Month: June 2016

Dragon Tears by Bérangère Parizeau | CANADA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

Dragon Tears

 



 

 

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Dragon Tears: a documentary film on the political ecology of planetary survival Directed by Bérangère Maïa Nathasha Parizeau

 

Sending a prayer for the souls of those who have paid with their life for humanity's violent confusion.

 

“Documentary should act on our hearts, not on our minds alone.”

– Michael Rabiger, Directing The Documentary

 I am a French Canadian scholar, environmental and peace activist, interdisciplinary artist, published author, poet, filmmaker, and the director/producer of Dragon Tears. Dragon Tears is a research-based documentary film on the topic of China's Environmental Law—and Policy—in the context of Climate Change. In 2006, I graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts, major in Film, video and Performance Art from California Collage of the Arts in San Francisco. After my graduation, I moved to China and studies Chinese for a few years. I have been learning Chinese and researching the water pollution crisis in China since 2007 for the purpose of directing this film. I am now an advance Mandarin language student. The complexity of China's political economy inspired me to go back to school, and I am currently finishing a Masters in Asian Pacific Policy Studies graduate at the University of British Columbia (UBC), in Vancouver, Canada. I was appointed as a research assistant for my thesis supervisor Dr. Pitman B. Potter, Peter A. Allard School of Law, in China since August 2015 and for a full semester. My research consisted of gathering material on the topics of human rights, environmental policy and law, which includes interviews with officials and policy experts for the Asia Pacific Dispute Resolution (APDR), Major Collaborative Research Initiatives (MCRI) program at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

 

Independent thinking, creativity and communication are the most powerful tools for growing consciousness about the most pressing issues of our times. Amy Goodman, executive director and broadcast journalist for Democracy Now in her address to the Creative Time Summit at the Venice Biennale in Italy expressed the importance of independent media: “I believe that media can be the greatest force for peace on Earth. Instead, it is all too often wilded as a medium of war. And that's what we have to challenge.”

 

This 58 minute feature experimental documentary film communicates creatively to a wide audience in Mandarin and English—with subtitles—critical information on China's pollution crisis in the context of the global human ecological crisis. The premise of this research-based experimental documentary film is that China's pollution crisis is a global systemic crisis. Based on interviews with leading experts, this film investigates the complex relationship between China and the rest of the world, freshwater security, global sustainable economic development, natural resource management, and climate change adaptation measures. This film investigates the nexus of China's ecological catastrophe, neoliberal economic trends, the possibility of climate collapse (IPCC Report, 2014).

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Through the experimental medium of still photography weaved with guerilla-style hand held camera, I propose to narrate the tragic beauty of humanity as a whole. By documenting in-situ scholars' approaches to the topics of China's environmental policy—and law—in the context of the socialist democratic authoritarian polity, the complexity of China's judicial system, transnational trade, and intergovernmental approaches to climate change and natural resource extraction, this film aims to participate in the shaping of public debate on ecological justice and planetary environmental sustainability policy. I propose to analyze China's most recent developments in environmental law, develop a better contextual understanding of China's position in relationship to the world's environmental crisis, their intricate interrelationship, to unravel humanity's most pressing challenges and opportunities, and finally offer policy recommendations to prevent ecological collapse. The possibility of human extinction by the end of this century is imminent if the neoliberal trends of fossil fuel extraction and consumption are unabated.

 

In 2013, I had the unique opportunity to interview world renown scholar, linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. Tree Spirit is an animated experimental documentary film on the topics of the global environmental crisis and the possibility of human extinction.

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I travelled to Paris for COP 21 and interviewed world acclaimed scholar, author, feminist and eco -activist Vandana Shiva, on the topics of biodiversity, globalization, and water security. I have a confirmed interview with Ma Jun in Beijing this year. Ma Jun is the director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE), one of China's most dynamic NGO's. Ma Jun developed China's Water Pollution Map database in collaboration with Chinese governmental agencies in 2006. He was nominated as one of the 100 people who shape our world by Time Magazine in 2006. I am in the process of contacting other experts in the field both in China and internationally for other potential interviews.

 

The National Film Board of Canada has shown interest in co-producing Dragon Tears, and have been told to contact them once I have graduated. Beijing Continental Bridge Corporation, the largest production and documentary film distribution in China, has also shown interest in the project as co-producers and distributors in Asia. I am in contact with BC Council for the Arts and will be applying for editing support in the Spring.

 

As a creative spirit and privileged educated Canadian woman, I experience the visceral responsibility to fight against ecological destruction and engage in work that promote a more peaceful world. I take advantage of the opportunities available to me as means to participate in the deconstruction of structural violence. My next endeavour involves traveling to Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and the Greek Islands to document the most important migration since WWII, blogging, photo-document and publish a book. At times these projects can feel overwhelming, but they are also intensely gratifying. Most importantly this work gives profound meaning to my life.

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As translated from an arabic script by Bahia Shebab in her Ted talk A thousand times no: You can crush the flowers but you can't delay spring.

Please visit my blog, film, and photography website: www.neidrya.com

 


 

Bérangère Maïa Nathasha Parizeau is a French Canadian scholar, environmental activist, filmmaker, photographer, interdisciplinary artist, author, and the director/producer of Dragon Tears, residing in Vancouver, Canada.

