Blog Post #6 Oral History Performance (Pollock)

Della Pollock’s introduction of her “Oral History Performance” piece has a lot of powerful content.  Perhaps it was because I had just watched last week’s episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit right before I read her article, but the entire time I was reading I thought of how sexual assault victims’ testimonies could be considered examples of oral histories.  In the particular episode of L&O: SVU, called “True Believers,” a young woman was sexually assaulted in her apartment by a stranger.  Her rape crisis counselor was essentially advising her not to take the case to court, telling her that her chances of getting a conviction were not very high.  However, the show’s lead detective, Olivia Benson, encouraged her to proceed with the case.  Ultimately, the accused man was found not-guilty and the victim was furious screaming at Detective Benson, “Don’t you dare tell me that was worth it!”  Detective Benson tries to calm her down by telling her that she didn’t let him get away with it, that she accused him in public.  She told her “healing begins when someone bears witness; I saw you, I believe you.”

I think this situation exemplifies the quote from Slim and Thompson that Pollock includes in her article on the first page, that it ensures that “those who have given up their time to talk, know that their words have been taken seriously.”  Many times rape victims are able to begin their healing process by sharing their story with others, and that others listened.  I also heard the testimony of a fellow UNC student at the SpeakOut! event hosted by UNC’s Project Dinah about a month ago about her first-hand encounter of sexual assault.  Her story was an oral history; she provided us with her story and we shared her pain.  Her story caused us to imagine “what might be, could be, should be” – in this case, a campus without any sexual assault (Pollock 2).  We then have the “response-ability” as listeners to the oral history by acting on it, even if we just told her story again to others so that they could share in its meaning and become aware of the problem of sexual assault in the community.

Here is a link to the episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (fast forward to 39 minutes and 10 seconds in to see the dialogue I’m referring to):

Here is a link to the Project Dinah Facebook page:


Blog Post #4 Organizing for Social Change

I found these excerpts of “Organizing for Social Change” especially comforting, reassuring, and inspiring. The overall message I got from the reading is that working towards positive social change can and should not be easy. Struggle is necessary. In the various organizations that I am either currently involved in or have previously been involved in, nothing that we accomplished was sans struggle. I have experienced all four dialectic tensions discussed in this reading, but am reassured that each of those tensions can work together to promote social change and should not necessarily be viewed as limiting or problematic. It is all about finding a balance between these tensions and a process of trial and error to see how they can work together harmoniously rather than dichotomously. Another important thing to note is that every fight for social change is different; there is not a perfect “one size fits all” formula for balance between stability and change.

There was one excerpt from these readings that particularly resonated with me. It was the story in Box 1.4: An Adhesive that Does not Stick, which was a story proving that, from the first sentence of the box, “dialectical tensions…can be welcomed as opportunities.” The story behind Dr. Spencer Silver’s failure to invent an adhesive with high stickiness and the creation instead of the Post-It note is super inspiring to me. We should not be frustrated by all the struggles and setbacks when promoting social change, but instead we should seek new opportunities from them. This goes along with what we talked about in our articulation performance reflections; maybe something did not go as planned in our performance but it actually worked to our benefit?

The second part of this “Organizing for Social Change” reading discussed two concepts which bring me to my multimedia clip for this blog post: those of dignity and stigma. I was fortunate enough to see the Mau a Malawi: Stories of AIDS world premiere on October 14 in Memorial Hall. The whole purpose of the performance was to share the stories of Malawians affected by AIDS, not from an outsider’s point of view, but from the individuals themselves. The producers of the performance, Andrew Finn Magill and Peter Mawanga, actively engaged with these people and listened to their powerful narratives, providing them with self-worth and dignity. Another part of the reading discusses the stigma often attached with these social issues that can hinder social change. That is another concept the Mau a Malawi: Stories of AIDS was able to address. By creating safe places for these individuals to speak with them, they were able to protect them and openly discuss their stories without fear of repercussions from their society. They are also working hard to remove the AIDS stigma through music. Here’s some footage from the performance (credit to Jon Haas):

Colbert Report: Wake County Schools

Hi, everyone!

In between performances today, Marie talked briefly about the Wake County School Board elections that she and her family were a part of recently. This is a segment from the Colbert Report earlier this year in which Stephen Colbert discusses the “disintegration” plans that certain Wake County School Board officials envisioned for their school system. Let’s thank Marie and her family for being a part of the elections this week and helping bring back equality to these schools.—disintegration

PS- Congratulations on your performances…I thought everyone did such a great job! ..and based on all the applause and cheering, I’d say that most of the class would agree 🙂

Blog post #3 When Bullets Begin to Flower

In class we discussed symbols and rituals and how they relate to who gets to share what meaning.The relationships are, in my opinion, quite complicated, but in general, I would say that symbols and rituals help us share meaning. Sometimes words aren’t enough to express the feelings, emotions, struggles, knowledge, etc. that we share, but perhaps we are able to relate to each other more through symbols and rituals. In reading my other classmates’ blogs, I have discovered that many sports teams have symbols or rituals that they perform before games that maybe they can’t necessarily describe through words, but the meaning they share through these symbolic acts are very powerful. However, it is my belief that symbols and rituals also exclude people, in sometimes quite profound ways. Whereas (almost) everyone has access to published works and speeches and whatnot, specific rituals are usually reserved just for the specific group involved. Along the same lines, symbols may also be exclusive, or have different meanings for different people. They are ambiguous. Even in different cultures, gestures (like the thumbs up sign) have entirely different meanings.

