Peace by Piece Slide Show

Thursday, March 21, 2013

WordPlay Performances

Soul, a New Orleans poet, presents piece discussing internal issues.

Another New Orleans poet touches the mic. This poem was the description of the lifestyle of a young woman he has encountered.

Two New Orleans poets perform a piece about being skinny and others' opinions on people who are labeled "skinny."

AFSC's Peace by Piece (a Quaker organization) Interns perform a nonviolence rap using the "Stay Schemin" instrumental.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Word Play Youth Poetry Slam Reflections

        AFSC was recently a part of a Global Youth Festival week with other local organizations. The mission of this Global Youth Festival week was to have local youth focused organizations serve as viable resources for the youth in the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas, with regards to promoting the importance of education, self-respect, hard work and teaching our youth how to serve as role models, advocates and leaders in their own communities. Local community activist, Karl Washington, invited us to participate in this initiative. AFSC partnered with Karl, as well as, Asia Rainey with the New Orleans Slam Team to  host “WordPlay” New Orleans Youth Poetry Slam to showcase youth perspectives on the issues effecting them on Friday March 15th from 7- 9pm at Café Instanbul inside of The New Orleans Healing Center. Below are reflections from our AFSC interns, who helped organize and also performed at this event.

Breial M. Kennedy
               The Poetry Slam was pretty cool, but uncomfortable. I’m not a rapper or a poet so to be on stage performing a song during a poetry slam was a new experience and an unfamiliar feeling. It wasn’t so bad because I wasn’t alone. I had my new family, the other AFSC Interns. Besides performing, I loved the event as a whole. All of the performers were awesome but L.Y.R.I.C. Squad’s performance stood out to me the most. Their energy was so high. Another awesome performance came from Asia-Vinae a.k.a. Preach. She performed a couple times and did her thing each time. As an intern and a friend, I’m proud.

Austin Smith     
I enjoyed the atmosphere, it felt like a cool poetic scene. I picked up some good vibes while being at Café Istanbul, it was familiar since I had been before. The whole event made me want to attend a second Word Play session. The room held seriousness throughout the night, which tells me that the words said that night hit the hearts of others. In my opinion the event was carried out as planned and with few mishaps. The performers were very entertaining and inspirational. However, I do wish the message from the chi town group was more comprehensible. I left with the idea that they were awesome but I didn’t remember what they said.

Isaiah Jones
Stage fright is something that I usually say that I suffer from and leading up to the event, even with my lines being the smallest of the piece, I could feel the jitters in my body. Be that as it may I also felt very excited about the flows we as a group of interns were putting together and looked forward to doing my first group piece of poetry ever and in front of a real audience, small and intimate as it may have been. When we finally arrived on stage it was alright. We didn’t spontaneously combust from being the view of everyone for a little bit spittin’ about our ways of the world.  It felt good to share the messages. But on top of what we as interns did, the rest of the night was exhilarating as well.
               From youth peeps in the NOLA fam we got to experience some travels through life and strife and reflecting on a few things though Mary Jane made plenty of swishing strides throughout the night. It was exciting to see some of the bubbling creativity of the area in action making it work live. Then even beyond that there was the mind blowing extravaganza of the Chi town crew who came all the way down here, fifteen hours driving to drop mad fiya into the minds of us present. And all together this was key—in that multi-generational space all ages were engaged and expressing themselves actively.  The energy of the space got me super-duper hyped up to another level letting my mind manage to travel up down and all around some celestial pathways.

Asia-Vinae Palmer
There’s something about being on stage that makes me feel like my spirit is hop scotching across the stars. Sometimes I have conversations with the sky. I say thank you for all the talents I have – like poetry. I’m not sure where I would be if I didn’t find out that I could use writing as an outlet. Café Istanbul is such an inspirational venue that I felt honored to be on stage there. Let’s see:
It was an hour before the show and the group was nervous, anxious, and ready to slaughter the microphone. Austin, Bri, Isaiah, and Asia-Vinae were in the hallway practicing the song that none of them thought they would even be able to write, let alone actually like it in the end. Everyone was a little afraid of show time. What if the crowd doesn’t like it? What if they don’t answer the chant? What if? What if? What if? SHOWTIME! They could feel each other’s heartbeats as the song started. And then the beat dropped.
One of my biggest fears before the show was whether or not the kids would get what we were saying. I was worried that we would just sound like an organized jumble of words and not make an impact. And then the crowd started answering the chant. It felt like we were a real rap group and the crowd was singing our lyrics. I was and am proud of my team for pulling it together and collectively stepping outside of our comfort zones. I’m looking forward to our next group performances.

Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond Undoing Racism Workshop Training Reflections
AFSC works in partnership with the People's Institute(PISAB) to train our youth leaders in the process of undoing racism in the communities they live and work in. PISAB's Undoing Racism Workshop works to teach our youth leaders to look beyond the symptoms of racism and gain an understanding of the root causes of racism, understand what racism is, where racism comes from, how racism functions, why racism persists and how it can be undone as a community organizer. Below are reflections from our AFSC interns, who participated in the training on Sat. March 16, 2013 from 9am-5pm.
Breial M. Kennedy          
The Undoing Racism Training was different from what I expected. I honestly didn’t expect to sit in a circle and talk about racism for eight hours. I thought that there would be physical exercises to help us express racism and its role on our everyday lives. However, I found some excitement in listening to the perspectives of others. There were a couple white women in the room whose responses I just didn’t agree with. The first woman claimed to be “color blind.” But when discussing her profession, she made certain to include that she’s been teaching “black” kids for over 40 years. Kids, not students. Another white woman sat at the table with us during lunch and interrupted our conversation to ask if we had ever read a book called “Why Are All the Black Sitting Together at the Table?” More than enough said.
                 (An artistic representation of the Undoing Racism Training created by Breial)
The whole point of the workshop was to undo racism but in my eyes I saw that we only stirred the pot more than it should have been. The tension was too thick in the room and I don’t think that it should’ve escalated to that point. Everything seemed calm; however I felt that some of the people attending the meeting were whispering negative thoughts to each other. There was so much tension in the room that it could be cut with a knife.  I did enjoy the insight of others though. I learned quite a bit while at the workshop that I can carry with me now.

                   (An artistic representation of the Undoing Racism Training created by Austin)

Isaiah Jones
This was not my first workshop. With AFSC this time around was number two but in the grand scheme of things I think I’m somewhere close to six or seven exposures. What makes this so interesting is that every single time I have gone I have learned something new because every time I have been a different person in a new space, energy and understanding of the world. It is exceedingly rare to find spaces that make you critically analyze the world around you and address an issue such as racism in a way that really just makes sense. It isn’t pushed down your throat as THE answer. However after having tried on the lens I feel as though it is powerful and applicable and I use that definition of what racism actually is as a reference point. These experiences with PISAB and how they have moved me have motivated and inspired me to be involved with things that are worthwhile such as this internship and for that I am grateful.
               On another note, the time we spent in the space made me feel and think so much that I almost exploded. At one point my body literally burst with heat as if I was a bonfire in reaction to the overwhelming stimulation of people’s stories and ways of interacting. This did indeed make me happy that us as a team are tight like that and thus I felt safe even though I almost broke open like a blood orange in the hands of a hungry child. But yes powerful things are a foot and I look forward to the ever developing conversation that is happening created by workshops like this one.

             (An artistic representation of the Undoing Racism Training created by Isaiah)     
 Words on the picture: multiple states of ever evolving consciousness; colliding realities, emotional and intellectual atoms smashing together.

Asia-Vinae Palmer Poem excerpt inspired by the PISAB training
Don’t need no charity/Don’t need no pity/Don’t feel sorry for me/Coming round tryna fix us/I got black things to be proud of /Culture seeping from my pores/I ain’t steal nothing from your history/But you been lying to me about mines/Cagin me up tellin me I’m an animal/Give me chains/Give me struggle/Give me uncomfortable walks to the grocery store/Give me separate water fountains/Give me power hosed showers I didn’t ask for/Give me death/Give me February/Sittin in your fancy desk trying to figure out how to fix the negros/We give you a problem/You give us a Band-Aid with no antibiotics/Streets been bleeding for years/Drugging us with pain medicine /Turn us into addicts /Now we lazy/And stubborn/And stupid/And tired.
             (An artistic representation of the Undoing Racism Training created by Asia-Vinae)   