 

We Spoke English Without Speaking, Sometimes by Felicia Anderson | USA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

We Spoke English Without Speaking, Sometimes

 



 

 

 

Korean street

 

Moving to a new country with zero language familiarity came with its own communicative challenges. The year was 2013; I’d just arrived in Seoul, South Korea to begin orientation as an English teacher. The official language of Korea is 한국어 (“Hangul”/Korean). Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) simply means that the first learned language of my students was something other than English. Various countries recruit individuals whose first language is English to work in-country to assist with English language acquisition. The goal: eventual enhanced global workforce competitiveness. ESL centers also exist in English speaking countries to assist immigrating individuals whose first language is not English with in-country adjustment.

 

My assignment to teach ESL in a foreign country allowed the incorporation of my native country’s culture as well as the learning of my host country’s culture. What I didn’t expect to learn is the degree to which understanding is more voluntarily than we think. As an ESL educator, we are trained to understand the way the mind learns a second language. We are also equipped with the tools and techniques to facilitate the learning of this language. Sometimes, this preparation falls short. In those moments, we rely on the idea that some aspects of communication are nonverbal. There were instances where the unspoken visual and kinesthetic cues enhanced understanding betwixt my students and I, and the country around me.

 

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The visual is universal. A shoe looks like a shoe, always. This means that a shoe looks like a zapato in Mexico and a zapato looks like a신발  (“shin ball”) in Korea. There were many times when I was able to use a picture to bridge communication gaps. Images served as meeting places of understanding. They allowed my students and I to begin conversations about new ways to describe objects we assuredly recognized, in a language new to us.

 

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Taboo/Pictionary

In the same way that a shoe visually presents as a shoe, the gesture of gripping a steering wheel/driving a car is universal. Kinesthetic learning is the use of the whole body or its parts (hands, arms, legs), to problem solve and/or create. When learning a new language, most individuals show apprehension when trying to speak with confidence. With learning styles in mind, it’s important to make use of the varied skills of your students for inclusiveness. To improve student response time and reinforce the vastness of their vocabulary, we used Taboo and Pictionary. Taboo and Pictionary are guessing games where players have to identify mystery words or phrases by receiving restricted verbal or illustrated pictorial clues, respectively. In these instances, competition and timing supersede a lack of confidence in one’s fluency.  My students were able to actualize their English or create the visuals for their peers to draw associations between the language and what they knew. And frankly, it was fun.

 

shops street

 

Dry Erase Boards

During my first year, I worked at a middle school full of adolescents who were anxiously sorting out their personalities and futures. This made for an electric day-to-day experience. However, in between classes I would sometimes receive silent visits from a student of the Special Education department. Verbally, we were only able to exchange a “Hello!” but nonverbally, her persona was gentle and curious. Still, she felt comfortable enough to fidget with my teaching equipment, I obliged. I would allow her to stay until the class bell rang, then I’d send her off to her next class. On the last day that I saw her, she came in and slowly located a dry erase board and marker. At this point we’d grown accustomed to talking in pictures. She went to the opposite side of the room and began to doodle. Her return wasn’t immediate, so I continued doing some administrative work at my desk. Eventually she came to me, dry erase board in hand. She placed the board on my desk to share her drawing, 3 hearts. After a quick smile and a brief linger, she skipped away. We understood—and that, was the greatest lesson Korea taught.

 

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Felicia Anderson is an International Immersion Enthusiast, Educator, Visual Artist, Writer and Outreach Coordinator residing in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

5 Ways The Arts Help Kids in School by Jacqueline Cofield | USA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

5 Ways The Arts Help Kids in School

 



 

 

“Arts education is a key to training generations capable of reinventing the world that they have inherited. It supports the vitality of cultural identities by emphasizing their links with other cultures, thus contributing to the construction of a shared heritage. It helps to form tolerant and dynamic citizens for our globalizing world.”

– Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General
Message on the occasion of  International Arts Education Week

 

In light of UNESCO’s Arts Education Week (May 22-27, 2016), here are some points illustrating the impact of arts education on kids.  ‘The Arts’ refers to both the visual and performing arts, which ranges from painting and sculpture, to dance, music and theater, and includes filmmaking.

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The Arts help kids learn other subjects (3 examples):

    • Ever heard of STEAM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math)?  The arts reinforce multi-subject learning and strengthen ability to perceive connections.

      • Playing a musical instrument can improve math comprehension, and helps with learning languages.

    • History

    • Reading  

The Arts help kids develop Multiple Intelligences

    • Emotional Intelligence explores how our thoughts about ourselves and others, impacts our actions.

      • Empathy

        • In his ground-setting book, Emotional Intelligence, psychologist Daniel Coleman reveals that “Empathy builds on self-awareness; the more open we are to our emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading feelings.”

      • Problem solving

    • Social Intelligence pertains to getting along with others.  The value of this for kids, teachers, and parents is evident.

      • Interpersonal Communications (The Social Arts): 4 Main Components of Interpersonal Intelligence presented by Howard Gardner,  and Thomas Hatch.

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The Arts help kids develop their own voice, and confidence in their ideas

  • Essential for creativity, which requires optimism, courage and leadership, as they shepherd ideas into fruition.

Great for their student portfolio

  • Showcasing a range of interests is ideal on college and scholarship applications

  • Additional teachers/mentors who can write referrals attesting to their creativity, ability to work with others (performing in plays, for example), and problem solving abilities.

It’s fun. Relieves stress, makes them happy.

