BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


stories VS stories

today i was back at facilitating workshops, which i have not done in almost one year. i was so burned out by teaching every day that i wanted to run as far away from it as possible, but it felt good to get back into it.

this morning with beyondmedia , the organization i am working with/for, we put together a workshop for high school kids that are focusing on journalism. the particular project i am most involved in is chain of change, which aims at reducing/preventing violence by using media as a tool of resistance and organizing.

i really did not want the workshop to just be about what violence is, and how pervasive it is in our lives/community/society. i wanted people to be able to think about how violence can be prevented, resolved ans stopped.

this is the activity

Activity- ask open ended questions about personal experience with violence resolution-

    Did you take action to stop interpersonal violence? Did someone you know?
    We are looking for stories that:
    * Address, end or prevent interpersonal violence
    * Involve family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, community members
    * Do not rely on social services, police, or child protective services
    Interpersonal violence may include:
    * Domestic violence or intimate partner violence
    * Sexual violence
    * Family violence including child abuse
    We ask that storytellers have detailed knowledge of the story and can include:
    * Survivors of violence
    * People who helped or intervened
    * People who did harm
    * People who are close witnesses to actions taken to address, end or prevent
    violence
    Please include:
    *Brief description of action taken
    *Whether or not social services, police, or child protective services were involved and how.

    people totally responded, which is always surprising.

    here are a few of the stories that were written:

    The following story was written by a Chicago Public High School student during a Chain of Change workshop hosted by Beyondmedia Education at the McCormick Foundation High School Media Awards 18th Annual Scholastic Press Association of Chicago Conference on March 16th, 2010 at Roosevelt University.

    A friend of mine has been a victim of sexual abuse. Her stepfather began raping her at the age of 6. Her mother knew but did not do anything about it. He had PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, from being in the war and he had a past of violence. Not only did he rape my friend for most of her life, he was also violent to her mother and her brother, who has autism. Her mother finally left him after he beat her and my friend’s little brother and crashed her mothers car purposely. I don’t know where he is now, but thankfully he is out of the picture.


    It was a normal day after school when I was walking to the nail salon with 2 of my friends and we decided to take a shortcut and go through the alley. As we were already halfway down the alley I noticed this guy kind of walking fast towards us with a smirk on his face. The walking fast turned into him running towards us as he was unzipping his pants.I was kind of unsure what he was planning on doing, so I just continued to walk. Then all of a sudden he starts coming towards me while he was trying to take his privates out of his pants. He didn’t succeed at it though so he continued to run and who knows where he went. I was in so much shock I didn’t even know what to do. All I could keep on thinking about was how someone must be really messed up in the head in order to try and do that.

    // if you want to read more go to:

    http://www.chainofchange.com/category/blog/

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donors choose

Florence’s ever resourceful teacher has been funding what chicago public schools cannot provide thorough an awesome website called Donors Choose. i am weary of how money is becoming the only way people are made to feel involved with social justice issues, but sometimes it can be quite effective.

or at least a better way to use a bit of tax return cash…

here is the link to her proposal

http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/proposal.html?id=355925



frogs and selfishness at the Holocaust Museum
February 8, 2010, 12:21 am
Filed under: rants and such | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

i have finished reading the diary of Anne Frank with the girls last night, and there was so much to it that i could not really tackle all on my own. it so happens that there is an exhibit about Anne Frank at the Illinois Holocaust Museum so we went today. i have been to various Holocaust museums in Germany and Italy, and i was very impressed by today’s experience. the museum has a section for kids, and it’s not pedantic or condescending, but it tries to create a bridge between contemporary youth experiences and discrimination or injustice during WWII. 

it was very surprising to find a video game in the exhibit also. it is for 5 players. each person stands in a dark room, and a sensor tracks the motions of each player. it is set in a lily pond where a group of frogs is going about their business, eating flies and swimming around. at the beginning of the game each player chooses a frog, and starts eating or swimming. there is very little direction given by the game to the players. gradually other  bigger green frogs enter the pond and bump you off your pad, or the smaller red frogs that are also hanging out. you can also bump frogs off their pads. 

the first time we played we all tried to get as many flies as possible, bumping each other and the other frogs off the pads. the green frogs that enter later are bigger, and harder to bump off. the red smaller frogs disappear as they are bumped off their pad.

it seems like such a simplistic model to get you to think about selfishness, or solidarity, or human tendencies, but it was very effective. i felt like such an ass for giving in to my first instinct to accumulate at the expense of others. we played again and again, finally coordinating our forces to get the big green frogs from taking everyone else’s resources.

i have not seen in any other settings a model in which you are forced to question your own behavior, and human tendencies in general. the Holocaust is such a giant, huge mass to even begin to comprehend, it left me with a sense of urgency that i am not sure how to employ.



invasive and pervasive
May 9, 2009, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

a couple of days ago i went to oona and florence’s 3rd grade music performance of “how does the garden grow?”, expecting some awkward cuteness and cheesy music, and instead got some not so subtle racist doctrine.