Friday, March 15, 2013

State of Schools Second Line For Justice

To briefly describe the event, the Second-line for Justice was an event held on March 13, 2013. This particular event was held in favor of our staff in the public schools of New Orleans and surrounding areas. Sponsored by SEIU, intergenerational groups ranging from ages 9 to 70 worked together, organized and hosted a second line from the Recovery School District (RSD) to City Hall. The essential purpose was to inform the community of the issues of these hard working and dedicated people but to also expand/create conditions for healthy workers, students, and communities.

Honestly, before the Second-line for Justice I had no idea about the circumstances/conditions of our public schools’ staff’s working arrangements. I never knew that our cafeteria workers and custodians don’t even have the luxury of “calling in sick.” It’s unfair. Each and every one of us contributes to the education of this city’s youth.  As a student, I stand in full favor of our hard working parents and grandparents having well-deserved benefits.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Boys and Girls Club Nonviolence Training

My specialty is not kids. Usually speaking, for all that I may be complimented with certain moments of positive interaction between myself and those of a single digit age, I do not engage by choice. However on Friday, despite my inner anxieties, it was a delightful process to interact with the twenty young people and see how I and the other facilitators there handled the situation. To an extent, we were short changed due to some unforeseen complications to the point that most of us did not get to engage the youth with our activities. From a retrospective point, I would have said yes, huzzah I have escaped. However, after having stepped into the positive energy of the space and seeing the warmed up youth it did make me feel saddened that we were not able to interact with them through our principles of Nonviolence activities.

For future reference, I can and will refer to this experience as a jumping off point of practical experience in order to help me focus my thoughts when designing materials but also what to hypothetically expect from a room full of youth. I have to keep in mind that they are a group of brilliant minded developing people and they are only as intimidating as I allow myself to think that they are.

Isaiah Jones

Have you ever had a million thoughts flying around in your head at one time but since so much is going on you don’t have time to sort through them so you have to just…focus? We were in a room full of children that probably scarcely see stability, rarely get to speak, and hardly ever get listened to, and we are supposed to teach them. Sometimes I get nervous to do workshops for young people. I imagine myself in their shoes and think about what I look like to them. Someone interrupting their daily routine to try and convince them to be peaceful. What if they are surrounded by violence and my attempt to shine some type of light is looked at as a pitiful attempt at fixing something they’re used to being forced to give up on? I’m looking at these kids as they look at me like “what can you possibly teach me that I can use?” it’s a sink or swim type of thing. Either you jump in without fear or they will eat you alive. Children sense fear; they can tell when things are genuine and they can tell when you’re there because you have to be. I refused to be eaten alive. I looked at them as if they were my own little brothers and sisters.  I imagined that my own little brother was in the room asking me how to cope with his father ignoring his cries for help. Asking me what to do when he wants to scream back at his mother. When he asks why he shouldn’t fight the boy who picks on him in class, and I begin the exercise. I remember that there’s no need to be afraid that they reject our advice because as a kid, all you really want is someone to talk to. An adult to take you seriously. With every event we do I gain more and more experience with things like maintaining attention, how much is too much animation, or how to calm down the crowd. It felt good to be there. To see the kids raising their hands to answer questions and watch them pay attention to the other interns. It was frustrating to be put out of the room before we could finish the workshop. Especially by the Tulane students who rudely rushed us out of the room to teach a dance class that was clearly put on for service hours instead of a genuine interest. But I refused to let that keep my spirit down. So when the kids asked the question that all the kids end up asking at the end, “will you be back next week?” – I said yes. I can’t sit here complaining that the other people that are there don’t really care and then in turn don’t come back. So I asked Mr. Guy if I can come back on my own to do creative writing workshops. With his okay I came back the next week and had my first session with the kids. We sat in the room for an hour and a half and discussed the lyrics to Tupac’s song Dear Mama and talked about the ways they personally relate to the lyrics. By the end of my workshop one of the kids told me “this is what we need man, a place to just let go.” Those words made it all worth it.