  • Kids are under a tremendous amount of stress. Academics, social/peer issues, and even economics often at the root. Arts and creativity lowers stress and is a positive outlet for them, and they have lots of fun doing it. Encourage them!

What can you do?

To learn activities that you can do at home, online, or in your community to support a child’s interest in the arts, visit, Americans For the Arts.  To learn about how arts impact student achievement, read this report from The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).  To read UNESCO’s plans for arts education, click here.

 


 

Jacqueline Cofield, founder of J Rêve International, is a former NYC Science schoolteacher, and global advocate for arts and STEAM education.

 

Photos provided courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

La Graine De La Creativity by Sarah Ligner | FRANCE

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

La Graine De La Créativité

 


FRANCE | Sarah Ligner


 

 

J’aime le mot de créativité. Il diffère de celui de création, qui revêt une dimension plus solennelle. La créativité, c’est un peu comme une graine qui est plantée dans le sol. On peut attendre qu’il pleuve pour que la graine pousse, donne naissance à une tige, puis à une fleur. Mais on peut aussi aller chercher un arrosoir, le remplir d’eau et arroser la graine plantée dans la terre. La fleur poussera et elle donnera naissance à d’autres fleurs. Cette métaphore du jardinage illustre ce qu’est la créativité: un potentiel à cultiver. Chacun d’entre nous peut s’essayer à le développer, le faire croître et le transmettre à d’autres.

 

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Lorsque j’avais 6 ans, mon institutrice a emmené notre classe au musée. Il n’y avait pas beaucoup de musées dans la région où j’habitais. Dans ce musée se trouvait un important ensemble d’œuvres d’un artiste appartenant au courant de l’art brut. Gaston Chaissac a exercé différents métiers, dont celui de cordonnier, avant de commencer à peindre et à dessiner. Il aimait orner de couleurs et de motifs simples tout ce qui l’entourait. Il avait même peint les portes d’une armoire. Il vivait dans un petit village, voyageait peu mais écrivait de longues lettres à ses amis artistes, écrivains et galeristes. Ses lettres décrivaient son quotidien sous un angle poétique. Il y ajoutait souvent quelques dessins. La découverte de ses œuvres avait ébloui tous les élèves de ma classe. Quelques jours plus tard, à l’école, nous nous sommes mis à peindre sur du papier, puis sur des morceaux de bois. Nous peignions des motifs aux contours sinueux, que nous remplissions de couleurs vives. Ces motifs formaient des personnages semblables à ceux que nous avions vus dans les œuvres de Gaston Chaissac. Cette visite avait changé notre regard sur le monde. Elle nous avait appris que nous avions besoin de peu de choses pour transformer le quotidien. C’était un appel à ne jamais sous-estimer notre imaginaire. Quelques années plus tard, je suis retournée dans ce musée. J’ai observé les écoliers visitant les salles où se trouvaient les œuvres de Gaston Chaissac. J’ai constaté qu’ils éprouvaient toujours la même curiosité, le même émerveillement que j’avais éprouvé.

 

C’est pour cela que j’ai choisi de m’engager dans ce métier que j’exerce aujourd’hui, celui de conservateur de musée: pour créer des rencontres surprenantes et parfois improbables entre des objets et des personnes, mais aussi pour construire un regard différent sur le monde. Il faut toujours commencer par regarder. Lorsque nous exerçons réellement notre regard, alors surgissent les questions. En se posant sur un objet ou sur une œuvre, notre regard active notre imaginaire ainsi que notre capacité à produire quelque chose de nouveau, à penser différemment, autrement. C’est la naissance de la créativité: imaginer quelque chose de nouveau. La pensée peut devenir ensuite un désir de créer quelque chose d’original. Mais au début, il y a véritablement cette pensée, cette mise en branle de l’imagination. Et c’est là, dans le musée, où nous sommes confrontés à ce qui est né de l’imagination des autres, que se forme également une partie de notre propre imaginaire. Le musée protège ces imaginaires et nous confronte à la fois à ce qui nous est familier et à ce qui nous est inconnu. Il nous révèle surtout notre capacité à exercer notre regard pour voir le monde de mille et une façons.

 


 

Sarah Ligner is a museum curator, living in Paris.

 

Keeping Your Identity by Brian Walker | USA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

 

Keeping Your Identity

 


USA | Brian Walker


 

 

