Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fears, Cheers, and Tears with Peers

It was the last day of class today. We're getting on a plane and leaving this all behind tomorrow. Maybe not all of it: we get to keep the memories.

Yesterday, we signed posters for the teaching fellows and Andy and Michael, and since some of our classmates went to the room early to set up, the posters greeted us when we entered the decorated classroom. 

Anthea Butler

We milled around and talked for a while, then Andy asked us to set up for a guest, Professor Anthea Butler. Our final speaker. Professor Butler talked to us about race and about her life. She talked about the LA race riots, and told us about a time when she had, after being a part of a church for five years, been welcomed to the church as a newcomer by a white woman because to her, she was just another black woman. What I loved most about her presentation was her advice. "What you put in you is what's going to come out of you, so you gotta put the right things in you." 

"Don't let somebody make change for you. You be that change."

We got in a circle and gladly spent an hour and a half on what was meant to be a half-hour activity. We reflected on the course, one by one. When it was my turn, I cracked a joke about becoming BFFs with Andy over thee summer and said to the class, "I want to seek out stories and experiences to learn and share, because I think nothing makes change like the right story." I felt waves of emotion when we talked about our intentions and needs, hearing people express my own feelings: how the course has changed us, inspired us, bonded us together. "I'm not the same person I was three weeks ago. I see more, I know more, I feel more."

The teaching fellows did the same reflections, and Brendan spoke last, speaking about the program with shaking hands and a cracking voice. This was more than just a class. It touched all of us. 

After lunch, we heard from Mahina Movement, a group of three female storytellers, musicians, and poets, Gabby, Lorena, and Moana. What they shared was heartfelt and very fitting, as though they wrote their pieces just for our class.

They actually had us stand up and perform a type of poetry where a group of us would go up, and one at a time, we would say a word under a theme like "love." 

After that, we wrote our own song as a class, "I am somebody, we are one," repeated in several languages. 

Then we had to say goodbye to all our classmates and friends, all the teaching fellows who gave us their own perspectives and experiences. I said goodbye to Andy (I've been ordered to email him, so I only said goodbye in person), and I thanked him, tearing up, and we hugged, and he thanked me too. The last thing he said to me was that he was already sharing my poem with other faculty members. I think, in a strange way, that says a lot about Andy. He truly listened to us and cared about us, and for everything he has done for me, I owe him so much. At the moment, all I can give is gratitude, appreciation, and a few lines of verse. 

Our incredible teaching fellows
And yes, I cried.

We headed back to the dorm, missing the class already. We picked up our Penn sweatshirts, and then Mr. Hillyer and Julia and I went out to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to comfort us in our time of Social Justice withdrawal. 

The Quadrangle was sure to look extra lovely on our final day of class

The art museum was amazing. Mr. Hillyer was surprisingly knowledgeable about art, and the pieces were incredible. 

One of my favorite paintings today, Liverpool from Wapping.
The fog and the glow are just so perfect.
Julia and I tried to analyze the art as we went through the museum, and I stopped on this piece and pointed out something that was brought up in Ways of Seeing, about the tactile aspect of some paintings. If you move across the piece, you can imagine what it would feel like to touch the different surfaces. But, despite the apparent focus on touch, the name of this piece is "Music," and the center of the image is a violin with a broken string. Very deep.
This was definitely my favorite one. When you stand in front of the polished stainless steel, you become a part of the piece. At first, Julia didn't get why I liked it so much, so I said, "They're watching you, and you're watching them watching you," which pretty much blew her mind. 
We walked through Photography for a little while, then left for cheese steaks, because we were starving. Oh, yeah. Cheese steaks. That one thing that Philadelphia is famous for which I totally forgot to do. 

All I'll say is...

They're famous for a reason.


(Plus, did you guys know that pizza fries existed?!?)


But, much like that cheese steak, Social Justice ended too soon.

Julia and I said goodbye to the McNeil building,
where we had our classes, before we went to bed
Three weeks.

Three weeks can do so much.

How do I feel? That's a big question. Sad...but also hopeful, passionate, inspired, grateful. Excited to see my family and friends again. In Social Justice...well, one of my classmates put it best. "Thank you...You all opened up my world."


  1. "Surprisingly knowledgable" about art?! C'mon! :)

  2. Hey, it wasn't what I was expecting. You're a history teacher!