Learning Exchange: Bridging the Gap between the University and the Community
Host Organization: Arts Festival @ South Carolina State University April 2009 & 2010
RSC Team:SCSU Professors: Community Members: RSC Members: Gwylene Gallimard Kim LeDee Ms. Ali Omari Fox Ebony Golden Delvina Wescott Ms. Ruth Latonnya Wallace Hope Clark Frank Martin Shon Sims Ellen Zisholtz
(Ebony Golden, Shon Sims, Kim LeDee, Hope Clark)
Kim LeDee and Delvina Wescott organized an Arts Festival at SCSU and asked RSC to come and help ‘Bridge the Gap’ between the University and the Community. Research about the community involved reading about the Orangeburg Massacre that occurred in 1968. http://www.orangeburgmassacre1968.com/
We opened the Learning Exchange workshop by recognizing this history and honoring the living Cleveland Sellers. It took 23 years for him to be pardoned for inciting a riot at a non-violent protest in 1968. Sellers is now an African American studies professor at South Carolina University.
Learning Exchange vs. Workshop
Gwylene Gallimard: “We must think of the multiplicity of audiences when we deal with partnerships, gaps or space in between, building bridges.”
“I realized the Learning Exchange was the whole experience of visiting Orangeburg and SCSU. The conversations that I had as a visitor felt as important as the pre-planned activities exchanged in the day-long workshop” – Hope Clark
The workshop started by looking at the brainstorming session we had at a previous breakfast about what the community and the university may do together.
Ebony Golden dances for an SCSU audience and Shon Sims performs a poem he wrote about ‘Bridging the Gap’.
Ebony leads an interactive activity with the audience.
Starting with Art
Kim LeDee had students reflect on bridging the gap between the community and the university by creating and designing silhouettes that were put up all around the art building.
One of the student’s child got to help.
Community Breakfast - Friday
Delvina pointed out the students who attended the breakfast are from small town communities similar to Orangeburg. One of them is from the town of Orangeburg. He shared with us that his mom had her first child at 17 and was unable to attend college but that she is really creative and would benefit from feeling as if she could participate with the college. He brought her to the festival, and this appeared to be a big milestone.
Also, as part of the site visit and research for a Masters thesis in Intercultural Service Leadership and Management, Hope came several days early to interview SCSU professors, community members, and RSC members, about the Principles of Community Engagement.
How do you identify: as a community member, an artist, an activist or an academic, or some combination of them all? Can you explain?
How do you feel you have power?
How do you see power structured in your community? Have you (ever) taken any actions to address any of these structures? How?
What does dialogue mean to you?
What does partnership mean to you? Are you in partnership with your community? If so, how?
How would you say transformation occurs? Are you looking for transformation in your community? If so, what kind?
What tools work to resolve conflict in your community? What kind?
How do organizers in your community create events?
How do you approach creating events in your community?
Has justice played a role in the way events or programs are organized in your community?
After the interview and visiting Ms. Ali’s chickens, ducks and vegetable garden in the back of her store, we drove her neighbor, 83-year old Ms. Ruth to the Salvation Army to pick up some bread for a group she is working with. When we arrived, the lady working there said that Ms. Ruth had to provide a social security card to get the bread. Ms. Ruth got flustered and started back for the car to check in her bag. Ms. Ali complained and then suddenly it was ok to just have the SS# from memory. As we sat to wait for Ms. Ruth to get her bread, Ms. Ali spoke loud enough for the lady from the Salvation Army to hear that this is what she was talking about in the interview. The better off African Americans aren’t really helpful to the more needy folks. Then she mentioned that she thinks Mother Teresa was the same way. She would keep her centers “down” so that she could continue to get funding. Saturday afternoon Ms. Ali told me a couple more stories about the downside of Social Service, which I was not able to record electronically.
Report – Hope Clark In the Community:
(Ms. Ruth and Ms. Ali)
Ms. Ali dropped me off at the college for an interview/lunch with Ellen Zisholtz, the curator of the Museum on the South Carolina State University Campus. She’s from NY, (used to be Bill T Jones Executive Director). She shared with me how she got to the south and about a ROOTS C/APP Project she did in Beaufort SC. After lunch I went back to the museum with her to view a short film she was showing to her class. It was: Famous Irish Americans. It broke down how many ethnicities can be within a person who is called “Black”. I sat in the discussion afterwards about the deconstruction of identity, which looked at the majority verses the minority of populations, history, privilege and power. The students needed definitions for the words “indigenous” and “right-wing”. They thought indigenous meant “bad person” and had no idea what ‘right-wing’ meant. It was a great discussion, but I noted that we did not get to deconstruct “freedom”.
On Saturday, after the workshop, Ms. Ali at her booth at the festival, and told stories of her uncle who had one arm and one leg and who was forced to take money from social services after WW2. He had a wife and two children and a job operating an elevator. According to her, when he refused social service “benefits," they got him fired so that he would be forced to go on disability. In this system, the men of the houses in families that qualified for assistance would hide from social services so that wives and mothers could get the funding. This developed characterizations of males “not being around.” She shared that when she went to a workshop to learn about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in populations of people that had lived through the Holocaust or the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, that is when she realized that the African American community is suffering from PTSD.
KING (Knowledgeable Intelligent Nubian God) Shakur delivers his poetry at the evening performance.
Omari Fox, founder of New Danger delivers his rhyme.