At the age of 18, I picked up the guitar. I did not know what the future held for my guitar and me but I knew I wanted to play music for the rest of my life. I was inspired by my Uncles who played the 12 bar blues with Mississippi delta style solos during my childhood. They brought people together with the guitar, and they sang about their experiences of joy. The only problem I had is, I could not sing at the time, and I didn’t play with the soul of a southern black man. Two years into playing guitar, I focused on learning the blues and playing soul music. I wanted to play rock music and was told that I needed to learn blues and soul music before I could get started on rock. For the next two years, I jammed with my Uncle learning how to get better at my instrument. I was the only one I played music with on a consistent basis other than a few friends who liked to jam here and there. I still did not know how to sing, until I met my friend Christian who I met from my first college music course who helped me get the confidence to start singing. A year after learning how to sing and play guitar, I started to write songs and play out in coffee shops and DIY punk basements. During this time, I became aware that people looked at me like I was different. People looked at me like I was confused about my own identity, because I was a black man who played punk style music. I would hear words like “I didn’t expect that” or “wow I thought you were going to sing something with a little more soul.” At this moment, I learned that my involvement in the punk DIY scene would not be easy. Being an African American male in today’s society is not easy. People assume that because you are black you can only do certain things (i.e. play sports, sing certain kinds of songs, etc.). Because of this bias, I feel that my creative outputs are always questioned as to whether or not they are valid. I have had to spend much of my years playing music trying to eliminate this stigma, but the stigma will always remain even if I were to become a “famous” musician. I know that people question whether my credentials as an underground artist are “punk enough.” I am questioned on whether my roots or upbringing in music is the same as the everyday suburban punk. To be honest it is not, I grew up on hip-hop, soul, and R & B. I found rock in the early 90s when I found a love for Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins on the radio. I do not familiarize with the story line of bands like Black Flag, The Ramones and many other classic punk heroes, but that should not mean that I am any less creative than other people involved in the DIY music scene. I know that the sound I create is one of my own, which makes me creative. I know that others question my ability to be authentic because I am a different race than others who play the same type of music that I do. As a racial minority, being creative comes with invisible limitations. Peers will always box you in based on the status quo of your culture. I do not let that limit who I am as a creative. I know that because of the color of my skin, people expect to view me as a rapper, or a blues singer. I am so much more than that and my skin should never determine what I should and should not be able to do. Creativity has no color, it comes from the experiences of yourself and that should be no reason keep yourself from showing who you are. I believe we should be creative to paint the realities of ourselves, and let no outside forces keep us from being able to pain that picture.

 


 

Brian Walker is a Touring Musician residing in the Glenside, PA area near Philadelphia.

 

Survival by Shagnik Chakravarty | INDIA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

Survival

 



 

 

There was an image I had seen in a newspaper that kept haunting me for many days. A child lay upside down on a sea coast somewhere in Europe. I turned the pages and moved on to other things but that image didn’t leave my mind.

 

Newspapers and TV channels bombard us with daily tragedies that happen all around us:  a massive bomb blast killed 38 people and injuring 40 more in Pakistan, a sudden landslide flattened another 3000 households in Nepal. What effect do such calamities have on our minds? Maybe, we just share a moment of despair and lament at the plight of humanity for a while. Tragedies seem to happen in remote places, in other people’s lives. If the news is more sensational, we’d possibly talk about it with friends in school and ponder about the suffering. Nevertheless, it is soon forgotten.

 

Bigger catastrophes like the earthquakes in Japan or the terrorist attacks in Paris gather much more attention. Somehow, the story of 130 people killed in the Paris attacks gets greater importance than the deaths in the Haitian earthquake where 300,000 had died and yet the pain of a poor Haitian is as deep and heart-breaking as that of a Parisian killed in a nightclub in the middle of a concert.  Numbers are blunt figures that do not allow us to discern the deep emotional agony behind them. Every life is embedded with many others. When someone dies, it impacts so many more people. The pain inflicted on them is beyond words.

 

The thing about pain is, we do not actually understand it until it comes and stings us. That is, until a public tragedy becomes almost personal. What would happen if the person we love the most died in one such tragedy, leaving us crippled for the rest of our lives? It is here, I believe, that creativity plays a very important role, imagining the pain of others and making us experience that pain through stories. As Einstein once said, imagination is more important than knowledge. It is that understanding of the pain of others that drives us into some kind of action, however small that might be.

 

The more effective stories grow out of empathy and not sympathy. When we sympathise someone, we express pity for an unfortunate person from our own privileged position and then buy that person suffering in the cold a blanket, perhaps, so that we can feel good about ourselves. Empathy, on the other hand, brings us closer to other people. After all, who knows, someday a similar catastrophe might strike us. We must learn to share the sufferings of human tragedy, because it is not they or us but a common unifying bond of humanity and the threat of pain that links us all.

 

While the image of that dead child on the Lesbos coast refused to leave me, I tried to use my imagination and creativity to understand the pain of the Syrians running away from their country in search of a shelter anywhere in the world. I knew nothing about the place I wrote about, neither their culture nor the people or the details of their everyday lives. Finally, there was a short story I came up with, inspired by that very haunting visual. The story is not based on the child, but his mother. The child did not even get a chance to experience life. It is she who has to bear the ultimate pain. Survival is her greatest challenge. The story that follows illustrates the way I tried to comprehend the agony of the mother undertaking that fated journey. I tentatively titled the short story, “Wages of Happiness”.

 

Wages of Happiness

All eyes were turned on her as she stood there quivering. She now had nothing left in her life. Her only hope, her sole reason for living, was now coiled up, lying upside down, lifeless, humbly in the sands of the Lesbos coast.

 

The Greek army men surrounded her. So did some of the refugees. She was stone cold. Anguish had overwhelmed her. It was simply too much to be expressed by tears. She did not cry. A rusty old Greek lieutenant in high leather boots whispered to his comrade “She must weep or she will die”.

 

Previously, she lived with her family in Damascus. A simple family of three- mother, father and daughter. During this time, ISIS, the terrorist organisation had gradually started dominating their country. Inevitably so, the horror of terrorism struck them. Zainab’s husband, Imtiyaz, was the victim of such a misfortune. There was a sudden terrorist seizure in his office where four heavily-armed people, their faces covered with black cloth, indiscreetly started firing. One such bullet of terror hit the back of his neck. Imtiyaz’s heart stopped instantly without even understanding why his life had to end like this, suddenly.

