Hello, my name is Alex. First and foremost, I consider myself an ‘educator.’ At least, that’s my answer to the “What do you do for work?” question that is all-too-common loud New York City bars. “I’m an educator exploring my own pedagogy and open to enlightenment and instruction with every new decision and experience that I enter into.” <–That would be my ideal on-the-spot response.
For now, I’ll write about the work that I want to hone, expand and reproduce through fresh insight gained at The New School:
Handing over a microphone to other people excites me. As a Facilitator at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, NY, I introduced 1200 people from around the country to the power of listening and capturing conversation through recording. My favorite parts were the “words of wisdom” – moments when lessons were shared with the awareness that strangers would discover them in the depths of The Library of Congress archive. People want to know that their lives and life lessons will be remembered.
Duct Taping the Airstream...A DIY Moment
During the Summer of 2009, I completed a self-designed project entitled Listen To This: Recording Stories of Bangor’s Homeless (www.bangordailynews.com/detail/114371.html) where high school students interviewed homeless shelter residents in Bangor, Maine and shared their stories with the community. This project promoted community and youth awareness of homelessness from the voices of people who live it. Most of the 15 people that were interviewed attended the final listening event, sitting in different parts of the audience and watching people listen to their stories.
After traveling around the country with StoryCorps and then finishing the project in Bangor, it was my personal goal to settle down for awhile; to be part of a community. New York City can seem so huge sometimes, that the act of seeking out community can often seem like a daunting task!
I wanted to get to know my new neighbors in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Their life stories have shaped the history of this community, and continue to shape it as it changes over the years. Where is this history going as the community changes?
Before We Present Our Work to the Neighborhood
Four students at Paul Robeson High School joined me in this community-seeking mission. The students were the backbone to this project. They planned it from the beginning. They set goals, talked about interviewing techniques, planned for and implemented presentations at a local nursing home and a Precinct 77 Community Council Meeting. They asked the librarian at their school to accept this archive. They interviewed over 45 people who have lived in Crown Heights for over 20 Years. For the most part, I stepped out of these interviews, sitting off to the side and letting the students take over.
Our Listening Event
Our final listening event attracted over 130 people from many different community backgrounds and interests. To listen to some short pieces from this project, go to Silence Without Doors. You can also read about the project from the students’ perspectives at Crown Heights History Project. (I will be speaking about this project with some other neighborhood historians at Medgar Evers College on Sunday, October 23rd at 2:00).
Currently, I am continuing work with high school students in Crown Heights at Brooklyn Children’s Museum. They are editing film portraits of 14 people from the neighborhood who they interviewed on the subject of change. I have included one example of their work below:
I would love to answer any questions about these projects and am always open to collaboration and other ideas…what else is Graduate School good for?