Monday, July 14, 2014

Meeting More People (from MMP)

We met in the McNeil Building as usual this morning, and the day started with John teaching us the final Qigong exercise: "celebration." It was the first one that included using your voice, but fortunately there weren't any long phrases we needed to memorize, just, "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, YEAH!" 

The two people on the left started off our lectures today. They're from MMP, the Media Mobilizing Project. The one on the left is Alix, a co-founder, and the one on the right is Kristin, a field director for the project. They showed us a few videos produced by MMP, one of them an older video of movements and events in Philadelphia from the year 2012, covering various topics ranging from housing in the city to environmental issues. Alix told us about some of the issues MMP covered, like public education; Philadelphia has been shutting down schools, and is planning to close 64 schools by 2017people aren't happy about it. This was especially resonant for me after hearing Kirk talk about the role education plays in keeping people out of prison. 

We then discussed the way the media is run, and learned that six media giants control a vast majority of the media we have access to, which is why it's so difficult to change the stories that are put out there. Still, MMP tries to fight that with its own small TV show, called The Spark. We learned a bit about the show, and it became clear based on what we saw that this organization is unlike other media organizations in that it works for passion, not for profit. The Spark supports causes that the community cares about, giving voices to real people. 

Kristin and Alix had us spend less than a half an hour making our own videos about the Social Justice class to demonstrate how easy it was—really, anyone could do it and get their ideas out there. 

We took a break for lunch, and Julia and I had some sushi from the Houston Market, then headed back to the room to rest. I decided to start Ways of Seeing, the book we need to read by Friday. It's composed of seven essays with lots of cool pictures, and I carried it around with me for the rest of the day, somehow ending up more than halfway through the book. I'm really enjoying it. On the way back to class, Michael saw me reading it, and we ended up having a nice discussion about Earth Democracy and Ways of Seeing

Our next speakers were teaching fellows from the previous year, Meghna and Julia (because two Julias just weren't enough), who talked with us about history. The lecture started with a new word: historiography. 


Oh come on, that's not a real word. 

Fun fact: it is. Meghna asked the class what we would guess it meant first (true to Andy's teaching style, most of our guests ask us what we think before explaining new ideas), and I soon obtained a new definition of a big, scary academic word. Historiography: thinking about how history is written, for whom it is written, and even attempting to answer the question: what is history? (Deep, right?) Meghna then taught us about different schools of history (each one with its own different perspective): imperialist, nationalist, Marxist, and (my favorite) subaltern history (told from the perspective of those with no voice; history from below). Julia (the guest speaker, not me or my roommate...we're determined to make the whole "Julia" thing as difficult as possible for you) taught us about the history of China, and the ghost towns outside cities that are built under the assumption that people will buy stores and houses there. 

By the way, this is the view we have
from the classroom.
Jealous yet?
We were asked to write a brief journal to reflect our experiences in the class so far and put up a question we wanted to discuss in the class. Our questions were categorized to put us into groups, and my broad question on oppression actually became a theme for one group, but since they said that we could move into any group we wanted, I ended up in the small group discussing gender and sexuality. It was a really productive conversation, and I found myself contributing more than I had in any other discussion in Social Justice. I brought up gender norms (boys get blue, and girls get pink, and the first question pregnant women are asked is, "is it a boy or a girl?"the group decided that it shouldn't matter), and helped to define microaggressions in a gender context with the example, "you're pretty good at sports, for a girl." We also talked about sexuality, and one of my classmates made the point that lesbian women tend to be more accepted in the media than gay men. He told us that he thought it was because people see lesbian women as "gaining" masculine qualities, but they reject gay men because they are supposedly "losing" them by identifying as homosexual. I thought it was an interesting comment. Oh, another one that Eliana made later in the discussion, which I wrote down furiously, was that "there's an established normal and everything that falls outside of that needs to explain itself." I thought that was beautifully phrased. 

Class ended after small groups, but another optional event was added, which would start at seven. Somehow, the documentary and discussion got significantly better when Andy added that he would be bringing his dog Emma to meet us. After dinner with Julia and Gwennie, I read "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," a piece on white privilege that Andy recommended for us a few days ago. It was interesting, and I liked the writing style. The author listed off things that she, as a white woman, had that people of other races didn't. Number seven, my favorite, read: "I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race."

Just before seven o'clock, Julia and I were racing to class under my umbrella, splashing through the rain. We were greeted by a handful of Social Justice students (not many of us showed up, and the rain was probably a factor) and Emma, an adorable, friendly, and energetic dog. 

Andy and Emma

Andy had us discuss our theories of change with the person sitting next to us. I had a conversation with Luna, a teaching fellow, about how social change occurs, and then Andy called on us to write our ideas on the board. 

I may or may not have drawn that happy face with my finger
We watched American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, a documentary about Grace Lee Boggs, a radical, Marxist, ninety-nine-year-old Chinese American woman who was very involved in the civil rights movement. It was interesting to learn about her life and philosophy, and we ended up discussing the documentary during and after the film. Andy tried to take us to get doughnuts or cookies, but when the best places were closed, we ended up sitting around in the lobby of the McNeil building, with Emma wandering around the room. About halfway through the talk, Andy's dog suddenly decided that we were best friends and refused to stop licking my face, pushing me over so I was lying on the floor, and I tried not to be distracting while I giggled hysterically. But it's safe to assume that my attempts to not distract the others failed, because the rest of the group joined in laughing at Emma and me. 

Emma! So cute!
(Emma did this to me again later in the discussion. It was almost equally hilarious.)

We wrapped up the conversation about the film and the woman behind it, and walked back to the dorms at around 10:30.

Tomorrow we start a three-day unit on Theater of the Oppressed. I'm in love with acting and writing and theater, so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, and I know it'll be even better because I've really enjoyed everything we've learned in class so far, even without super-mega-awesome theater stuff.

It's going to be great.

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