 

Terrorism had reached an intolerable level in Syria. It was now a personal story of the households. After this heavy loss, Zainab decided that to safeguard her daughter’s future, she had to flee. What was left for them here anyway? With a bag on her shoulder and despair in the soul, she set out, leaving everything behind, knowing that the place was doomed. Holding her daughter’s little hand tightly, they started walking. They walked until her feet bled, and nevertheless, they kept on walking until they reached the Syrian coast. The little girl kept on asking her mother where they were going. Zainab didn’t answer and then the girl too stopped asking questions. They just kept on walking.

 

The coast was an escape from a life forever condemned. There, they found an agent who took away all the money she had with the promise of ferrying her across to Europe. She believed him because she had to believe in somebody. With her child unaware of the dangers ahead, she stepped into the raft which was perhaps meant for 10 people but now there were almost 30 desperate people like her clinging on to the boat, endangering each other’s lives. From there they embarked on the ever-dangerous journey. They set for the Grecian coast, their voyage marked with a myriad perils and life- threatening situations. In the darkness of the cold night, she could see nothing except the frightened faces of her fellow passengers praying to Allah and could hear nothing except the ominous sound of the waves threatening to engulf them all any moment. The surging waves almost submerged their rubber boat. Both of them reached an unknown island, unconscious. Zainab recovered, her daughter did not. Water in her lungs had made her sleep perpetual.

 

It was ironical more than sad. She came here to secure her daughter’s future and now, her daughter had left her in this seemingly endless chaos. What would she do now? She was alone, thousand miles away from home, in a foreign land with no money, no jobs, no friends, nothing.

 

She wandered aimlessly along the sandy shores for days until the army gave her a unique identity number and a temporary shanty near the refugee centre to stay. Honestly, she did not have any hopes in life anymore. Life seemed like a meaningless long struggle now. Nevertheless, she went and stayed there for a week wondering what she would do next. She condemned fate, for it had only given her thorns. She tried to hide her pain among the other immigrants who were inflicted with the same degree of sorrow.

 

A week later, the superintendent of the refugee centre came into the large common hall and announced the names of refugees who were immediately being transferred to the Budapest Immigration Centre. Zainab heard her name being called out.

 

So, with a broken heart and an absent soul, she set off for Hungary. She got a train ticket from the officials and the next morning she packed what little she had in that shanty and left for the station. The station, unsurprisingly, was furiously crowded with dejected homeless refugees. An air of desolation prevailed. It’s really hard to fit into an environment of woeful people. It makes one’s grief feel indifferent. With her personal calamity in mind, she got into that dreadful train.

 

It was a really long and arduous journey. Besides, the train was seriously overcrowded. She could barely rest herself on her back-pack. Definitely, it was nothing like the agony inflicted on her by circumstances. She did not care where the train was taking her and why. Pain was all she wished for. A recurring sense of loss and guilt had enveloped her. Strangely, she blamed herself for all this. An introspective suspicion always haunted her. After eighteen hours of intense contemplation, she was ordered to get off the train in Budapest along with everyone else.

 

Zainab reached the Budapest Immigration Centre and was designated another identity card and a room to stay in. Everyone around seemed quite content. There was food, there was water, there was everything. Even in this brief moment of relief, she could not help but cry. She cried like she had never before. Whole day, she did nothing else but weep. The sorrow of her irreparable loss finally got to her. She couldn’t do anything but break down completely. She lived in stony despair for  too long and now, it all came out through paroxysms of weeping.

 

Three days went by. Not a smile on her face yet. The earth might absorb all the moisture after a thunderstorm within a few days and look dry, but deep down, it does remain wet. Likewise, that gloominess had now perforated her soul. She spent her time all alone, made no efforts to make new friends. Maybe she had now prepared her mind to live alone. Sadly again, before she could settle her mind in Budapest, another call for transfer came. This time from a very small unknown town in Hungary called Karcag.

 

It was a pleasant town with laurel and olive trees around. Small flowers bloomed here and there. Her mind and soul finally got a chance to lighten a little, though, not for long. She had been recruited there to work as a household cook.

 

From there on, life became steady, although broken. She cooked food, washed dishes and also ate with the family members. Everything had apparently become normal there. Yet, amidst all this steadiness, a tormenting fit of remorse always swept through her. She did all her work but she did it only as an imposition to substitute her original life, and not out of will. A mere formality for existence. Misery and misfortune was inextricably linked to her soul.

 

This went on and on for years. Everything around changed before her, but her mind did not evolve. It remained there in Damascus, in that small house of three. Her happiness lay in watching their regular TV show while eating dinner with her beloved family.

 

Thus, we may say that although she survived, she lived a more pitiful life, a rather meaningless one. Such a survival is a liability to the person. More than property damages, such attacks impact our soul way more deeply. One such attack destroyed hers. Many more like her still remain in our society, trying to withstand a world of recklessness and devastation. She still cooks food for the household. Her life was shattered into pieces in a matter of days. Yet, innocent Zainab tries to find happiness, after all the wages that she had to pay for it.

 


 

Shagnik Chakravarty is a fiction writer from Mumbai, studying in year 11 at Wellington High School, in Wellington, NZ.

 

The Arts & Our Social Fabric by Lavon Pettis | USA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

The Arts & Our Social Fabric

 


USA | Lavon Pettis


 

 

As an active member of my community, I consider myself to be an ethnographer. I like to observe and assess the world around me. My formal training is in Community Counseling Psychology. My research interest includes a wanderlust for the exploration of creativity and a commitment to strengthening resilience by developing social fabric in communities.

