In my visual research methods class our last assignment’s theme was digital storytelling. Digital storytelling is the art of giving voice using new media to populations that have been marginalized and allows them to “tell their story”. I have really enjoyed discussing digital storytelling for the past few weeks. My favorite aspect of digital storytelling is that these are the stories of everyday people.
It took awhile for me to figure out exactly what my project would be. At first I thought about telling my own story; but that would be predictable. So, I decided to step outside the box and actually film someone else “telling their story”. In TRAPPED, we meet my niece Vanessa, who tells us about how her abuse as a child as impacted her life as an adult.
When I started this project I have to admit I thought I knew everything about my niece. But, while editing I realized that there was so much emotion that hadn’t been expressed before we starting filming this project. I also, realized that I had to pay close attention to detail while editing this piece so that it would tell her story without exploiting or turning her story into a spectacle.
This project was shot with a video camera and was filmed over a span of 7 days and took a long time to edit. I am really proud of this video and I want to extend my thanks to my niece for sharing her story with us.
Going to the gynecologist is probably the most uncomfortable situation and position a woman can experience with a stranger (especially if your Dr.’s a man). So, my question today is, “Should men be encouraged and allowed to practice in the field of gynecology?” I know this may sound like a crazy idea and discriminatory, but it’s an issue that I feel needs to be addressed. When Mary Daly refused to admit men into her women studies courses people thought she was crazy; but that was not the case. Her ideas about men’s sense of entitlement were ahead of her time. Should a man be allowed to tell a woman about her body, genitalia or reproductive organs when he does not have the same “equipment” as a woman; therefore he cannot understand nor relate to women.
A recent trip to the doctor prompted this discussion. I went to the doctor because I was experiencing severe pain and when the doctor opened the curtain to my surprise it wasn’t my regular doctor. Before I go any further let me just say that this post is not about man bashing or sexism, but a candid discussion and examination of whether or not the gynecologist office should truly be a feminist space. Let me know what you think?
A couple of days ago I needed a break from filling out Ph.D. applications so I took a drive and popped in my Reasonable Doubt CD by Jay-Z; it took me back to 2007.
I was listening to the song “Can I Live” and I don’t ever think I paid close attention to the lyrics until the other day. I guess I was so focused on my music because I had been living in an academic bubble for the past few weeks filling out applications and my mind needed a break from focusing on applications. The lyrics had an enormous impact on me and caused me to think about my past and where I come from. When I say, where I come from I mean where I grew up (Watts, California). In the intro to the song, “Can I Live” Jay-Z says:
We invite you to, somethin’ epic y’all know?
Well we hustle out of a sense of, hopelessness
Sort of a desperation
Through that desperation we ‘come addicted
Sorta like the fiends we accustomed to servin’
But we feel we have nothin’ to lose
So we offer you, well we offer our lives right
What do you bring to the table? (2-9)
The first few lyrics are mind blowing! The song made me think about the true reality of poverty- stricken urban communities. We live in a society that judges poor people, more specifically people of color. America would like us to believe that we’ve progressed as a society and that the playing field is equal. All you have to do is work hard enough and you can make it; but everybody isn’t living the American Dream.
As a child I remember watching videos of Salt N Pepa wearing bamboo earrings and rockin’ Gucci and I wanted to dress like them and be “rich” when I grew up. But, in my world there wasn’t anyone telling me or modeling for me the “right” way to become “rich”. Nobody was saying go to college to get your Ph.D. so you can be financially set. Instead I saw drug dealers and their girlfriends or wives riding in fancy cars and wearing all the clothes that I saw in music videos. So, as a child it was very confusing and easy to slip into the mindset of equating success to being a hustler, someone that always has money and has respect from everyone on the block.
I relate and understand these lyrics. Who doesn’t want fame and fortune? If you live in a community where nobody goes to college or has a successful career what are your other options? How do you live the life you see on T.V? Jay-Z says, “We hustle out of a sense of, hopelessness / Sort of desperation” (2-3).