Asia-Vinae Palmer

Follow the link for more pictures at the Boys and Girls Club 

The Cultural Organizing Workshop

We all sat in a circle and as time went forward and energy was collectively put into the room, power swirled in the center and around and around and around from, through, between and across all those present in the spaces opened for critical conversations among all the persons present. Culture became more than a singular word. It was and is a multifaceted entity. It is everything because it is created by the fact that we exist and interact with each other.

While at the workshop I learned a greater appreciation for the people doing the work but at the same time a deeper appreciation towards those who are just beginning to enter or have not even jumped in yet. As it stands, the present body of members making up the experience was relatively diverse, coming from a collection of intersecting realities as well as ones that were unique to individuals. As an older youth I could feel the strange balancing act between being young in the space and yet getting closer to an age and level of experience that will one day phase me out of that position. However this pushing and pulling of perspective showed me more intently the importance of making spaces, like this one and within the work of all the organizations present and not present, inter-generational with a greater emphasis on youth. Sadly we of AFSC were the only ones there. And though I am grateful to have attended, it would have been great to see and interact with others close to our age.

Overall, it was a powerful event and I look forward to growing and keeping in mind the things that I learned and putting them into practice both in the work that I do with AFSC and in general life as well.

Isaiah Jones

Monday, March 4, 2013


Briana O'Neal

The Boys & Girls Club training went well despite the challenges. We had 20 kids,  4 AFSC interns & Ahmane’. We came in with a positive attitude. Some of the kids were a bit slow to join in but when they did get into it then it felt like a party! Those kids were so smart. They knew what nonviolence was and ways to be nonviolent. We went through our agenda smoothly and confidently. Our confidence made the kids feel like they could trust the process and roll with us. In the middle of our training we had to readjust to different timing issues.  We were flexible and made the adjustments to efficiently end our workshop.

We made sure that the kids understood what they were being taught so that they could teach others. The kid’s energy was great the whole time, they participated in every activity. They had very good attitudes towards us. The kids kept on asking us when we were coming back. They wanted us to come every Friday. It warmed my heart to know that the kids learned a lot and wanted to keep on learning about nonviolence with us. Just when we were about to leave all of the kids ran up to us wanting to gives us huge hugs. I can’t wait until we go back because they were one of our best groups.      

Cultural Organizing Workshop


AFSC worked with The Arts& Democracy Project, Junebug Productions, Highlander and the Urban Bush Women among other local organizations to organize the Cultural Organizing Weekend in NOLA. The purpose of the Cultural Organizing Weekend in NOLA was to bring together various artists and organizers to discuss, share and teach different tools used in cultural organizing in our communities. The event was held from Fri. Feb. 22-24, 2013  at Golden Feather, Zeitgeist and Ashe' Cultural Arts Center. Two AFSC interns were on the panel on Friday night that discussed the role of cultural organizing in organizations. Each AFSC intern participated as responders, giving their opinion to the organizational presentations. Below are reflections from our interns on the event.

 Breial M. Kennedy Reflections
      Reflecting back on the Cultural Organizing Training, I’d say it was a real eye opener. I had an opportunity to be a youth representative on the panel and I feel pretty good about it. I feel that I’ve at least scratched the surface on what it truly means to be a relevant cultural organizer in 2013. Something I think will stick with me is the relationship between the different organizations and importance of acceptance and understanding.
  Austin Smith Reflections
                I will appreciate the experience I gained attending the Cultural Organizing Workshop last week. It gave me a sense of what each organizations focus was on bringing change within the community. Being at the workshop makes you feel welcomed to help out and follow the beliefs of one of the organizations. I personally enjoyed the open conversations that were had between each person explaining the organization they represented. Everyone has their opinion and it is important that each one is valued. Speaking from a youth’s perspective, I feel we play a key part in the expansion of these organizations. These issues start at home and within those homes are parents and children. They are the people that these organizations should be more socially orientated with. Over all it was a great opportunity and I’m glad I was part of it.

Briana O'Neal Reflections
Day 1: Friday night 2-22-13. We started downstairs at the Golden Feather with a meet and greet while people were still signing in for the workshop. We had a delicious dinner of salad, fried chicken, rice, & sweet tea. Next we moved upstairs where everyone sat in a circle and Ms. Wendi O’Neal started to sing a song to signal that we were starting the workshop. We went around the circle introducing ourselves. After that, we used the story circle process to talk about what cultural organizing was to us. I love the fact that there was representation from the older generation and the younger generation in the same room and there wasn’t conflict.