 

Three years ago, in the midst of pursuing a PhD in International Psychology with a concentration in Trauma studies, I relocated to a new neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. The community I have selected was under redevelopment, with a major creative place-making initiative being led by a local artist. The neighborhood was once the upper echelon for industry and entertainment. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the steel industry on the Southeast side of Chicago began to lay off workers. As the employment industry began a steady decline, drug warfare, blight, & homelessness increased in this region. Throughout the last fifty years this particular neighborhood was considered to be obsolete because it had been marginalized by a lack of economic empowerment. This area was plagued by gang activity and violence for quite some time! There was a lack of social fabric: community members were not engaging with each other, providing social support, creating the social safety nets that helps people through economic and emotional ups and downs.

 

When I moved to Dorchester Avenue during the winter of 2013 there was not a soul outside. A major renaissance was bubbling as a local artist deconstruct and reimagine abandoned and dilapidated buildings in Greater Grand Crossing, Chicago, USA. The buildings, once eye sores, were being transformed into cultural hubs, repositories of information, and spaces that draw visitors from around the globe. By Spring the community was beginning to warm up to these changes. In the block where the first building was renovated I could see grammar school children playing, teenagers pretending to be cool, elders gathering together to comment on the public and private events held for the place-making project. People came from near and far to see it for themselves and participate in residencies for this project.

 

There was a constant discussion taking place in institutions of higher education in Chicago and beyond about community driven artistic initiatives to engage families and reach across demographics. Meanwhile on Dorchester Ave, the neighbors were encouraged to participate in activities such as gardening, a family centered music series, workshops, film screening, and social gathering. The community drew international artists, stakeholders, economists, philanthropists, locals, celebrities, and philosophers to commune with one another. Some of the neighbors were in awe of the organization and others were apprehensive of the tremendous amount of change taking place in this predominantly impoverished community.

 

The neighborhood has become a hotspot for interest, investment, and development. The initial activities created a burst of external fanfare and internal engagement. Unfortunately, the emphasis on internal engagement has faded relative to the efforts towards international architecture and fine arts. The beauty of the “place” is important but it is insufficient if it is underutilized by the neighborhood. “If you build it, they will come” is not sustainable. Surely people will come to have a look. However, without an authentic and an active outreach the local community does not engage and benefit. Overall, the arts organization is unable to address all the social, geopolitical, and economic issues that impact the neighborhood. Nor should it! If an organization wants to work in a community and change the community for better, it has the responsibility to build capacity and strengthen community social networks.

 

There are social issues such as affordable housing and other issues such as the lack of adequate mental health services for people on the Southside. There are economic issues such as high unemployment rates. There are geopolitical issues surrounding the neighborhood being affected by the geography of the University of Chicago and its influence on the well-being of the community. In addition, there is a lack of violence intervention and prevention in Chicago. As the neighborhood is redefined by the arts a critical examination needs to be done to investigate how establishing social fabric can contribute to creative place-making and vice versa.

 

The development of social fabric is a building block to enhancing the quality of life for underserved communities.  Since creative place making is a springboard being utilized to redevelop neighborhoods across the U.S. we need to implement strategies to empower, revitalize, and support the participation of the community. As neighborhoods in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Watts, Overtown are reimagined and rebuilt we need to remain concerned about the importance of social fabric in creative place making in our neighborhoods. A lack of social fabric has been labeled by social scientists as the collapse of communities. People in the aforementioned communities have not been thriving because there is a lack of security in their communities, there is no economic wellbeing, public policies both federal and state have not improved living standards.  How can creative place making initiatives incorporate social fabric, strengthen resilience, and address the needs of the communities?

 

Chicago building site shovels

 

Why is it important for there to be a conversation about the importance of social fabric in creative place-making projects? Social fabric gives us authentic experiences, it builds rapport, it gives us a platform to address some of the complex social ills of society. As creative place-making initiatives continue to be funded in the arts and architecture we have to develop strategies to address social issues that directly impact the well-being of the neighborhood. Community members in addition to stakeholders need to be apart the programming and development policy but that is taking place.   How can the use of social fabric provide access to equity?  We need to further the body of knowledge in this area by assessing how to include community members in the economic growth that is occurring in creative place-making initiatives. What type of training, skill set enhancement, and economic empowerment can community members receive when these projects arrive? Are there programs assisting people in home ownership, business development, and apprenticeships? It is imperative for us to properly assess this situation to determine if the arts strengthen social fabric and resilience in communities!

 

Tell Me A Story. by Daniela Schmulevich | USA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

Tell Me A Story.

 



 

 

Tell me a story.

 

Words flow off of his tongue and into the air.  They aren't loud, but they have this unidentifiable grandeur about them.  Lessons are woven in the memories he is now sharing with you.

 

Can you hear them?

 

These are the lessons he learned when he was a boy.  He stored them away for safekeeping, hoping to one day share them.  Over time they have gathered some dust like toys left on a shelf.  Years of patiently waiting.

 

He is older now.

 

The delivery of the words is gentle.  He recounts the experiences in great detail, pausing as he chooses each word ever-so carefully.  One corner of his mouth rises slightly.  He gives a light laugh as he relives the moment.  You can't help but smile as well.

 

You don't know how much time has passed, but of that you are not really concerned.  He has a certain way of captivating an audience so that they lose track of what is happening around them.  He is enchanting.