It’s time to seriously think about the education disparities between of poverty-stricken urban communities and their white counterparts. Stop complaining about “drug dealers” and start having conversations about why urban youth feel as though that’s the only way they can be somebody.
WHY AM I BROKE? I did everything that I was supposed to do. In America it’s all about the AMERICAN DREAM and pulling yourself up by your BOOT-STRAPS! I always knew this idea was ridiculous, especially for a single Black woman with 3 kids. But, I actually unconsciously bought into this bullshit.
I wasn’t supposed to make it; the system was designed for me fail. I had my first son at 15 and my second at 18. Just those stats alone caused society (and family) to look at me crazy. But, I defied all odds. I graduated from high school a year early and got a job. Not just any old job, but a great one that allowed me to support myself and my children. After years of working I decided to return to school to get my bachelor’s degree.
I returned to the school at the age of 25. When I first started my only goal was to graduate. I hadn’t thought of furthering my education. Until I met a professor who encouraged me to apply to the McNair Scholar’s Program (a program that targets first generation and underserved groups gain research experience and preparation for graduate school). I was accepted and my life has forever been changed.
Since that time I’ve graduated and was named Outstanding Undergraduate. I was accepted to an elite graduate university and have been awarded many awards, fellowships, etc… I’ve been hearing the same ole song since I’ve been a little girl. GO TO SCHOOL GET AN EDUCATION SO YOU CAN HAVE A BETTER LIFE. I’ve done everything that AMERICA has told me to do and yet I’m living off of school loans. So, my question is who does this AMERICAN DREAM apply to, because it’s certainly not me.
I’m not unfamiliar with story telling. It’s been apart of my life and culture for many years. Since technology is moving so fast I think that now stories can be told in a more visual way. I love the fact that we are moving away from the “academic” definition of storytelling and allowing every day people to share stories through new media; populations that are normally invisable women, people of color, etc… During this semester I have learned to step out of my box and to create and express myself and thoughts visually. I am learning to bridge the academic work with visual culture.
The readings for the week forced me to think about didgital storytelling in different ways. I thought back to when I was a teenager and music was such a powerful influence for me at that time in my life. Music and lyrics told stories to me about what people were going through that I could clearly relate to. Although, the artist may not have been in front of the camera actually speaking their narrative so to speak but, they were still telling a story. So, I thought of Tupac which before he died had been and still is very influential to urban youth. I found this clip on youtube that someone made about Tupac’s life. The story is told through his music and text. Check it out!
Many of you know that I’m currently in the Applied Women’s Studies program. My current research interests focus on issues surrounding race, incarceration and gender. So, when Alex assigned the class to make or write about an ethnography or documentary, I thought it was fitting that I would write about a documentary that really made me think critically about the status of black girls that have encountered the criminal justice system. As of 2010 it was noted that girls were the fastest growing group of offenders in the juvenile justice system. Because of the disproportionate amount of black girls in the juvenile justice system it is important to examine why this is becoming the norm in society. To examine the issues of race, incarceration and gender I wrote an analytical critique of the documentary Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.
Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story explores the life and trial of Cyntoia Brown after she is arrested for the murder of a 43-year old white male whom she met at a fast food restaurant in Tennessee. He solicited Cyntoia for sex and suggested that they go back to his house where he was later shot to death. In the documentary we meet Cyntoia’s adoptive mother, Ellenette Brown, who sheds light on Cyntoia’s childhood. Georgina Mitchell, Cyntoia’s biological mother, is also introduced and has the opportunity to meet Cyntoia after leaving her over a decade ago. During the interviews with Cyntoia’s biological mother and grandmother, both women confessed to being diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses. In addition, Georgina stated that she had been known to be violent with others and had tried to kill herself in the past. Because of Georgina’s diagnosis, throughout the documentary questions were raised about whether or not Cyntoia was genetically predisposed to committing crime. No one will ever know if this was a sexual transaction between a young girl desperate for money and in fear of her life and an older man gone awry, or, as many spectators have suggested, a senseless killing of an upstanding citizen. Whatever the cause may have been, Cyntoia was charged with murder, tried and convicted of first degree murder and subsequently sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16.
