My PhotoVoice Project at Northgate Elementary (Starting November 13, 2013)

Salutations,

For the next 5 weeks I will be spending my Wednesday afternoons In Zac Stowell’s classroom at Northgate Elementary school working with a diverse group of 5th grade students whom 90 percent of their families live at or below poverty level. While this says nothing about the character of these wonderful students, it does speak to the barriers and challenges these students face.

With this project students will answer the question “How are you a part of your community?” After an introduction to photography, and tutorials about how it can be used for storytelling, students will have an opportunity to go into their communities and document how they are a part of their community through photography. The students will then create collage and an artist’s statement that will be presented to their peers and showcased to their guardians during an art display at a local coffee shop.

Our mission with this project is to use technology, art and photography as a platform for students to share their own stories and the stories of their communities. We hope to explore the artistry that is photography and teach students basic skills, while allowing them to explore their identity and become active participants in their community in creating the world that they would like to live in.

My hope is to also introduce students to Seattleites whom are already using visual arts to share the stories of their communities past present and future. We are interested in the opinions, thoughts and foresight from these brilliant minds in hopes that we will progress the social conscience of this class.

The project will take place from 1:45p – 2:45p on the following dates: November – 13th, 20th; December 4th, 11th, and 18th.

I will be documenting this experience and project and hope to have more to share with you soon. Until then, stay tuned.

Domonique Meeks
AmbassadorNique Productions
www.AmbassadorNique.com

San Francisco Photo October 2013

Twin Peaks, San Francisco, CA, USA 2013

I get chills looking over a city that has so much history. Far more important than its impact on technology this city was the gateway to many immigrant families on their journey to the United States. Although we were not able to visit Angel Island this time, next time its at the top of my list.

AmbassadorNique

New Orleans Day Two

Day two of my trip to New Orleans would be fun filled. We’d visit a catholic church, the French Market, eat delicious cheese cake and visit the zoo!

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The market was fun. The day was beautiful and I was able to by the exact Saints beanie I was searching for. 

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My aunt told me that she wouldn’t mess with the swamp tour, but she did in fact take me to the zoo where we found many children and very few gators.

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This was the only gator I saw.. Not sure what’s going on with his mouth.

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Who Dat?!

All in all my trip to New Orleans was great. I wish it was longer, but my aunt and I managed to squeeze ALOT into two days. She showed me a great time and I can’t wait to come back for a visit and actually go on the swamp tour. Definitely have to stay longer next time, come during a Saints game, check out a jazz club and just have more time to roam in the city.

New Orleans never fails on showing southern hospitality. It will forever be home and one of my favorite cities. Until next time.

AmbassadorNique 

New Orleans Day One

A few hours into my first flight from Seattle to New Orleans I realized I’d been tricked. Where Did I get the notion that red eye flights were these amazing things that everyone knew about but me? Trying to sleep on a plane in an aisle seat was a bad idea. I landed in Houston at about 6AM and would connect and fly into Louis Armstrong International Airport (which is probably the dopest name for an airport btw AND it fits). 
Shortly after landing I headed towards the departure drop off with my carry-on (no typo.. not sure how this happened). Nevertheless my aunt was on time to pick me up and off we went. We’d go straight from the airport to visit my uncle. Well… kind of.. We stopped at the Waffle House. 

What screams southern culture more than Chicken, Waffles, and Grits!
After taking our sweet time we realized that we had gotten off schedule and needed to pick up our pace in order to make it to visitation hours. We’d drive 2 hours to Angola, LA. We’d drive down an empty 30 mile road before getting to the gate where they’d check our ID’s to see if they matched the visitor list and put us in a box where a dog would sniff for drugs. This is about the time where it finally hit me, this was maximum security. 