the story began with a song about a thriving flower garden, sang by  (white) girls dressed like flowers. then the weeds (all boys) took over, with their “rap” song about being tough, invasive, rough and less refined.  and how can then the gardener get rid of the rapping weeds? by singing a hoedown. for real. so they sang their hoedown, and the first time it did not work, but when they sang it again they finally got rid of the invasive weeds.

bloomington is a mostly white town in indiana, a state with a brutal history of racism, and i just can’t dismiss the fact that such a plot is only perpetuating a certain narrative, and specific stereotypes about blacks. most kids in this town have no african american friends, and get their sense of people of color mainly from the media. it saddens me that such prejudices are put forth by the school system too.

i am so sick of just letting things go, and believing nothing is a big deal, because this shit keeps on going on if it is mostly overlooked.

i wrote to their music teacher the following email:

Ms. Nesbitt,

I really appreciated your efforts in putting together the recital for
Ms.Krothe’s class and all the time spent practicing. However, being in
the audience tonight i could not help but to be deeply uncomfortable
about the dynamics of the story.

I felt that the story had a blatant racialization of characters, and
followed stereotypes about people of color, especially considering the
lack of diversity in Bloomington and at Templeton. The story tells of
a thriving garden that is taken over by weeds. The weeds happen to
rap, which is a traditional form of African American expression, and
sing about being tough, about taking over, and being invasive, which
has been historically an accusation made by whites about blacks.
Indiana has a long history of racism, segregation, and “sundown”
counties and towns, which were and are places where ethnic groups, and
especially African Americans, were driven out by violence or not
allowed to reside. The justification that whites made for such
violence was precisely that blacks were invasive, aggressive, and
“less than”.

In the story the rapping weeds are then driven out by a hoedown, which
is undeniably a very white form of expression. Again with the history
of Indiana, and the U.S., it is appalling to me that such references
are not recognized and discouraged. Yes, the kids are young and might
not be aware of the violent history of racism of this country, but it
does not help to perpetuate stereotypes that lead to more
discrimination, and definitely do not challenge the existing
misconceptions about people of different ethnic backgrounds.

her response?

“Interesting view.”

that is it. wow!



kicked out

i kicked out someone of the classroom today for the first time ever.  i have always hated when teachers did that. it’s such a cope out. and here i am.

i wish i had more time to address his reaction, his discomfort, his prejudice, but i did not. i had 45 minutes to try to explain the complexities of sexual violence, and crack the hard shell of streotypes and myth surrounding the issue.

he just couldn’t get over the fact that gay people do not rape. that men that rape men do it to humiliate, hurt and a overpower, not for sexual pleasure. they are straight men. they have girlfriends and wives. they are not attracted to other men. but none of that was being received. he would not even let me finish a sentence. all that was coming out of his mouth was “then they are gay, if they want to rape guys then they are fags”.  then he got up, started disturbing other kids, and throwing pencils.and i told him to leave, but it was throughly unsatisfying. he left that classroom with the same homophobic ideas than when he entered it, and i failed.



sex ed VS abstinence based
March 26, 2009, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Building Healthy Relationships | Tags: , , , , , ,

while i was in the middle schools today the health teachers were discussing the new sex. ed plan that will substitute the previous abstinence based curriculum. they were shocked at how explicit and crude the information was, how mechanical and graphic. i asked if i could read the lesson plan, and honestly i was surprised. it was very much like reading a car manual, an instruction booklet on sex: this is how you put on a condom. dry? use some lube. oral sex? use dental dam or rubbers.sex_ed_by_boundsparrow

it was full of statistics about who is having sex and how much. graphs, precisely. it was so cold and sterile. i am all for sex ed., but not one that equates knowing how to put on a condom with a safe, healthy sexual relationship.

the two teachers i spoke to at length were both men, and shared some of their experiences. one of them recalled that the only thing his parents told him about sex was to “keep it in his pants, and don’t get in no trouble”. the other teacher had a sister that became pregnant at 15, and remembered feeling safe in the fact that he, as a man, could not get pregnant and “screw his life”. they both thought that the information would not be helpful to the kids, because it was way over their heads, and inappropriate.

i don’t think it’s inappropriate because kids should not know about sex, but because it teaches nothing about the reality of sex. the much needed information is not only how to not get pregnant, or avoid STIs, but the foundation of trust, communication and mutuality that are necessary for having a healthy sex life. it’s either “no sex, you will ruin your life and go to hell”, or a superficial overview of the physiological reality of a variety of sexual acts.

i am nervous that it’s gonna make people feel even more pressured to have sex when they don’t even know what they think of it yet, because they get a sense that everyone is doing it. so many times as an advocate, or just a friend i listened to people that “gave in” to sex because it seemed like what they were supposed to do, or felt pressured by peers and boyfriends ( and sometimes girlfriend), and then felt like shit about it.

in the end it makes sense that the school system is either offering a firm no to sex, or a cut and dry instruction booklet. it’s easy! there is no discussions, or nuances, or difficult conversations about consent and safety. it’s just another sterile piece of information removed from the real, complicated lives of youth.

i am going to look more into this, because i have no idea about who is responsible for choosing one sex ed. program or another, but sitting here and bitching doesn’t feel right.