Saturday, July 4, 2015

Week 1 of Many Voices One Tribe Life

By: Reagan Jackson

MVOT + Seattle Globalist: Goorish, Jessica, Zion, Eyerusalem, and Azeb
It was an awesome and busy first week of orientation. On day 2, Jordan led us in a unique team building activity adapted from Mandy Len Catron's essay:  "To Fall in Love With Anyone. Do This." Catron's essay, suggests that really getting to know someone requires mutual vulnerability. She created a series of 36 questions designed to really get to know one another so we answered the first 12 as a group.

The best and most honest discussion sessions and moments of educational transformation require a certain amount of vulnerability. In study abroad we often talk about getting youth out of their comfort zones. Traveling provides many discomfort in the form of language and cultural barriers, the acclimation of your digestive system to foreign spices, or even basic concepts like the bathroom. The first time I saw a squat toilet I was very confused and had no idea how to ask what to do. But these external nuances are nothing compared to discomfort of making human connections. 

For something so intrinsic and universal, you would think it would be easy. We all want to make friends. We all want to be in community. But we also don't want to be judged, misunderstood, or hurt. Human connection is a risky business. When I was a classroom teacher I felt like I got to know my students reasonable well, but there was a certain amount of superficiality involved. As a study abroad leader most of that goes out the window within the first three days.

If you really want to know someone, travel with them. You will learn their fears and their hidden talents and see the full spectrum of who they are from best to worst. That is why it is vital to begin a trip with love and trust. The young people need to know that they are in a community that will accept them as they are so that then they can begin that process of self exploration with confidence. Some people think orientation is just for schedules and itineraries, but we aren't going on a vacation. We're about to do some serious transformative experiential learning and self reflection, and that takes preparation.

After our team building exercises we began to talk about Mexico. We went over some basic facts: population, languages spoken, demographics, general things you might find on any travel website. Then we began a brainstorm about what we most wanted to know about Mexico. Our interests ranged from attitudes about LGBTQ in indigenous communities to what girls experience on a daily basis in school. We wrote down our lists to follow up with later. Afterwards we read Lonely Planet's description of Veracruz, then we had our first writing prompt. Describe your neighborhood to someone who has never been there before. In sharing our work, we learned quite a bit about one another, not just about where we live, but about what we notice.
Jordan, Eyerusalem, Azeb, Zion, and Reagan at the NAAM

That afternoon we took a field trip to the Northwest African American Museum. There we talked about the African diaspora past and present and enjoyed some delicious barbecued chicken, potato salad and okra prepared by the Def Chef. Our favorite exhibit was put together by local artist and recepient of the Stranger's 2014 Genius Award, C. Davida Ingram. It was called Eyes to dream and was a multimedia project of poetry, mirrors, cut paper, and beautiful images that provoked quite a conversation. Too soon our time was up.

Day 3 was equally jam packed and split between the Hillman City Collaboratory and the Rainier Beach Library. The Collaboratory defines itself as an incubator for social change. It house several non-profits including The Seattle Globalist. We were joined by Globalist founders Sarah Stuteville and Jessica Partnow and contributor Goorish Wibneh for a workshop on journalism 101.

Eyerusalem and Azeb creating story seeds
This workshop was an incredible skill builder!Youth learned how to create a story seed using what the intersection between their interests and identity then actually came up with ideas for stories that they will be working on in Mexico.  They covered everything from interviewing and transcription techniques to how to write a pitch, structure and article, take accompanying pictures, and cite sources properly. Their next challenge will be to write a pitch.

Afterwards we visited the Rainier Beach Library with librarian Paula Palmer who went over some basic tips for researching. Drawing on the lists they created the day before about what they would like to learn about Mexico, each youth began to research for a five minute presentation they will share with the group on Monday.
Library Time: Paula, Azeb, Eyerusalem, Zion
With week 1 accomplished I am tired but elated. For the last year I have been pouring energy into this program and doing all the not so glamorous, but very necessary tasks to turn this dream into a reality. It's incredible to see it really come to life, to see the smiles of my kids and to hear their excitement about what they want to write and where they want to go. This week made it all worth it.

On tap for next week:
More team building
A visit with Marcus Green, the founder of the South Seattle Emerald
Poetry with Jordan
Social Justice Basics and the Sequel (this will be a separate post)
POC self care and meditation with primordial sound meditation teacher Daveda Russell
5 love languages and the importance of self love with Rev Allen Mosely
Family Meeting for last minute logistics and details

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