We’d wait for what felt like an hour in the waiting room before a bus would pick us up. Although I’d tried to mentally prepare for what I’d see, there really is no way one could possibly be 100% prepared. In the waiting room I saw at least 30 black faces. Babies, girlfriends, sisters brother, mothers fathers. I’m not sure why this stuck with me but the kid who was pat down before me was asked what High School he went to by the guard, who followed up the question by asking how his football team was doing? I didn’t know what to think, but before I could it was my turn to be inspected. 
“Anybody visiting death row?” a bus driver asked. Thank goodness we were not. Nevertheless I had so many questions going through my brain. What would he look like? How was his health? Did he get my last letter? Why didn’t he reply? Would I be able to keep it together? Above everything I was just excited to have the opportunity to finally see him. I had talked about making the visit happen for at least the past 9 years if not longer. 
We’d get on a white bus with the same mothers, fathers, wives, brothers, pastors, children ect. and get off to once again be ID’d and searched. I looked to my right and there was a man with glasses smiling from ear to ear. My aunt said “thats him..” So I wave and he waves as he finished being checked in for our visit. 
The visiting area was about the size of a high school lunch room, it was a cafeteria, no glass screens with phones attached no fist bumps through the glass, no orange jump suits or anything like that. For the most part everyone was dressed almost the same. 
My aunt would leave to order food and here I was in a packed room of people looking around for a familiar face. I couldn’t help but notice the number of black males and this quickly took me back to my Criminal Justice and Sociology classes. In a room of 100+ people I saw 1 white family, a random white guy who my uncle just so happen to know, and another one who was the photographer. I didn’t see very many latino’s if any at all and the rest black faces. Not to make this post about race, but looking around seeing faces that looked exactly like me almost broke me down. Truth is there probably were many other white and latino faces, but that just wasn’t what stuck out to me.
Keep it together… I looked around for my uncle whose face I only kind of remembered, when it hit me that I was always sending him pictures, but I hadn’t seen one of him in years.
A few moments later I saw a man in his 50s walking towards me who resembled both my grandmother and grandfather, with the same smile I had seen earlier I got up I hugged him and told him how nice it was to finally see him again. 
We talked about everything. Updates on family, politics, sports, the Saints, and his theory on George Zimmerman’s divorce while eating some very delicious fried catfish. I looked forward to the opportunity to take a picture with him. As we walked to the area I saw another familiar face. 
As we went to take a photo my aunt and I exchanged the following dialogue: 
Me: Hey, thats C-Murder.. (the one with the gold chain gold teeth and TRU beanie..)
Aunt: Who’s that? 
Me: Master P’s little brother, he’s a rapper
*the conversation was probably louder than it should have been*
Uncle (in a low voice): yeah, thats him 
Aunt: Oh, whats he in here for?…
Me: ………
Aunt: Oh… You want a picture with him, an autograph? 
Me: Nah… thats okay.. 
Uncle: Yeah, nephew thats probably not a good idea
We’d get our pictures taken and sit back down. We’d talk for a few more minutes before we’d say our goodbyes. My uncle and I exchanged hugs and I told him that I loved him. Overall he’d seemed in good spirits and was very hopeful about the future. His health was improving from what it once was, and it was just good to see him. Watching his smile as we walked away gave me hope for the future. 
We’d have to present our ID before exiting back on the bus. This was probably the hardest part of the experience as expected. While we were able to leave with our freedom, he could not. 
Once again sitting next to new family members, friends and loved ones on the bus reminded me of why I fight for social justice. Its been over a week since my visit and due to how fast life moves I wasn’t able to fully reflect on this experience. I debated if I would even share the story, but somewhere in my heart I feel like I had too. The many families that were next to me reminded me that I am not the only one. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts uncles friends, and loved ones are all suffering through the pain of knowing someone who is incarcerated. After reading books like The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and watching documentaries like The House I Live In that focus specifically on the inequalities in the criminal justice system I understand my story is not unique, especially in black america. As taboo as the subject may be and as far removed from incarceration I may personally be, these stories must be told. My uncle will continue to be the motivation behind my fight for social justice. Every man I saw that day is a human being, and regardless of their circumstances they deserve to be treated as such. 
After leaving Angola my aunt and I headed back to New Orleans. While the ride home started a bit somber, I’d found peace in knowing that I was just happy to have the opportunity. We stop near Baton Rouge at Smoothy King to enjoy a smoothy.
Before heading to the hotel, and eating at Lanry’s for a cat fish and shrimp po’ boy, some bbq shrimp and french fries. Delicious. We’d walk around for a little while longer before the itus would kick in. It was time for bed.

New Orleans – Explained… (Where are you from?)

Where are you from? Are you from Seattle?

These questions have always been challenging for me to answer. Depending on the circumstances and how much time I have to explain myself the answer may vary. Well, technically yes at this point I’ve spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest and now reside in South Seattle (BEACON!). So, yes… for all practical purposes I can say I am from Seattle.

Its interesting the way we ask the “where are you from” questions to certain groups of people expecting different answers. For those who can trace their roots back to a specific place (city or country) outside of the United States, “Where are you from?” demands a completely different answer. While most Asian/Pacific Islanders and Latino’s are expected to hold a pride to what is sometimes foreign lands, in America most African American’s trace their roots to the South of the United States while those of European ancestry aren’t really expected to know, care or understand. (Sidenote: My theory about this is people trace back to where they feel like their family had the most clout… I digress). In short, like most African Americans I trace my roots back to Louisiana and Arkansas because well.. We have no family records or pictures from any of the 52 countries in Africa. 

