Friday, April 27, 2007

4-25, Blake Palmer Art Gallery!

Tonight we visited the Blake Palmer art gallery, located on Wabansia and Ashland!! The gallery contains all types of paintings and sculptures. The owner was gracious enough to give us details about each piece, as well as tell us about the different artists’ backgrounds. We looked at all the work, reflected on our favorite pieces, and took pictures….

Special thanks to Colin Palmer for having us. The trip was the group’s first art event! It was a new experience for all of the students; we could tell they loved it.

Also, special thanks to Tom Li for taking 3 writing group members and two mentors to the Bulls’ first playoff game last Saturday. We all had a great time :). Go Bulls.

On the horizon: we’ve secured our “Color Purple” tickets for Saturday, May 19th and are in the process of making plans for the big night! Thanks to McHugh Construction for their generous donation.

4-18, Response to Don Imus scandal

Our activities tonight revolved around the Don Imus scandal. We had an open discussion of Imus’s recent firing that resulted from a broadcast in which he (and his producer) called the Rutgers Women’s basketball team “some nappy headed hoes.” First, we passed out a news article that described the whole scenario in detail; we also discussed some recent Oprah episodes in which the hip-hop community responded to claims that they’re responsible for normalizing derogatory attitudes towards women—in the Black community, and in all cultures.

We had members come up with a list of slang words used to describe women and talked critically about the different “levels of offensiveness.” The girls had some insightful things to say as far as who can use certain words, how they’re used, when they’re used, etc. We had them freewrite about their response to Mr. Imus and the hip-hop community. Then, members turned their freewrites into persuasive letters (geared to Mr. Imus, to be posted on We talked about what it means to write a persuasive letter and encouraged members to construct purposeful, respectful letters. We’re also going to use this type of “public” writing to move into research projects in which members find a cause they want to support, research it on the Internet and through other mediums, and then use their writing to make some kind of difference.

**Here are some excerpts:

(1) From Tajeria Beacham:

Dear Mr. Imus,

I honestly believe that you didn’t mean any harm about your comment to the Rutgers basketball team, but to women in general it’s offensive, even when rappers use it in their lyrics. Not only when whites use it to me and many of my peers anyone who calls females out of their names is very disrespectful by all means….

There’s a huge difference in the black community when female friends call each other b’s but not to go as far as h’s (hoes). Even though black women and women of all races are disrespected and are given bad reputations in rap lyrics that still doesn’t give anybody of any color to call women HOES. Comments to women are about them I believe today rappers want a visual of themselves so they become disrespectful to women and that’s not cool. I believe even though I’m black many blacks are disrespected by both female and women that’s why many people my age aren’t stressing the issue.

(2) From Eboni Rivera

Dear Mr. Imus,

I think the comment you made was stupid and ignorant. You hurt those girls feelings and then have the nerve to say that it was just a joke or a comment. I feel you were racist towards the black community and the women in the black race. In my thought though I do feel it’s a double standard. You feel that if people in the black race can say it, then white people or any other race can say it. There are different sayings of that word “hoe” or “bitch.” Most girls call there friends it. They see them at school, coming down the hallway, “what’s up h, or what’s up b?” But when a boy or someone else says it we get offended. Different rappers rap about these women and call these women all kinds of things. It’s wrong for them to say it, and it was wrong for you to say it. Point blank.

Friday, April 13, 2007

4-11, Gifts of Writing

This week we worked on “gifts of writing”—to others and to ourselves. The concept behind this activity is simple: often we have things to say to our loved ones, but we don’t take the time or energy to say them. On the same note, we often have things we need to say to ourselves, but we go about our daily lives without digging deeper. “Say things to ourselves?” the kids asked with a weird look in their eye. “yeah, like if you stuff your emotions, or if you have dreams that you want to accomplish, try to bring this things out from your gut,” I told them.

On this note, we turned on B96 and we wrote. Before we would compose letters or poems, we had members draw feeling maps that represented specific things they would say to someone else. Then in their journals, they wrote to boys, mothers, fathers; one girl even wrote to her future son or daughter (and promised us this wouldn't happen for a long time!). After writing to someone else, we had the group start brainstorming about what they wanted to say to themselves. They started with the following exercise:

The greatest joy in my life is _________________
The biggest lack in my life is_________________
I worry that ______________________________
My biggest dream is _______________________
If my dreams come true, my family will _______
If I let myself feel it, I’m angry that ___________
I’m happiest when _________________________

Just doing this preliminary exercise was a profound learning moment; members talked about what they wrote and got ideas from each other. They also talked about boyfriends gone bad and confrontations at school. I encouraged one “chatty” :) girl to channel her energy into something creative, which resulted in an eloquent letter to her past boyfriend! Now this is what learning looks like, I thought to myself as hip hop played in the background...

Next week we’re going to polish our letters and wrap up the activity. Members will decide whether or not they will actually give their letters to their loved ones. We’re also going to have a drawing which will allow two lucky members to attend a Bulls playoff game with Tom Li and Meghan!

Monday, April 2, 2007

3-21, 3-28: Sharing and Writing about Our Vision Boards

On 3-21, we spent more time finishing our vision boards! We tried to get everyone to add extra detail and creativity to their boards. The 2 members that finished their boards the first week moved onto freewriting activities.

On 3-28, we started with going around the group and having everyone hold up their vision board! Each person described what they had displayed and why they chose what they did. We also had them describe what path they plan on taking to achieve their visions. To get members to dig deeper into their “visions” and think about tangible steps they could take in achieving their dreams, we had them freewrite about exactly how they plan to get where they want to go (this is the hard part, right?)…. We also began writing individual profiles for the blog…stay tuned and get to know everyone better!

On a separate but related note, there was a lot of energy swirling around our meeting tonight. After we simmered down, the mentors could only think that all of this energy will get channeled into something creative and amazing. Some way, some how!!!

We look forward to meeting new people at the open houses this week....