PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We? Session Four

PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We? Session Four

We started off the Wednesday, December 11th session by breaking into groups and discussing what idenitity was and why it was so important to understand it.

Students continued to write about their personal identities.

Diana presented her PhotoVoice collage and spoke about the importance of her family, her career and health as it pertained to who she was.

We’d later go over the scavenger hunt pictures and allow students to speak about the pictures they took.

My favorite part of this session was at then end when Mr. Stowell would connect this project and the importance of knowing your personal identity with the next step the students would be taking in life, middle school. We spoke about the peer pressure and cool factors that most middle school students face, and how it was important that all of them knew who they were as individuals.

With only one more session left I am more than happy with the way this project is panning out.

Stay tuned..

Domonique Meeks
AmbassadorNique Productions
www.AmbassadorNique.com

PREVIOUSLY:

PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We? Session Three

PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We? Session Two

PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We? Session One

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

Right Here, Right Now…

As I sit on this plane 30,000 feet up, I think about the impact I want to make in my lifetime and what it is I want to accomplish. What it is that is important to me, and what inspires me. I think about how I can do everything I want to do NOW. How I can cut out the middle man and create a space where ultimately I am using my time wisely. I strive to spend my time with people that inspire me, educating myself and finding what promotes creativity and positivity. I want a masters degree but I’m not sure I NEED one to accomplish my goals. I will do everything I seek to do with or without one.

I have to get back to writing everyday, more exercise, more meditation, reading more creating! I must find work that inspires me. Regardless of how much it pays the fact that we spend most of our day at a job.. I should be inspired. Money DOES matter… But that’s an entirely different subject… I am a content creator.. I am enlightened. I will be great!

Peace and Love,
AmbassadorNique

PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We? Session Two

PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We?

Session Two

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No more butterflies! This session I was ready to dive in head first. I knew exactly what I was going to say, I was ready to get student input and show them a good time. We went through the pictures that students took last weeks and were able to see some great work and hear wonderful stories!

Students received homework the night before to find out the history of their name. Why they were given the name, what it meant, and where it came from.

We were also gave students time to brainstorm what photo’s they would take pertaining to their own identity and projects. Although my time management wasn’t on point I’d say for an hour we squeezed a lot of good stuff in and students were able to share openly and freely. Next week we hope look at Social v. Personal identity, take a look at some photo’s from their scavenger hunt and MORE PICTURES!

BIG thank you for Diana helping out and taking photo’s and to Mr. Stowell for making it all happen.

Domonique Meeks
AmbassadorNique Productions
www.AmbassadorNique.com

PREVIOUSLY:
PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We? Session One

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

PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We? Session One

PhotoVoice Eagles With Cameras: “Project on Identity” Who Are We?

Session One

Wednesday was my first day back in front of a classroom of children since my Japan English teaching days. Honest, I started off a bit rusty, I was nervous, tight and a bit on edge. As the class went on I’d like to think my performance improved. The students were there to learn and have fun and I hope that’s exactly what they received out of it. A HUGE thank you to my assistants, Diana, Jessica, Jackie, Domonique, Mr. Stowell and a parent I never had a chance to introduce myself too.

We started off with an overview of the project as a whole and moved into trying to understand how complex identity can be. It was my goal to inspire interactions and dialogue. There were no wrong answers.

The students really seemed to open up during the slide show session where we discussed perception and what stories photo’s were telling. We used everything from the historical photo of JFK in the drop top, Martin and Malcolm’s first meeting and Ali’s triumphant stance over his opponent. I also found current photo’s as well, LeBron James dunking as the Laker team sits back in awh, pictures from the Egyptian revolution, Malala, and a photo from the typhoon in the Philippines. I was surprised at how engaged they were and while I knew they were smart, but still some of their answers blew me away.

Above all the best part for the students seemed to be going into other classrooms at the school and take pictures of other students hard at work, capturing the identity of the classrooms and the entire school. Hands on for the win!

It is my opinion that when we speak about social change it starts from within with identity. Next week we will examine their photo’s and dig deeper into their personal identities and allow students to write out what they believe represents them, their school, and their community. We will also start thinking about what pictures students will want to take for their projects. Stay tuned.

***CREDIT****
The idea for calling the project Eagles With Camera’s was inspired by Prometheus Brown (Blue Scholars) and Thig Nat’s (The Physics) Rappers W/ Camera’s. Northgate Elementary Eagles.

Domonique Meeks
AmbassadorNique Productions
www.AmbassadorNique.com

PREVIOUSLY:

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

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