 

You wonder what he was like at your age.  Twenty-one years old.

 

He is a gentle soul, whose eyes light up when he steps back into the memories of his past.

 

gentle soul of a gentle man

 


 

Dani Schmulevich is a Modern Day Renaissance Woman, Media Enthusiast, Writer, Music Creator/Appreciator, and Road Trip Extraordinaire, residing in LA.

 

The Global Educator Program by Kenya Bonner | USA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

The Global Educator Program

 


USA | Kenya Bonner


 

 

“It is my honor to create global experiences for educators and artists, and to visit schools worldwide and inspire interest in global awareness for students”.

– Jacqueline Cofield

 

In 2015 The Global Educator Program was created by Jacqueline Cofield, founder of J Rêve International. The program was created in hopes of empowering educators to incorporate art themes into multidisciplinary and STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Global education is integral to building 21st century skills, and teachers being the greatest resource to empower students as global citizens. J Rêve International’s Global Educator program offers professional development experience that equips teachers with global competencies and connections necessary to bring an international arts perspective to their schools. A former science teacher in NYC, she often opted to use art to teach physics and chemistry concepts. “In my work with visual and performing artist over the years, I’ve learned from their life stories the powerful role that teachers and parents play in cultivating creativity at a young age”. –Cofield

 

blue t-shirt, J Rêve

 

Dr. Monique Wells, founder of the U.S. non-profit organization, Wells International Foundation (WIF), recently invited Jacqueline to develop the educational component of the Beauford Delaney: Resonance of Form and Vibration of Color exhibition taking place at the Reid Hall in Paris, France 2016. “Upon learning about the Global Educator program, I felt that it would be the perfect way to incorporate STEAM into the exhibition” Wells stated. J Rêve International’s Global Educator program offers professional development experience that equips teachers with global competencies and connections necessary to bring an international arts perspective to their schools. The Paris program also considers approaches to Multiple Intelligence and STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), with reference to the theme of artist Beauford Delaney’s life and work. When asked about the connection between the life of Beauford and the program, Jacqueline explained, that she like Beauford was a resident in Paris for a few years during college. She also included Beauford, along with Dr. Wells in her 2009 documentary, centered around African American artist living abroad.

 

discussion

group at museum

 

“Global education is integral to building 21st century skills, and teachers are the greatest resource to empower students as global citizens” – Cofield. Per Jacqueline, the program was designed to expose educators to living arts, through engagement of those involved in education and cultural institutions, and to enhance global competency skills necessary to appreciate the contexts creatives are active globally. “Participating in the J Reve Global International Scholars — Educators Fellowship Program was a phenomenal experience.  It allowed me to partake in the facilitation of expanding the knowledge base of STEAM (Science, Technology, Art, and Math) on a global level.   The various meetings and “round table” discussion (UNESCO, Fulbright, Columbia Global Centers — Paris, Artist Colony) expanded my knowledge base of STEAM implementation on the global level, particularly in the “diplomatic arena”. It was powerful to have the opportunity to talk with people from another country (France); to hear “first hand” what it would take to engage more women in the “STEAM arena”. –Malikka Karteron, Teacher Participant.  Louis King, another teacher participant, contributes the STEAM program to changing his perspective on the way in which a child learns. “I have gained useful knowledge from fellow educators.”– King, Cinnamon Nolley, another teacher participant, states that the program provided her an exceptional experience for her as a teacher.  “I saw not only current issues in policy, art education, and outside the box partnership possibilities and solutions to educational quandaries, but we also got to meet some movers and shakers in these fields and pick their brains in relaxed, open settings.” –Nolley.

 

group in meeting/discussion

 

The future of the program according to Cofield. “First, I envision that alumni of the program will continue as advocates for STEAM education in their schools, exposing parent’s administrators and students to the impact of arts engagement on student performance, classroom management, and career development.”  “Second, I hope that the multiplier effect of this program impacts communities globally, and inspires more discussion around cultivating creativity, policy changes that positively impact arts education and more visual and performance arts engagement”. Teacher participant Cinnamon Nolley, (previously mentioned above), would love to help spread news about the program, with the proviso that it’s not a vacation or for the weak.

 


 

Kenya Bonner is a Buyer for a non-for profit organization, yoga fanatic, creative spirit and serial writer, working on publishing her first novel Women Under Construction, later this year, she resides in Chicago.

 

Sinister Secrets by Jon Morris | USA

JUNE ’16 | VOL. 1, #1

Sinister Secrets

 


  USA | Jon Morris


 

 

She stood alone in the corridor, the candles cast a dim glow across the empty bar. The air felt stagnant to her, but it was all she had known for months now. She watched as her cigarette smoke flowed from soft, red lips and swirled up to the rafters, joining the endless cloud above that seemed to envelop her entire existence like the shadow of death. Brooke Lorraińe’s eyes fixed on the lonesome rose that stood in solitude atop the windowsill. The color was fading, its crimson petals had dried out and most had fallen off...but it would stay there. Forever. It was intended to be a gift from Jean-Mauríce, her former lover and the bravest man she had ever known.

