To Fuse Non-Denominational Practices

We’d like but I think that will really get into something good and rich today. So today’s connections. I am Nola, your facilitator. I’m here with IDEA, the Institute for Democratic Education in America. I’m going to ask you each of the coffee talkers to introduce themselves, tell you all a little bit about themselves and then we’ll get into the conversation.

To build strategic partnerships to help get the technologies we develop to communities that can have a meaningful use of it. This is my third tournament so I just enjoy coming here. I care about learning that matters and meaningful experience of learning. That’s why I’m here.

Good morning. I’m Stephanie Jelley and I am the founder of a crowd funding platforms for educators and NGOs but I’m here today for my role as executive director to MMOJA which is a not for profit organization that uses African tribal practices with my infamous practices. I primarily work with extremely pushed out youth and gang members who are currently incarcerated in hopes of fostering the ability to find the gap in their thinking so that they can make decisions at certain point.

Hi. How are you? My name is German. I’m from Argentina. I started as a documentary film maker and made a film about education and education and I am now working and want to share here the idea of making a huge network, decentralized, distributed network for getting in touch with other schools and other experiences and indicative experiences all around the world, so I would like to leave here, some people are interested in that and we’ll start working and I’m here from New York, from Brooklyn. I’m a native New Yorker but I’ve worked in the Bay Area for about a decade and then New Orleans, I was down there for a couple of years and now I’m back in New York. My practices had a couple of different focuses. I’ve been an art teacher. I direct public murals and other public projects and most recently, my practice has come to fuse non-denominational, spiritual practices in public education and bringing a sense of mindfulness, meditation, healing, self-development, fusing that with art, fusing it with public art and also with strategic culture building in public schools.

And I’m here by invitation and it’s been a wonderful experience to connect with other educators who are also sharing their ideas and pushing forward.

Thank you. All right. So first question, when I ask this, I invite any of you who are ready to respond to this question. So please do. I’m just going to open up the mic to any of the four of you and then if you would like to respond to each other, please do or if you would like to add in your own thought, please do that, too. Can you tell us a little bit about the connection between your work, yourself and your community? You’ve now all told us a little bit about like where you’re from, the work that you’re doing, maybe working to TOURNAMENT  but what is the connection there? What is the importance of yourself and your work?

It’s interesting. I was thinking about this last night. My practice developed interestingly by doing a lot of social activism and then on my own, doing a lot of personal development and healing mark and at this point in my career, I’ve come to a place where those two parts have completely come together as one and are no longer separate journeys and really interested of that connection of how does really deep, systemic social justice and social change work is 100% relative and dependent and collaborative with one’s own personal development, healing and journey of alignment and they can’t be separate. And what’s the role in public schools of bringing that relationship together and not seeing them as two separate entities.

Well in my case, I have like a … The result of what I did is what people do or people start doing what we did דo it was incredible and I believe that we need to use internet and this ability, you have to connect to like … Start connecting at another deeper level. Sorry for my English, everyone. So for example, what we have, what would happen with our movies is that it was released online for non-profit and non-commercial. You can watch it online. It’s in like 20 languages. So the first day of the release of the film and people definitely start to organizing screenings and the first day there were like 150 screenings in over 20 countries.

So after the screening, the most important thing was not the film, it was the to debating and talking about that. So we believe that this piece of work that we did that is a film is not like a film in the terms of Hollywood. It’s a film like … It’s a … We call it a tool for transformation. It left something different. So in this way, people could use it, could copy it, could download it, remix it, start making conversation and nowadays, it is used in the universities and schools. So I believe that … What’s interesting is that our work was a fault from the beginning for this to happen. What we were doing, we’re trying not to keep our work in a special box like trying to consider that is very valuable It’s not that.

Do what you want with this. So I believe that people understand that and that it creates this kind of relationships and connections and we started having a community online and that wants to talk about education. In South America, there is not much talk about the alternative education, but here, you have like a long tradition of alternative education and Montessori and democratic and pre-schools and some schooling. Well, we don’t have any of that. So if … An idea is powerful enough and you want to share it, that’s it sharing, I believe connections start to happen.

For me, the most organic occurrence that came from the work I do has become a greatest blessing. My center happens to … I have a physical center although I travel to many different places, in prison. I’m sorry. The most organic thing that happened is that here’s a high school two blocks from me and it’s suffering from social economic differences and a tremendous achievement gap and we found that a lot of the children don’t have internet access at home so they’re behind the curve to begin with and I was blessed in … Somebody donated quite a bit of Mac equipment to my center and now, there’s a study center there and our school actually releases children pre-period today for lunch.

So now my office is where they eat lunch and this community that they have fostered has really shown me that we are truly inter-connected regardless of age, race, socio-economic and it has been my greatest learning experience and I’m really grateful. And so here at TOURNAMENT , I think I’m just remaining open to feed where all those relationships go so that each of our works can grow.

All right. Fifteen years ago, if you told me that I’m going to live in Pittsburgh and do robotics and love it, I would love really hard. So seemingly, my journey is kind of random. So, I’ll give you the random parts and then talk about what connects to now that connects to my work, but I started … I was into arts and I started by writing poems, short stories and then shortly after became a journalist that goes and meets with people and talks with them and writes about that. Then I went on a trip to South America and on the way back, I’m stuck in New York and I really like New York and I wanted to experience it and I had the strength that you have to make something in New York in order to experience that city so I took up photography class.

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