Tuesday, November 16, 2010

project justice - days 4, 5 & beyond

When I talk to people about this justice week that I had imagined for my middle school students, it sounds like a risky proposition, even to me.  How was I going to expose these children to social justice in a way that didn't go too far or not far enough?  Would they really find an issue they were passionate about?  Would they comprehend the difference between justice and charity?  Would they complete a project?  Would they follow-up?  Would their hearts and minds be changed? for a day? for a week? for a lifetime?

I can't measure how they changed, but I can tell you what I saw.  I saw struggles with jumping to a solution before understanding the problem.  I saw anger at the way things are.  I saw stereotypes broken down.  I saw passion, commitment and the dawning of comprehension.  I heard ideas and saw projects that changed me (click here for the complete list of justice projects).

One project in particular was a video for Falling Whistles: A Campaign for Peace in the Congo.  I had never heard of this organization, but one of my students had seen their video a month ago and when it came time to pick a project, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.  The kids working on this project disappeared into a room for a day and a half and produced this video.

Project Justice: Falling Whistles from Kim Wilkens on Vimeo.

The first time they showed it to me, I was stunned - by their interpretation and by the stats they shared.  The next day, I didn't believe it.  45,000 killed in a month?  Biggest war of your generation?  Are you sure?   Yes, they were.  I started researching online.  There's not much to find.  I went to fallingwhistles.com and they tell a compelling story, but was it really real?  Even so, I wanted to buy a whistle to show my support for the students, but they were sold out.  I happened to click on the Tour dates and noticed they would be in Richmond this past Sunday.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to find out more, so I went.

When I got there, I felt a little like a party crasher and also old.  I met some of the interns and shared my story.  I saw a large room filling up with high school students that were part of a human rights and history club.  I heard Yves and Sean share their stories.  They were compelling, frightening, engaging, inspiring, passionate and humbling.  I bought a whistle and I changed a little more.

But now that I'm wearing the whistle, what do I say?  My brain still can't cope with the reality - it's searching for other answers.  There are precious few answers to be found along the information highway, but something is definitely not right in the Congo. 
  • "no humanitarian crisis generates so little attention per million corpses, or such a pathetic international response" - Nicholas Kristof (NYTimes)
  • Congo's war without end (Globe)
  • Smartphones Caught up in Congo War Controversy (CBS)
  • Raped women used as pawns in Congo War (CNN)
  • The US blinks, and children will suffer (Huffington Post)
I had no idea!

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