Another busy month flies by in Guatemala. The days, the weeks, the entire month seems to blur. Thursdays we drive to Chirijox and Saturdays we take a boat over to San Juan. In between, I am teaching science at math at a local school for two and a half days. The other days if not with the kids, are filled with conceptualizing this organization we call Unlocking Silent Histories. In the evenings, I’m catching up on my online class that I am teaching and then completing assignments for an online training refresher course that I am taking. Finding the time to write this month has – as you might ascertain – been a challenge. All this is a part of my world as I transition myself into a jammed packed schedule to a more livable one that allows me to put my full attention to this project. In two small words: busy times!
As May closes, and I see the “light at the end of the tunnel”, I hold on by a thread knowing that in just a few more weeks my full energies can turn towards looking back on and looking forward to this journey called Unlocking Silent Histories.
I am taking this moment though, just to recall the year 2000 when I entered the University of Pennsylvania. It is almost surreal to remember a shy and quiet grad student, a struggling single mother, a woman attempting to find her future sitting in a room full of aspiring academics trying desperately trying to describe a vision that at that time just did not yet exist. Now, all in good time, good company, and the best of circumstances, it now is coming to fruition. If you had an opportunity to read my kickstarter campaign you remember a synopsis of this vision:
I wanted to put technology in the hands of youth so that they could illustrate what they knew, cared about, and hoped for in their futures. I envisioned this as a unique opportunity to help youth feel empowered. I believed that through insights gained as they investigated, recorded, and analyzed their films, that these youth would obtain the knowledge and tools to help solve the issues and problems of their economically challenged communities. In a technology enhanced and rapidly changing world, overcoming the digital divide was underlying this vision
I envisioned technology as a bridge between cultures. A way to facilitate equity of voice – and provide a vehicle for broader discussions that go beyond the confining divisions that often separate communities and groups. When you dream it, you become it – I believe is the proverb. And it is becoming. It is becoming more than I imagined…
The cameras in the hands of the youth are not just about documenting and analyzing problems or successes in one’s community. It is not solely about overcoming the digital divide. For me, it is more about finding innovative ways to engage and cultivate learning. It is about technology as a resource that makes visible culture, knowledge, voice, identify, desire, drive, creativity, vision, and agency…. Instead of being subjects of academia, instead of academics casting their carefully refined lenses upon these youth groups and their cultures… instead of positioning our nicely packaged theory upon them to analyze and shed light from an etic perspective… the aim is to foster a truly emic opportunity… These youth now tell us who they are, how they want to be see, and what they will become.
Not so fast, not so furious… in six months I do not expect great Hollywood productions nor do I expect revolutionized views of seeing them or seeing ourselves. What I do hope for is an opportunity for seeing through new prisms – what possibilities exists for both them and for us – for them seeing what is inside themselves and for us finding new lenses to see what we see.
Having this particular time in my life, this particular gift – that is – the opportunity to finally make a dream come to life is more than I could have hoped for. Everyday I learn more about myself – what lenses I bring, what frames shape my perspective of the world, and what conditioned thoughts I need to shed in order to see through the eyes of these youth. I am continuously challenged intellectually and structurally – by the colleagues who share this journey with me everyday – Marisol, Erin, and Mafer; by locals who freely give their time to observe and assist – Gustavo, Julio, and Iko; by my son, old colleagues/friends and new friends who visit and bring shine new light on the process – Drew, Dana, Dan, Denver, Rick, Tim, and Randy; by Pamela Yates for taking the time to talk with the youth and by the kids – always and mostly the kids – who teach me to listen and learn. With all things closing up this month, except of course for the project, my time turns to reflecting on Unlocking Silent Histories. I’m humbled by this gift to be here and to be building this with an amazing community of people.