I used to wonder why I had to encounter difficult situations growing up. I tried to always see the bright light no matter how dark my circumstances were and I had a feeling that I was supposed to do something important one day. Growing up, I went through a lot, and know now that I’m involved in my community, I see how my own experiences are useful tools to relate to the kids I’m reaching out to. I know how powerful of an influence people made on me when I was younger when they simply said “I’ve been there.” Now I’m that person, and it feels wonderful!
I found out about The American Friends Service Committee through my old poetry coach. She sends emails about youth opportunities all the time so I was interested to see what this one was about. When I was reading the credentials I got excited because it was like the email was describing me! As an artist, poet, low key activist, and with a passion for youth, this was clearly the place for me. I came in to this organization expecting to be an expert just because I’ve done a few things around the city, but I had and still have a long way to go before I become an expert.
In these past few months with AFSC I’ve been on a learning overload and embracing this feeling of enlightenment. The first thing I learned was that this organization is not about non-violence, but nonviolence. The hyphen is what separates a person that choses to take non-violent paths from time to time between the person that lives a nonviolent lifestyle. Nonviolence was a tactic passed down from Martin Luther King Jr., who happens to be part of the inspiration of the organization, and of whose quotes are all around the office. I would say that I’ve always been a fan of King, but until now, I didn’t know much about him besides the few paragraphs in history books and random repeated information on his birthday or during Black History Month. As the weeks progressed, I started to realize that I don’t know much about anything really. It also dawned on me that I haven’t been living up to my potential. The internship’s activities and assignments required us to become more socially aware, so I was learning more about the world around me and the injustices in that world; injustices I was oblivious to.
If someone would’ve asked me last year if I consider myself a cultural organizer, I’d probably say that I’m not sure exactly what they mean. I thought I knew what culture meant. My idea of culture was limited to race and music and food, but culture is everything around you. Culture is the houses in Treme, it’s the choice to wear black Chuck Tailor Converse, its language, and the way you eat dinner with your family. I learned that being a cultural organizer requires you to be able to use an aspect of culture to teach someone. The workshop was exhilarating. I had to step out of my comfort zone because there was a lot of singing and holding hands and sharing, but the way I saw it was, why not open up? What’s the worst that will happen? It was a giant circle; full of positive spirits all working towards uplifting our people.
I also thought I had a very open mind. At least until the Undoing Racism workshop with The People’s Institute. The first thing they asked us to do was connect nine dots with four straight lines without lifting the pen from the page. It hit me that although I’m ahead of some people, I am still stuck in a box that I need to break out of in order to move forward. Since I grew up in a small southern town, I already knew about racial tension, but once again, I was reminded that I don’t know everything. I had no idea that I was taking part in my own oppression by continuing to unconsciously submit to the white race. Simple things like defending my white friends incase my black friends make them feel uncomfortable when black people have to feel uncomfortable every day of their lives, or being able to recognize white privilege where things I hadn’t even thought about.
Our events reminded me that although I have some experience with kids, I still have a lot more to learn and I have room to grow. I’ve gotten experience with teaching kids through my socially aware art presentations
Now that the internship is over, I already find myself still involved. I’ve kept in contact with different organizations we’ve worked with. The want to change the world has always been inside of me and now that I see other people passionate about the same thing I feel like taking advantage is a must. This internship was just the push I needed to begin applying myself. As I’ve been becoming more socially aware, I’ve been becoming more and more passionate about changing the injustices of my community and the world. The educational system, as we all know, it screwed up and although I understand that we’ve been trying to change it for years, it needs to be changed. It needs adjustment from the books to the teachers to the barbed wire around the fences. I didn’t even know that only schools in low income areas have barbed wire. I assumed they were everywhere. The sad thing is that they cage up who they want to cage up and liberate who they want to see liberated. I want to liberate my people. It hurts to see kids running around dirty, or reading with kids with low reading levels, or kids that are drowning from their environment. I understand that the world won’t change overnight, and I can’t do it alone, but through this internship I see that there are a lot of other people with the same overall goal and together we can change the world Peace By Piece.
The digital story that I made about a community organizer that I admire:
My reflection on my digital story:
My powerpoint overview of this internship: