One year later, I have another argument to add to my July 2009 Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom post: Filmmaking empowers students.
In May I watched a team of Lesley McKillop’s students (see argument #6 in last year’s post) once again step onto the stage and into the limelight to accept a 2010 SEVA for their PSA entry – totally challenging both the state-assigned student labels of FBB (far below basic), BB (below basic), B (basic), P (proficient), or even A (advanced) and the school labels of Title 1 (high-poverty) and Program Improvement (PI).
And Rudy Alfonso’s students (also at a Title 1, PI site)…what can I say?! In the previous school year, I watched many of them begin to engage with technology in Teresa Cheung’s 4th grade classroom. As they moved on to Rudy Alfonso’s 5th grade, they were ready and willing to step up to the challenges and multiple roles of filmmaking and increasingly took charge of all facets of producing movie after movie.
Towards the end of the school year, I asked one of Rudy’s students what she liked best about being a filmmaker. She talked a bit about the collaborative aspects, and then added that she enjoyed having people from different parts of the world comment on her productions via the class blog. Filmmaking is bringing the world into Mr. Alfonso’s classroom – and it’s a two-way path. These students (like Lesley McKillop’s students) know their work is being viewed and enjoyed by an authentic and worldwide audience. Now that’s empowerment!
I have a message on my cell phone I will never delete. It’s the voice of Tuskegee Airman George Porter letting me know that he’d be very happy to meet with students in Martin Billings’ 11th grade US History class and share his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman.
Formed in 1942 amid controversy, the Tuskegee Airmen showed the nation its black citizens were equal in skill and patriotism to their white counterparts. Although George Porter was never a pilot (due to a health issues with high altitudes), he joined the Tuskegee team as a mechanic.
I met George a year ago, when he came to Mr. Billing’s class to join the keynote presenter Alexander Jefferson for a 3-way interactive videoconference. A Google search will bring up a long list of links for both these former Tuskegee Airmen. For an introduction to George, I particularly like the four-minute 2007 New Orleans Times-Picayune interview posted below.
Before, during, and after World World II, George Porter’s story is one of remarkable resiliency and a determination “to be the best you can be…to be even better than your best.” During the 40-minute visit to Mr. Billing’s class (below), George explains racism, segregation, and living through Jim Crow times, which he refused to be defeated by.
This March 2010 presentation and response to students’ questions will provide you with an understanding of George Porter’s commitment to making sure the public, especially young people, understand how eager and willing he and other African Americans were to fight for America, despite a nation’s long running record of treating them as second-class citizens.
I hope you will share George Porter’s story with your colleagues and students. He does not want this chapter of our nation’s history to be forgotten.
This morning’s Sacramento Bee has a feature story on Bob Fletcher. Who is Bob Fletcher? The Bee’s headline sums it up: “When Florin growers were interned in WWII, he stepped in.”
Too often for our students, history happens in a textbook, with the correct answers at the end of the chapter. Stories like Bob Fletcher’s show that history doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. History happens in our communities. History happens one story at a time.
The forced removal of thousands of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor is an example of when justice failed…and history happened in a local community.
Bob Fletcher’s courage in steeping in to help the Tsukamoto family at a time when our government chose to deny to entire group of people their Constitutional rights provides an important piece of the puzzle when trying to understand the conditions that are common to the exclusion and forced removal of any group of people.
It has been my good fortune to work with Marielle Tsukamoto on our on-going Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project - a race against time to preserve the living voices of those who witnessed first-hand acts of intolerance, but who also remember the impact one “upstander” can have on a community and on history.
What’s missing from the article is that Marielle and other internees work tirelessly to share their stories of the war years, of intolerance, of resiliency, and of the power of one with school children throughout the greater Sacramento region through their annual Time of Remembrance exhibit at the California Museum of History, Women and the Arts and with students across the nation through our growing bank of Time of Remembrance online interviews.
Bob Fletcher’s story is about one person quietly but courageously making a difference. It’s also a story the Bee probably would not have told during the war years. A visit to CSUS’s City of Sacramento online archives brings up the following reference:
Not Black and White: The Sacramento Bee’s coverage of the Japanese Community from Pearl Harbor to Executive Order 9066 (2002)
CSH Call Number: ETHN WHI
Thaddeus David White researched Sacramento Bee articles to determine whether the newspaper actively promoted an anti-Japanese campaign after Pearl Harbor. The articles advocated tolerance and restraint, but supported mass evacuations.”
All the more reason why I was happy to start my day with today with Bob Fletcher’s story:-).
I bet you have students who would like to join the conversation at http://www.sacbee.com/topstories/story/2534367.html.