civic media: week eleven

healing and hope

 

This week we began the planning of our documentary on homelessness. This documentary will focus on homelessness but will be centered around a story of healing and hope. As a class, we will work in teams to create this documentary.

 

When deciding which team to join, I thought that I would work best on the planning team, as my organization and love of planning would allow me to help establish an outline for the project. On Monday, we worked in our groups to begin developing our thesis, characters, resolution, and script for the documentary.

 

I am very excited to work with my class and develop this story, which will focus on Richard Ramson, or Ram Riches. He is a rapper, artist, and poet from Philadelphia who strives to bring the streets of Philadelphia to life in order to disrupt the preconceived notions that many people hold. These preconceived notions are primarily focused on homelessness and housing insecurity.

 

As well as developing our documentary, we also spent time diving into the issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness this week. By opening up these difficult discussions, we uncovered many of the main concerns and questions that circulate this topic.

 

LGBTQ youth homelessness is a difficult topic to grapple with, as it doesn’t offer any “attractive” one liners or clear statistics. For this reason, it is not an issue that is openly talked about across the media or among individuals in society, especially in comparison with other issues of today, such as marriage equality.

 

Furthermore, there are many barriers that stop authority from achieving an accurate count of LGBTQ youth. These individuals are increasingly difficult to account for, as many of them do not outwardly identify as homeless or LGBTQ. Moreover, much of the LGBTQ youth are not easily reached, as many homeless individuals will avoid those who look like an authoritative figure and homeless youth usually try to remain constantly mobile.

 

The topics that we have discussed in class thus far, especially those concerning LGBTQ homeless youth, housing insecurity, and the broader issue of homelessness, coincide perfectly with the service site that I had the opportunity to visit this week, Project HOME. Project HOME is a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia that works with those individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as those who are beginning their journey to reenter society from homelessness. In terms of social justice, they work to fight the root causes of homelessness and end the cycle of poverty in the community of Philadelphia.

 

During my time at Project HOME, we discussed the alarming young age of children living on the streets, especially focusing on the large portion of those youth who identify as LGBTQ. Many of these topics related to those ideas that we discussed concerning the Family Acceptance Project and the importance of feeling accepted, loved, and protected in your home.

 

At the end of our visit with Project HOME, we narrowed down the main causes of homelessness, with the top cause being a lack of affordable housing. This factor is the number one cause, as it draws a direct line between those individuals experiencing homelessness and the absence of housing options in the community.

 

As I work with my class to develop our documentary on homelessness, I look forward to further learning about the various issues that correspond with this topic. Furthermore, I am excited to learn more about Richard Ramson and his story, as well as help his vision come to life through our documentary. It is through the work of my class in our documentary, as well as the work of nonprofits, such as Project HOME, that elevate the voices of the homeless community and advocate for change.

 

thanks for reading

– madauer

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civic media: week ten

youth activism

 

This week was especially inspiring in Civic Media, as we began to discuss topics surrounding youth activism and social change. Specifically, our discussions focused on the powerful roles that girls, teens, and women play in our society.

 

Our discussion began with the distinction between the Global North versus the Global South. Before my time at St. Joe’s, this is a topic that I had not frequently heard about or discussed. The Global North is defined as the more developed regions and areas of the world whereas the Global South includes those less developed regions.

 

In the Global South, girls are often utilized as labor by the North. As these girls do not have access to the same opportunities, they are often oppressed through capitalism and forced into labor. Women and young girls are often the majority of workers found in sweatshops, as their “nimble fingers” allude to their daintiness and assumes their passivity by the public. The system of labor that the female population faces in the Global South thus produces a cycle of poverty.

 

Conversely, girls are primarily valued as consumer citizens in the Global North. Above all else, girls are most often looked at as a segment of passive consumers. Rather than being portrayed with an interest in activism or global issues, girls in the North are most often viewed as having interests in consuming goods.

