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Move Me Soul Forward

14 Mar

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I had the opportunity to attend hip hop artist Raphael Xavier’s work, The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching, at Columbia College last month. I knew nothing about his work, so the depth of his narrative, physical skill and amazing technique stunned me.

The rap and conversational portion of the performance was about cultural transmission. Wanting to know more about the concept, I researched the term; my take away was that cultural transmission is the method employed by a group of people within a culture use to learn, create, remember and pass on ideas and information within their culture and to others outside of their immediate societal group.

In the question and answer period after the performance, Raphael suggested that audience participation is a desirable and necessary part of cultural transmission. It is not enough to observe mutely and dispassionately; the audience needs to applaud or, in the case of his piece, actually come on stage during the piece and become part of the production. In this way we learn about another’s culture, accumulating information, freeing ourselves from our fears and prejudices, and developing skills that no single individual would be able to perfect on their own.

Razib Khan, in his article, We Stand on the Shoulders of Cultural Giants, suggests that there are no “free riders”; imitators who don’t get their hands dirty are often the weakest link in cultural transmission. When interacting with people sharing cultural ideas, the obstacles to understanding and learning include an economic link. If we want the teen performers in the Move Me Soul spring concert – In Tribute: A Celebration of Life! to successfully transmit the cultural importance of their dance concert, we need to provide the financial support.

In order to build upon our collective knowledge, we need to put some money towards the talent, enthusiasm and joy of these performers. Step up and give to the fund raising campaign now at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/5hnK2?utm_campaign=share-campaign&utm_medium=email&utm_source=03-2014. Help P3 continue to innovate and craft opportunities for theses teens to participate in cultural transmission, learning and passing on new information to others in the community.

If you have any issues donating please drop me a line at laurieask@gmail.com and I will try to assist you. Otherwise, I expect to see you at the showcase performance on April 11, 2014.

Tune In for Good News

25 Jun

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Gaynor Hall wrote an astonishing piece for WGN TV website (http://wgntv.com/2013/06/24/media-and-violence-in-chicago/) on a topic we have all talked about, that of the media and its coverage of violence in Chicago. For quite a while now I have had a Google alert for the Austin neighborhood and almost every feed I get has the words shot, dead, or wounded somewhere in the headline. I rarely open them, not because I do not care about the individuals whose lives have been taken for petty and often irrational reasons, but rather because it makes me feel helpless. I also admit that I chose to let my writing reflect Thumper Rabbit’s philosophy “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.” And yes, I do realize I just quoted a cartoon rabbit from a 70 year old Disney movie; the value expressed is an integral part of my life.

In her piece, Hall spoke to Robert Douglas, a college student whose life went off track after the senseless death of his brother as well as Suzanne McBride, journalism professor at Columbia College, and several local publishers. While all of them offered valid points, I was most astonished by Suzanne McBride, until I read her bio on the Columbia College site and realized she is also the founder of AustinTalks.org (http://austintalks.org/). She pointed out that if all the media covers in Austin is crime, it does a disservice to its readers and to the community as violence “doesn’t really tell…the rich history and life for… (the) communities.” The on-line publication Dnainfo.com/Chicago (http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/2012-chicago-murders) made the decision to tell the personal story of every homicide victim, granting them dignity in death but more importantly, recognition of their life.

The take away from this is that we need to combat the so-called scoreboard coverage, as N’Digo Magazine publisher Hermene Hartman so aptly named it. Headlines such as “Six Shot in Austin Over the Weekend” do little to move us to take action and so very often make people tune out. Instead, as a community, we need to tell family narratives, tracing the people who have achieved success, in spite of the odds, or talking about the resiliency of individuals in our families and communities. We need to acknowledge the positive and show that the people who do not make the ten o’clock news matter more as they are the ones who define our individual sense of self.

Show Up and Be Counted

10 Jan

Happy 2013! Let us hope that the New Year brings fundamental change to the neighborhoods in Chicago, especially those plagued by violence, gangs and gunfire. That change must begin with us as we cannot rely upon law enforcement, politicians, studies or reports to be the change we need.

 Recently, Crain’s posted a map “Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks” created by Chris Persaud (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130108/BLOGS08/130109821/how-rich-is-your-neighborhood#ixzz2HbWl8dWe). Persaud noticed a correlation between the poorer census tracts, many situated in Chicago, and the areas that suffer from high crime rates. The map is not particularly user friendly unless you know your census tract number but the article points out that the median income for the heart of South Austin (census tract 2519) is $18.8 K while the statewide median income is between $48-58K.

I doubt anyone is surprised when reading this. We all know that income, derived from gainful and engaging employment, combined with educational resources, will go a long way to solving the rise in crime rates. But the problem appears to offer the chicken and egg scenario; we can’t get jobs for undereducated people and we can’t get educational resources without having more money, derived from property taxes, allocated to failing schools.  

I propose you allocate what you do have, the will and intention to be the change you wish to see (with thanks to Gandhi), and support the projects the P3 is working on this year. You can support them with money or by volunteering but most of all, you can show-up! When the season starts, show up for an Urban Hardball game and cheer the team on. Attend a Move Me Soul dance recital and get caught up in the energy. Help us empower the young people in the neighborhood through sports, dance and theater while promoting the pride, power and unity of the neighborhood.

In the next few weeks we will be updating the Facebook page with our new logo as well as news about some of the activities we will be promoting this year. Don’t let this be another year of bad news for Austin; instead let’s raise a little hope and a lot of commotion for the jewels of the neighborhood.

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2 Jul

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