We spent the rest of our time that night talking about the way that our organizations used cultural organizing in our work and explaining the work that have we done so far. I felt there were a lot of stories that came up to show that there were many ways to use cultural organizing. We have so many different cultures just in New Orleans alone.

I liked how Breial and Austin, two AFSC interns, spoke on the cultural organizing discussion panel.  I was also happy to see that the oldest lady in the room not only listened to them but she also took notes because she felt like she could learn from what a young person had to say. I don’t know where else but in these types of settings could you see an older person willing to learn from today’s youth. I only wish more people outside of these organizations, from the general public, would attend these workshops because I think it would decrease some of the problems we have in the city.  

Day 2: Saturday 2-23-13. The day got off to a slow start. Once again we started with a song to bring everyone together so that we could start. We went around our group circle and introduced ourselves because there were some new people in the room. We were asked to answer the question. Why are you here? I replied “while I greatly appreciate and respect history, we can’t be afraid of change and we have to find new ways to create cultural organizing in the community so that we can bridge the gap between history and the future.”

Next we did an activity where a list of questions were read to the group and we had to move to the right if we strongly agreed, to the left if we strongly disagreed and to the middle if we were undecided. This activity really helped me to see the values of the people in the room with me.

After lunch we went to the smaller workshops we had chosen earlier that day. I picked The Urban Bush Women Workshop which used dance and movement as a cultural organizing tool. I learned how to use my body and eyes to communicate with others. I also learned how to build off of each other’s work to make something much bigger and better than before. We closed out the day with a report back of things we had done in the smaller workshops to the bigger group and more singing.

  Asia-Vinae Palmer Reflections

Culture: The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

            On February 21, 2013 I wasn’t sure what culture meant. Of course I had this general idea or understanding that it was something to be proud of…soul food…salsa dancing. But I never attempted to define it. I never thought of it from day to day as if it were a part of my daily life or something that affects the way I act. I didn’t realize that culture is everything from the food my parents cook to my neighbor’s language to my daily swag. Culture is everything around us and “us” varies from one group of people to the next according to race, gender, neighborhood, etc. The Cultural Organizing Workshop on February 22nd made me think about the kind of difference I’m making and if I am doing all I can. Until the workshop, I hadn’t taken the time to sit back and reflect on everything I’ve been doing for the community and then critically analyze myself. The workshop administrators had us all do interactive exercises to get our brains thinking. One exercise I enjoyed was when we all had to stand up and answer questions by moving from one side of the room which was strongly agree to the other which was strongly disagree, and middle being neutral. We were then asked questions on how much we involve culture with our work or daily lives. I was surprised to find myself on the strongly agree for most of the questions. As an artist, poet, and all around creative person, I unconsciously have already been using cultural organizing in my work. I felt proud to be able to stand next to men and women who’ve been doing the same work for so many years and be able to say that I too have been making a difference. It was very humbling, and made me want to try even harder. Throughout the two days I was learning how to embrace culture and then use it to make a difference. And this time, I can do it and know what I was doing. For a moment during the workshop I had a few mixed feelings toward my observations of other people’s answers to questions. It occurred to me that although people were all saying ways to change the community, no one mentioned children or how to get them involved. I always have the idea that children are the future in the back of my head and believe that the only way to ensure true change is to educate our youth of our plans so that once they are capable of taking over they won’t have to start from the bottom. But then I just sat back and observed the room full of the different organizations that all offered something different and then back at my own organization, and I understood the point. We are all here to get closer and closer to a better community and then a better world. It was okay that everyone didn’t work with children because we did. If everyone focused on the same field then it would be like if ten people were looking for something in one room versus spreading out throughout the entire house. Someone is focused on changing the education system, someone is fixing the neighborhood the school is in, and someone is working on the mentality of the youth, and together we can make a mass move. When the workshop came to a close I had a totally different outlook on the world around me and I felt ready to take on whatever challenge would jump out soon.