The poem “The Black Mother” made me think about my mom and the rituals we share. One is what we do every Christmas Eve. We always bake chocolate chip cookies together to leave out for Santa. Although my dad and sister are also home, this is just something that my mom and I share together. She also reads “Twas the night before Christmas” to me…yes still…at age 21. I’m not sure exactly what “meaning” we share through these acts, but they allow us to connect and share a special ritual together.

In general, I think sometimes symbols allow more inclusiveness and invite others to share in their particular meanings, while at other times I find symbols to be quite exclusive and somewhat secretive.

Blog post #2- Guerrilla Theater (Durland)

Wow…this article really resonated with me. It’s amazing how much of an impact a certain performance can have. This article also drove home a concept that we’ve been talking about in class all along, that ANYTHING can be performance. Just hanging a banner (well I shouldn’t say “just”…these people were hanging banners from places like Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty) can end up affecting so many people and in a way where they actually change their actions (whether it be politicians banning practices that are harmful to the environment or getting everyday people to recycle). What stood out to me more than anything from this article was the philosophy of the Quakers that has influenced Greenpeace. The idea of “bearing witness” is so powerful, requiring that you actually DO something about a situation that bothers you (whether it is to change it or stand by it) instead of just idly sitting on the sidelines, doing nothing. I think the world could be even more of an amazing place if everyone would bear witness.

I noticed an important contrast between this article and Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Durland’s article seems to make it relatively simple for people to take action and cause change. Freire, in my opinion, painted a much more difficult scenario for the oppressed/dehumanized/student to get out of his/her present situation. I especially noticed a contrast between the Greenpeace activists in Durland’s article and the students in Freire’s article. I think both are involved in a “cycle” so to speak. Courtney in class yesterday described the situation of the teacher and the student in the classroom as a never-ending cycle. She talked about how the way the system works is to keep society the same; therefore, there is this whole idea of a cyclical society and Catch-22 situations. I think Durland also paints this idea of a cycle, but in a more positive light. Environmental activists do something, for example. Then it catches the attention of the public. Then people get upset with their local politicians and urge them to make changes in legislation. Then the politicians do because they need their constituents’ support. It will eventually come full circle and the Greenpeace members will act again on something else; they just keep building on the change they’ve already helped create.

Sort of going off this whole cyclical idea, here’s a Liberty Mutual commercial representing the “pay it forward” concept. I think this concept is so important to performing and advocating for change, and if this concept actually completely caught on, I can only imagine all the wonderful changes this world would see.

PS- I know my post is already long and that we only had to talk about one article, but I just wanted to quickly call attention to a beginning line in the Conquergood article: “The paradox is that traditional performance’s historical role is to conserve a culture over time, not to change it.” I hadn’t thought about this before. I wonder when the role of performance began to change?

Blog Post #1- Freire

I found this reading quite interesting. Freire has led me to think about the concepts of oppression and humainzation/dehumanization in a new way. I was intrigued by the way he discussed these concepts more from the point of view of the roles that the oppressors/oppressed play. He makes some good points, although I don’t always agree with him and in many places I wish he would provide more evidence to support his claims or just explain further. Here are some questions I had:

In my opinion, Freire places a lot of emphasis on the role of the oppressed and the responsibilities that the oppressed have to change their situation. While he does say the oppressor needs to realize his/her actions and feel guilt, he generally leaves it up to the oppressed to take action and change the situation. Yet, he claims the oppressed are contradictory, divided beings, self-depricators, etc. (I don’t necessarily agree with those characteristics). My question would be, how much responsibility does each have in changing the situation of oppression? Is it more the oppressor’s responsibility, or is more the oppressed responsibility?

Another question is that Freire discussed humanization and dehumanization in great length, but mainly just about how oppression plays into it. A big question I have is, what exactly are the lines between humanization and dehumanization? What does it mean to be human?

Another question…maybe the oppressed become aware they are oppressed and so they take action, yet what if it doesn’t change anything? Just because they take action are they no longer oppressed? If that’s the case, then what becomes of the oppressors? If there are no longer oppressed then can the oppressors actually remain oppressors acting out oppression?

Finally, as far as the teacher-student relationship is concerned: How can we change this situation to create a better dialogue and relationship between teachers and students? How can we get from memorization to better forms of learning? How exactly can the students change their situation? If they break rules, they will go to the principal’s office and possibly be suspended or expelled. How can they change the role they play if there are rules to follow? Same thing with others…there are rules and laws and if they are broken, it may result in jail time. How are the oppressed expected to change their situation if they do not have the means to do so?

I do not have a Youtube clip to share, but I do have a personal experience. Although I won’t name the professor, nor the class title, I took a course at UNC where I definitely felt like I was oppressed as the student, and thought of by the professor as an “object.” The professor made comments to us such as “There are stupid questions, so I suggest you think carefully before you bother me with a question.” He/she also would strongly discourage us from speaking up in class whether it be to offer up a point or to ask a question, saying “This is my time to talk, not yours.” We were objectified and not given the chance whatsoever to play an active role in class, yet I didn’t really know what to do to change the situation. I eventually went to the department chair to speak about the situation, but actually in the classroom, I felt like there was not much I could do. This makes me think that it’s the teacher who has to change the relationship roles because as students, often times, we are powerless in a way.