Another complication is the fact that I was born in the beautiful city of Tokyo, Japan. Unfortunately since my skin is dark this answer to the question “where are you from?” has never been acceptable. How’d this happen? Well my father was in the US Military. Although my parents didn’t exactly grow up in New Orleans is the closest metropolitan city, and its where the football team is! I still have aunts uncles grandparents and cousins all over Louisiana. My siblings would attend universities in New Orleans and we would take family road trips and vacations back “home” growing up. So even though I’ve never “lived” in New Orleans, just as I call Tokyo and Seattle.. New Orleans is home… 

**Tangent** I am a die hard New Orleans Saints fan. 0 and 16 or 13 and 3, I have one team and one team only year in and year out. Being that I’ve been in Seattle so long I never root against the Seahawks, but I don’t call myself a fan. **Done**

After moving from Japan my family moved to Houston, Texas. I was very young and don’t remember much, but I do know that it wasn’t the safest place in America at the time of our arrival. We would live there for less than a year and soon after my siblings and I would move to Louisiana with my grandparents before heading to the Northwest at age 6 in 1993. My father and uncle would travel from Louisiana to Washington with my siblings and I. My Uncle would only stay a few months and I have faint memories of us listening to music together and doing crazy things like eating Ketchup sandwiches.

As life would have it, I wouldn’t see my uncle again after ‘93. We did however keep in touch and he later became one of my greatest inspirations. As life demands more of our time and as I got older we still found time to catch up and keep each other informed, and I do my best to keep him updated on my life changes and share my photo’s with him.

On October 18, 2013 I would take a red eye flight from the Seattle/Tacoma International Airport to Louis Armstrong International (New Orleans, Louisiana). 

**To Be Continued**

Domonique Meeks
AmbassadorNique Productions

Life Hack “Creating Positive Change” (Day 30) LAST ENTRY

1. Write down 3 gratitude’s.

I feel gratitude for being able to complete this challenge! Its something that I will continue in a new form, some how and some way. I am grateful for new friends and new connections, most of all I am grateful that today we will move closer to accomplishing our goals.

2. Journal about 1 positive experience you’ve had over the last 24 hours.

Yesterday was wonderful, my time off to complete my Photo project was approved! I am super excited to share what I will be doing. My friend Courtney came through from San Jose with her partner Mike and we had a great time catching up and kicking it. The night was very low key. Shoutout to my roomies and Tony for also hanging out too!     

3. Exercise: Yes

4. Meditate: No

5. Write one positive email praising or thanking someone in your social support network: Yes

Reflection: 

I really enjoyed this challenge. While I was far from perfect and my consistency wasn’t flawless, the goal was to change the mindset and initial thought process that comes to mind when reflecting on the day. My definition of success is happiness and as long as I can find happiness in every day, than I will always be successful. New challenge coming soon!

Life Hack “Creating Positive Change” (Day 29)

1. Write down 3 gratitude’s.

The 3 things I am grateful for are my friends and family who travel and keep me motivated. I’m grateful that my health is well, and my bills are paid. Lastly I’m grateful for MUSIC! 

2. Journal about 1 positive experience you’ve had over the last 24 hours.
In the last 24 hours music helped me overcome a rough day and D was there to listen and relate to my deeper thoughts on the need for people of color to aspire for executive and decision making roles.   

3. Exercise: Yes

4. Meditate: No

5. Write one positive email praising or thanking someone in your social support network: No

Life Hack “Creating Positive Change” (Day 28)

1. Write down 3 gratitude’s.

The 3 things I am grateful for are my ability to communicate with others (especially women); having parents who taught me to be open minded and allowed me to explore my own identity and values. Lastly I am thankful for the progression of my plan

2. Journal about 1 positive experience you’ve had over the last 24 hours.
In the last 24 hours I was able to listen to the Saints go 4 and 0!   

3. Exercise: Yes

4. Meditate: No

5. Write one positive email praising or thanking someone in your social support network: No

Life Hack “Creating Positive Change” (Day 27)

1. Write down 3 gratitude’s.

The 3 things I am grateful for are the time I have to work on my goals; the financial stability to travel this fall, and tools I will need to accomplish my goals.

2. Journal about 1 positive experience you’ve had over the last 24 hours.
Last night D and I took a walk in the rain to the produce stand, and had a chance to talk with each other about our goals and plans and what it will take to be successful. Even in the down pour it was still a great walk.  

3. Exercise: Yes

4. Meditate: No

5. Write one positive email praising or thanking someone in your social support network: No