I Am, and I Will…

`I am from a womb that was heavily polluted.
I am the terminology used as a crack baby.
I am from a household where one woman takes care of 19 kids.
I am from a house with a majority of females.
I am from a family that is curious of who our parents are.
I am from a city based on choice and bravery.
I am from a city filled with gangs.
I am from a place where choosing the ring set is like loading a gun and pulling the trigger beside your head.
I am from a city where being a rat can get you killed. ‘

Wednesday, January 6th was a moving day for selected Buffalo High school students who were taking part in the New Wilderness Project. It was the second of three sessions where 44 students of all different cultures and backgrounds from Buffalo, and Rogers came together to talk about the differences within their schools and how they can help build bridges to close the gaps of different ethnicities.

Benjie Howard and Maketa Wilborn, co-founders of a Cultures United Organization, are back again, this time at the Rogers Ice Arena for phase two of the New Wilderness Project.

Photo by Joel Morehouse
photo by Joel Morehouse

The session started by going over the “Community Agreements” that were made during the first phase; be true to yourself, keep it real, and to be passionate and bring energy into the day. One that was a little more sensible was to say “Ouch” if a topic came up that was too emotional or touchy for someone to talk about, and the subject would immediately be dropped.

Culture was a key word that was talked about and clarified a lot through out the day. Being of a different culture doesn’t necessarily mean skin color, or specific race. Culture is defined as the different ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. Education, religion, gender, ability, experience, sexual orientation, and race can all be categorized as different culture factors.

Along with different cultures comes stereotypes; Wealthy vs Poor, “Pretty” vs Ugly, or even people who attend church vs non-believers were all ways that students thought factored into how each and every one of us are ranked by society.

Students learned the three different types of leadership; Traditional: reflects values, norms and behaviors of the predominant group in power. Cultural: Comes from power with the cultural groups but perceived to not have power with in mainstream power structure. Or Cross Cultural; the “bridge builder”, can make connections across cultural groups. Then the students were asked to decide which one they felt that they could relate to the most and reflect on how they individually are contributing to their school.

They were shown the statistics of Graduation rates for each race and talked about how it was unfair to stereotype, or why each race may be falling short of the standard.

Photo by Joel Morehouse

“It was interesting to see the graduation rates based on your ethnicity and where you live,” said Junior Crystal Cashin. “But being a woman of color, it was disappointing because those who do excel, graduate and go to college don’t get rewarded or recognized for it. But knowing you are one of the 47% is definitely a personal accomplishment.”

Creative Resistance was talked about, how to take action in the face of injustice. Everyone has their own “truth”, if you feel like you need to prove yourself in a situation, instead of arguing with “Yes, BUT”, try to understand and turn it into a conversation. Ask a question, maybe why they feel the way they do. Listen to their response, and if you still don’t agree, speak your truth, so everyone has a clear understanding of your thoughts and feelings.

Another activity was called the “push and pull” activity. Everyone was split into two groups, group A and group B. The rule of the game was that the B students weren’t allowed to talk, and the A students were trying to persuade them to follow them across the room, but only by words. A’s were instructed to stay behind their partner, so there was no eye contact. But only if the B’s felt comfortable did they need to walk across the room, one step at a time.

The activity was repeated, but the A’s and B’s switched, so B’s were trying to persuade A’s to move across the room, this time there was no talking allowed from either group. The B’s stood in front of the A’s and were trying to lead them across only by eye contact and motion.

“It was really interesting to see how many students didn’t feel comfortable crossing the room,” said Junior Michael Deisting.  “It really proved the need for trust in others and to feel comfortable with the unknown.”

Howard and Wilborn will come again for one last session in March to wrap up the year and talk about how students can continue to make an impact in their schools.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button