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Who are you?

“Who are you?
Please, tell me anything you would like to.”

 

This narrative is the story of an encounter. It is her narrative, it is mine, it is ours, it is the present. How could we represent it?

            “Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created.” (Morrison, 1993)

How do I connect with someone at a first encounter? What is the meaning of our experiences? How could the narrative be voiced without being manipulated by the producer?

  “Perceiving something from two different angles creates a split in awareness” (Anzaldua, 2003, p.549).

The process of making this video was the whole purpose. The final production simply engages the audience to listen, listen, and listen again.

What narrative(s) are you hearing? Are you certain? At which moment, do you connect with the voice? What does listening means? What does understanding means? How do multimodal artistic pieces impact your life? How do you build from it?

If a space for possibilities is created, youth will take the opportunity.

“We have the power because we are together in speech and action, and because possibility spreads before us, and because there are boundaries to break through.” (Maxine Greene, 1982, p.9)

Now, plug your headphone, click on the link, and listen.

 

References
Anzaldua, G.A. (2003). now let us shift. This bridge we call home.  (p. 540-579).
Greene, M. (1982). Public Education and the Public space. In Educational Researcher.
Morisson, T. (1993). The Nobel Prize in Literature 1993. Retrieved from: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1993/morrison-lecture.html

Your Story and Mine

As part of a good practice we often keep in mind “who” we are, what is our story, and how it influences our perception on the research field and the practice. This has been a long debate: should our personal story inform our practice? Maybe in some contexts the answer is a clear yes. Nonetheless, in my native France, mixing the personal story and the professional practice is negatively perceived. Being a true professional is to be able to deny our personal story.

Being raised and mostly educated in France, I am now studying in the USA; sometimes, it feels like walking on a wire. Which part of myself, of my personal story, could inform my practice? How can I question my personal stories to better reflect my posture, my reaction and my subjectivities in my professional practice? How have my personal narratives created potential stereotypes and misconceptions about the field I study?

I grew up as a teenager in the suburbs of Paris, witnessing the unfairness of the system towards populations who do not conform to the model of a standard citizen. This issue is, of course, not restricted to France. Whether you are White or not, Black or North-African, whether you are wealthy or not, whether you are labeled disabled or not, whether you could afford private school or not; the intersection of these elements considerably influences your educational experience and eventually has dramatic consequences on your future.

During my childhood and teenage-hood, I have been a witness and an activist. Today, I am the lucky one, part of a thoughtful cohort at Teachers College; we do not have to worry much about our future, so we gather our efforts for the future of others, for a better society and for social justice.

Therefore, I would like today to engage my peers, my professors, the audience, to further the reflection that might sound futile, but that is crucial to our practice: How can we understand the context we are working in? Where does our personal story fit in our research and practice? Lastly, how can I ensure that the words I am typing are not fulfilling new stereotypes?

The Lover and the Guilty

Where there is an issue, diverse actors are affected. How is the voice of the community valued? How do we consider and support members of family and friends? How can we value narratives behind the stigma?

The following powerful testimony is in the voice of a woman who regularly visits her husband in jail. Her narrative denounces the unfairness of policies; specifically, policies that generate structural violence that are deeply rooted in state institutions. When an institution is mostly responsible for stigma and stereotypes, what are the strategies to advocate for human rights and human dignity?

She exposes her feelings in terms of what it means to be a wife, what it means to love, what it means to love a criminal. She stands up and voices her concerns; how many families are experiencing stigmas because a family member is in jail? What kind of support can they find? 

 

The Lover and the Guilty

“Pilot-apartments” are set up in some jails so that prisoners can meet their family with intimacy… There must be only few in only two or three jails. The Centrale of Poissy is one of them, and I am interested because I am married since 1989 to a “perpète” (nick name for life-sentenced).

This project is justified by longer sentences with security measures. We do not question the heaviness of punishment, which becomes more and more heavy. All prisoners do not have access to family visit units (FVU) given the small number of units (two or three for three hundred prisoners in Poissy), where access is very rare for the largest number to benefit. Normal parloirs (visiting hours), will whereas, be very rigorously monitored with punishment for “indecent behavior”. Only a few privileged have regular access to FVU, from which is fostered shenanigans, haggling, and jealousy.

Where the shoe pinches for us, Parloirs’ women, is that softening the punishment seems so good to take … The leftist project now gained to security, and especially the arrival of a hyper-repressive right wing, however, should make us think, think to be wary. We are forced to cut us in two: the lover and the guilty.

We should now rightly fear the scarcity, or even the end, of conditional releases. By way of “half-liberty”, what it offers families is a half-detention. Opinions of Parloirs’ women are never asked: That’s why I give mine.

DUZSKA MAKSYMOWITZ, (translated into English) In Mazoyer, F. (2003). La fin de la vie privée. In Manière de voir 71. Le Monde Diplomatique, October-November 2003, p.45

Duzska Maksymowitz was married for twelve years to a “perpète” now free; she is the author of “Femme de Parloir”, L’esprit frappeur (editor), Paris, 2000.

Through her writing, Duzska Maksymowitz is an activist for women’s dignity and women’s rights. She voices the taboo of loving a prisoner. She voices the taboo of being a family member of a criminal; she voices the concerns, the challenge and the experiences that women, wives, mothers, sisters, or children are facing when a close person, family member, friend or lover is imprisoned.

Racial Profiling as a Vicious Circle

“In a culture that promises equality but delivers hierarchy, everyone is risk rich, everyone a victim and a perpetrator.”
(Mc Dermott, et al., 2009, p.103)

We cannot talk about youth media and educational justice without pointing out the unbalanced authority and power owned by men in uniform. As it is the case in many countries, ID control based on appearance, often labeled “racial profiling” or “stop and frisk,” is a plague. Some communities are facing this struggle everyday, and consequently develop hostile feelings toward police who do not appear to be protective but to be oppressive.

In France, a magistrate once said: “We don’t realize that this is the ID control itself that provokes crimes. At first, we have a person who did nothing; he was not supposed to be controlled and ID-checked, but then, at the end of the day, he is pursued by justice for a crime directly incited because of the ID control.” (Bonelli, 2003, p.40)

In France,

– Black people are 6 times more likely to be controlled than a white person. – North-Africans are 8 times more likely to be controlled. – Youth are 7.9 times more likely to be controlled than adults.

On this topic, the Open Society Foundation started to research and advocate against racial profiling in France. They made a video,  Equality Betrayed: The Impact of Ethnic Profiling in Francethat voiced the narrative of French people who cannot count anymore the number of times they have been arrested because of their skin colors. (View the video at the end of this post; click on YouTube’s closed captioning for English subtitles.)

Stop and Frisk in France, as well as here and in many other countries, raises never-ending issues. In this atmosphere, only fear dominates. This is a fear from both sides: from the youth and from the police. A loss of trust, from both sides.

This fact raises many more questions: when are we going to exit the vicious circle that puts youth labeled “at-risk” at risk? How can educational technology help us to rethink unequal relationships of power in democracy? How can creative media production link police’s narratives as oppressed and oppressor with court-involved youths’ narratives of oppressor and oppressed?

References:
Bonelli, L. 2003. Une vision policière de la société, In Manière de voir 71. Le Monde Diplomatique, October-November 2003.
McDermott, R.,  Raley, J. D., Seyer-Ochi, I.  (2009). Race and Class in a Culture of Risk. Review Of Research In Education, 33(1), 101-116. Retrieved from: http://rre.sagepub.com/content/33/1/101

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