future, Ray and Montae shift their focus from inner healing to social action, using their music and platform to fight for a more equitable future. They organize their fellow students into a protest that refuses to be ignored as they seek justice for their community to the chant of, "We deserve better!"
FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "When Nolan told me about the rap squad in Helena-West Helena, I instantly connected to the story. Even though my struggles were different form Montae and Ray's, I knew what it was like to find solace in creating art.
"We originally started filming this short documentary about a unique after school club, but once the students began advocating for the new school, we knew we had a much bigger story on our hands. I hope folks walk away from the film inspired to get involved in bettering their own communities with whatever gifts they have."
— Nathan Willis