I considered writing in Hebrew but that was disconnected from the environment so I did switch to photography and that switch was very easy. I did really well very fast and that made me think about what connects with writing and photography that goes the thread of … I call that artistic sensibility and I started by doing blurry portraits of people. It’s a little technical but it would keep my shutters low so the shutters open for a while and it … A while is a quarter of a second but it records the kind of movement that my subject makes in a quarter of a second and then it records the kind of movement that I do while holding the camera. I mean, that way created the visual representation of our encounter. But more …
Then I went to visit a friend in Pittsburgh and met a girl and fell in love and then I moved there and doing community work and I celebrate … Just sharing my photography skills with students but I found that I enjoyed actually working alongside with them and making exhibitions with them. So from there on, I did have a series of exhibitions together with the big theaters and students and then this robot was introduced to me because I was teaching photography panoramic images so that connected with me and I was curious about the lab that made that robot because it wasn’t just about making pictures.
The way they use it is they would give it to children in different parts of the world and have them take pictures of the environments and then have a dialog and that resonated with me and I went to visit with them and I like what they did and I asked if I can come work here. So now I’m working there. So a short answer to this question is I guess the creativity and enjoy working with people is what makes me where I am and even what they do right now, striking partnerships that work and work well and meaningful for everybody I think has a creative side to that and the possibility that goes into writing poems and taking pictures.
Does anybody have any responses to each other that you want to know a little bit more about? You all talked a lot about community and the importance of your role, reference I think more about community and in yourself. So what role does democratic education have in your communities? Whether it’s through your work or what you see emerging. What is that importance?
Cultivating community is a leading motivation of the work that I’m doing. It’s just an essential part. You know, I think what we’re dealing with oftentimes is a lot of our students … You know, yesterday in the play workshop, we were playing games here at the conference and I was thinking about the students I work with which are first generation, immigrants from Caribbean that are coming forward with such tremendous obstacles in front of them, poverty and systemic issues of racism and I was thinking of the culture that I have with my students, they would not be able to handle the game because so many ground rules and so much structure and so much scaffolding would have to set up for that type of play to exist and be a successful experience and …
But it doesn’t mean that they are not capable of it. It’s just that as their educator and as their facilitator, I really need to cultivate a way to make that make sense and feel good. And I’m very interested in that obstacle or that challenge as an educator of how do we really create safe ways to cultivate community and making that something that can be teached to other educators but I think what we have to realize is that a lot of the youth that we’re working with especially in urban education are not coming necessarily front loaded with those practices really easily accessible.
Interiorly, they have it, that’s all there. It’s all there, but we have to unlayer so much social conditioning and so much defense mechanisms and so much trauma that they’ve experienced through their entire educational career to get to that place to really cultivating safe community. And as the leader and the facilitator, you have to be very clear, very strong and very consistent and very compassionate, and I believe that deep learning doesn’t happen unless those environments are cultivated with a tremendous amount of intention and in the work that I’ve been doing, it began … You know, teaching art which was great, like let’s express, but then the practice said how is our practice affecting the community?
So then it became for years, I was just focused on community-based art like let’s make art that shifts the paradigm of our community and then ultimately, the work evolved to what’s your interior community feeling like? What’s going on inside because we can continue to push our work outward, but unless we’re doing some of our own work inward, it’s not really a sustainable experience.
So just in closure, this idea of community for me, it’s two-part and it’s one part facilitating conversation, activity, intention setting that helps young people connect to themselves and love themselves essentially, accept themselves, forgive themselves and also teaching them how to set boundaries with how they will accept treatment from others and then from that place, we can really cultivate healthy community. But without that front piece, it doesn’t totally hook because if they might move into a different environment and replay the old behaviors. So yeah, fundamentally the self-work I feel like is … From what I’ve experienced is the way that we can really crack the code.
I have a question for you. In what way … You said the play that you did here would be very difficult. If you would just explain more?
Yeah. I’ll try to keep it brief. So … What I experienced with my students and I make it really clear to them is there’s a compulsion to pull each other down. Cyber bullying is huge. If you have something out of place in your alphabet, it might be documented and put on blast on the internet and it might have 30 comments in a matter of 3 hours of people making you feel lesser than because of something that you are wearing on your physical body. Some of my students are experiencing this type of attack and it comes from this empowerment when you’ve been socialized to feel so disempowered, you’re finding power in any way you can.
So when we loosen things up and things become game-orientated and there’s not a lot of structure sometimes that mentality to pull down becomes a dominant experience. Not always, but it can happen and if it happens to one, there’s such a reaction that it then, the domino start to fall and the game’s over and it turned into a mess. So in my course, I’ve been … I’ve had opportunities to work with one group of youth for a nice one month at a time it’s almost like an elementary school model in a high school experience, but it’s just fundamentally about really clear rules and boundaries in the classroom. It gets a no put-down zone.