Although, Birman the director of Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story gave voice and visibility to black girls that have encountered the juvenile justice system, the documentary was problematic for several different reasons. The first being that it was filmed through the lens of a white male, resulting in the issue of race in the criminal justice system being overlooked. Consequently, Cyntoia’s story produced a lack of open discourse about the role that race plays in the criminal justice system. Additionally, he never fully addressed social factors that affected Cyntoia and had ultimately led her to the point of incarceration.
Initially, I was not terribly sympathetic to the idea of Cyntoia
Brown and her story because it was just so similar to the daily
news grind-another youth becoming violent through drugs and
prostitution (annenberg.usc.edu n.p.).
His language and choice of words in this quote clearly sets up a power dynamic between himself and Cyntoia. The fact that he was initially unmoved by her story should have caused him to really think about his point of view towards youth in the criminal justice system. His statements in my opinion clearly demonstrate that he doesn’t (and can’t) relate to Cyntoia because he has already placed himself in a hierarchal position of power. Therefore it is hard for me to believe that Birman could accurately answer his own question “why” youth are committing violent crime in this film.
In order to critically answer this question of “why” there needed to be a discussion about social influences and race. But, instead Birman chose to highlight genetics as the cause of youth that commit acts of crime. He did this by focusing on Cyntoia’s biological family and their mental illnesses as large factors contributing to “why” Cyntoia committed murder. The idea that Cyntoia reached the point of incarceration due to genetics only reinforces the belief that criminality is hereditary. Additionally, because Cyntoia is black only adds to the stereotype that black people are genetically inclined to commit crime.
Although, I was disappointed with the lack of discussion about race, gender and social influences I have to admit that the film was shot well. Birman’s use of close-ups and camera angles in my opinion were good. The greatest effect used in this film was the audio at the end of the documentary. At the end of the film when Cyntoia is sentenced and is calling her adoptive mother to give her the news you hear the song, “Ready For Love” by India Arie playing over her phone conversation. The last conversation between Cyntoia and her adoptive mother and the song that plays under the conversation are connected because both speak to the emotion and sadness of the court’s decision. In the song Ready for Love, India Arie sings: “I am ready for love/Why are you hiding from me (1-2). This part of the song is important to this scene because it alludes to the fact that Cyntoia has been in search for love and acceptance her entire life. As of result of Cyntoia’s hunger for love and acceptance from family and others directly resulted in her looking for love in all the wrong places; which ultimately put her in multiple bad situations and led her to the point of incarceration. In my opinion this song addressed what needed to be discussed throughout the film;the social aspect. The song addressed the social aspect of the film that was missing and mirrored Cyntoia’s life.
This film is powerful! I think everyone should check it out. It really demonstrates the injustices that the criminal justice system imposes on people of color. In order to make change as a society there needs to be an open discourse about what’s wrong within the system.
I was sitting at home watching Menace II Society and I started to think about the negative Images of Black boys and men that are displayed through media. These images have been ingrained in the minds of many and have led society to believe that there are no positive Black boys or men; unless, of course if you’re an athlete like Kobe Bryant then you’re the exception to the rule. Examining the film led me to create a Visual answer to the question, “What does it mean to be a Black boy or man in America”? At first I was skeptical about making something that focused so strongly on race and stereotypes. But, I quickly came to my senses because I thought about my own teenage sons and realized that this Visual response was necessary. You can’t make change if you remain silent.
My first thought while making this essay was to use positive Images of Black boys/men while playing Audio from specific rap songs that contradicted the Images. Then I got some great advice from my professor and family members who suggested that I use Audio in a more complex way. The suggestions that were given caused me to think more critically on how I could use audio to really get my point across. My light bulb came on and I thought who better to use to bring this message home but Martin Luther King Jr. and Cornel West. So, instead of Hearing my voice in between the music clips you SEE and HEAR two of the greatest Black men in history Speaking specifically about race, having black pride, and how to refrain from allowing your oppressors to put you in a box.
This project is so important to me because it goes against what the media shows us every day. It provides an accurate Picture of Black boys/men!