 

Despite the differences that girls face in the Global North versus the Global South, all women are called to become Global Citizens, namely, the idea that one’s identity transcends their geography or political borders. The responsibilities of all individuals can be defined in terms of a broader “humanity.” This is essential to constructing global narratives free of biases, and moving away from the danger of a single story.

 

Furthermore, it is evident that young girls throughout the world are becoming global citizens as they feel called to various activist issues. As girls are uniquely positioned agents of social activism and change, they have the power to create magnified results through their involvement with the community.

 

As a group, we researched the activism and work of Alexandra Scott, the leading figure behind Alex’s Lemonade Stand. After being diagnosed with neuroblastoma, Alex decided to have a lemonade stand in her front yard in order to raise money for the hospital and doctors where she was receiving treatment. At her first lemonade stand, Alex raised over $2,000 for her hospital. Alex and her family continued to have lemonade stands in their front yard, and word soon spread about Alex’s mission. People from all over the world began to have their own lemonade stands, donating the money to Alex and her cause. By the time of her death in 2004, Alex had raised over $1 million and inspired hope within the community to find a cure for cancer.

 

Through the young activism and hopeful spirit of girls throughout the world, such as Alex, the single narrative is being re-written. Girls are increasingly becoming global citizens, inspiring others through their stories and missions.

 

thanks for reading

– madauer

 

PS – check out my Fela Kuti Activism video here! It combines what I have learned about Fela as an activist and artist, as well as what I have learned about the power of change through artistic forms.

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civic media: week nine

the power of fela kuti

 

This week in civic media, our focus shifted from hip hop music and political expression to a more specific artist, namely, Fela Kuti.

 

Fela Kuti was able to see music’s hidden monumental purpose as a form of political expression. For Fela and those listening, Afrobeat was more than just danceable and catchy music. Rather, his songs contained a political message meant for all of Africa to hear.

 

During the time of Fela and his rise with Afrobeat, the people of Africa were struggling under incarcerated societies. Specifically, the Nigerian and broader African government was employing corrupt and oppressive leaders. As a result, Fela considered it his mission to reclaim Africa’s dignity and stolen identity from the government.

 

Beginning in 1975, Fela called his home a republic, as he was determined to secede and leave Nigeria. His home became known by many as the Kalakuta Republic – all were welcome to his republic as a place of safety and solace from the corrupt government.

 

After police forces stormed and destroyed Fela’s compound in 1977, the Kalakuta Republic was no longer a place of safety for Fela and his people. The police responded with vengeance to Kuti, as they recognized his relentless challenge to Nigerian authorities through his music, lifestyle, and community of followers.

 

An important theme that should be noted from the events of Kalakuta is the immense difference between the intensity of activism in the global North vs. the global South. For those in Africa, activism is more than going into the streets and participating in protest; rather, it is a powerful and dangerous commitment that may result in injury or death by police force.

 

The tragic events of the Kalakuta Republic led to a turning point in Fela’s music. One of these changes can be seen in his song, “Unknown Soldier,” which directly addresses the events that occurred during the Kalakuta destruction in 1977. The more the government attacked Fela and his music, the more defiant he became. This back and forth relationship between Fela and the government continued throughout his musical career.

 

By comparing Fela’s music with much of today’s top hits heard on the radio, it is evident that Fela’s unique sound goes against the music of our modern pop culture. Unlike songs of today, his music refuses to align with “KIS,” or the theme of “Keep It Simple.” Instead, his lyrics are packed with substance, meaning, and political messages. Listeners are able to find something to connect with through his lyrics, usually drawing from their own personal experiences or background.

 

Despite its differences from what is coined as today’s “top hits,” Fela Kuti’s work still resides with many individuals as a reflection of his musical genius. Afrobeat is all about social, political, and cultural change. That change, believed by Fela Kuti and many others, is essential to society and can be initiated through the power of music.

 

thanks for reading

– madauer

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