 

Doomed by fate, his bravery was only exceeded by his foolishness. It hadn’t been a year since his passing but the memories refused to release their grip on her heart. The two had been in hiding when it happened, taking refuge in the catacombs beneath Paris along with a dozen other lost souls, the only place left where even the Nazis dare not tread. Even on Christmas Day, not a single smile would bloom on their solemn faces. Echoes of laughter emanated from above as the group sat in darkness, dozens of German soldiers in the bar overhead had been celebrating for hours now. Laughing, drinking, and singing songs of their fathers as they praised the day’s “work” for their vile Fuehrer.

 

Brooke found the laughter unbearable, hearing it play like macabre music as she stared at bones of the dead that sat amongst the catacomb walls. Jean-Mauríce recognized her despair without even looking...and knew only he could bring a smile to her passionate lips on this darkest of days. He immediately insisted on their own celebration, despite the chaos lurking above. Lorraine pleaded to him, clutching his arm and begging him to stay as he climbed the ladder to the streets above.

 

“The Germans are fools, my love. Their barreled asses are perched high above with their minds clouded in an alcoholic haze, they will never catch me”, he protested as he made way up to the surface. Brooke shuddered with fear, trembling as he climbed higher and higher to the streets. Hours had passed with no sign of her love. The other survivors were almost certain of his fate, but they sat silent as they contemplated their own demons. Brooke Lorraińe paced nervously in fear, never giving up hope. “That damn fool...”, she pondered, “If this ignorance becomes his death, I will kill him again, I swear to it”. The noise from the bar above stopped abruptly. The rest of her group stood and grimaced as they heard screaming and pounding footsteps. Brooke knelt to the ground and hid herself in the shadows, praying that the fascists wouldn’t find the hatchway to their hidden sanctuary. More hollering suddenly erupted, she recoiled in horror as she heard the unforgettable sound of a Nazi truncheon pounding into human flesh. The screaming had faded down as they heard a car drive past and then, silence.

 

Minutes felt like hours to the group below. Brooke refused to take the uncertainty anymore, she’d be damned before a man would drive her into madness again. She scrambled to her feet and made her way up the ladder. The others let out pleas to stop her, but they fell upon deaf ears as she climbed through the manhole to the streets above. Her head popped above the surface, pivoting about while searching for any sign of the Germans or Jean-Mauríce. The streets had been draped in snow, she couldn't help notice the agony and irony of such an evil place now covered in the color of purity. Then, her stomach dropped as she saw it.

 

A lone red rose lay in the snow-covered sidewalk. The only sign of life or color in a city that knew only death and darkness, a hideous joke in the eyes of the fate. Jean-Mauríce’s glove sat atop the rose as if it were protecting it, still wrapped around the stem after being ripped from his hand. She fell to her knees in horror, but not in surprise. A single tear emerged from her glossy brown eyes, it would be her last. Her eyes turned away from the decaying rose as she lit another cigarette, then poised them to the clock above the bar. It was nearing half past midnight.

 

Le Belle Noir had been home since she’d escaped the catacombs. The bar’s proprietors had found her in the streets and taken her in as their own, but they too would eventually meet their own demise at the hands of the Nazi hordes. Brooke was left alone with La Belle, serving drinks to the occupying bastards who had taken everything from her. Lesser women would have been driven mad from such servitude, but she had learned to deal with these matters in her own fashion. Tonight would be no different... She had just poured herself a drink when they stumbled through the door. There were three of them, two privates and their portly officer who walked with the ungraceful balance of a man who had been fat for quite some time and foresaw a long future of fatness ahead of him.

 

The floorboards moaned with his every step under his immense girth. Brooke mused if the scoundrel would simply fall through into the basement and break his neck...but quickly changed her mood after realizing what lay beneath their feet. “Güten abend, froline”, he murmured as he plopped onto the barstool, “How are you this evening, beautiful?”. Beautiful. Again. How dare they take the most meaningful word in existence and turn it into filth. She had heard it so many times from these womanizing fools. It had lost its true meaning to her, and she almost resented every night spent at Le Belle Noir. Almost. Brooke remained silent and rolled her eyes in disgust, she leaned against the bar with arms crossed and continued to sip her wine.

 

“Mein Gott, what is that smell?!”, one of the privates called out. “Rats in the basement”, she replied with nonchalant tone. The privates shook their heads and joined their superior at the bar, Brooke tossed a few glasses at them and began filling them with the decrepit, warm beer that the Germans had favored. The three were drinking heavily and laughing amongst themselves while she paced about. She had just finished filling the officer’s glass again when he placed his hand on her arm. Her eyes immediately shot open with fury. “Slow business, froline?”, he muttered. SLAM! The soldiers jolted as a rusted machete was thrust onto the bar, less than an inch away from the officer’s wrist. Brooke grabbed him by his collar and pulled him forward. She stared him in the eye and pointed to a small jar tucked atop the back of the bar. Inside lay a human hand, preserved in formaldehyde.

 

“Do you know what this is?”, the officer was too shocked to respond, “This hand used to belong to the first man that touched me in this bar, it belongs to me now”, she dictated with driving conviction. The two officers stood up and tried to unholster their sidearms, but immediately fell down and began clutching their chests in agony. The officer was quaking in fear, then turned back to face Brook Lorraińe, who was still leaning over the bar and sipping her wine. “What....what have you done to us?!”, the officer demanded. Brooke said nothing and stared into his eyes as he clutched his stomach and fell to the floor. A half-smile blossomed on her face as she watched their helplessness, the cyanide had taken effect as the Nazis slowly perished on the ground below. She leaned back against the wall, wine glass in hand, “More rats for the basement...”.