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One Buffalo Tapestry Charter School

"The World we Live in

Is based on Expectation.....

We all walk this Earth

But we cause the Separation"

--- Jadah L.

"What makes you different

What makes you better

how about...

What makes us the Same

What makes us Equal

The color of your Skin

The color of Mine...

Does it define who i Am

Does it define who You are?"

--- Jadah L.

A learning experience in the community, of the community and for the community

Introduction

Tapestry Charter School is an arts-integrated, K-12 inner-city school that sits on the north side of Buffalo, New York. Tapestry believes in offering students deeper learning experiences, where teachers make standards come alive by offering learning opportunities to put their knowledge and skills to work to make the world a better place. Through these rich learning experiences, called expeditions, students learn more than just facts and skills. Students think critically about the world around them and collaborate to come up with creative solutions to address problems in their communtity. Students are asked to create high-quality, real world products by learning how to listen and talk (communicate) to professionals and citizens in their communities. These memorable experiences not only makes our community a better place by developing citizens ready for action , but they inevitably develop students who have upstanding character.

Inspiration

"I live in a place

That has a bad reputation

People judge my area and form

generalizations

They call it polluted

Dirty. Dangerous.

Abandoned. Poor.

They don't understand that we

offer so much more."

---- Mya J.

Buffalo is notoriously segregated. In a city that has a rich history in being a part of the underground railroad and supportive of the abolitionist movement, it is surprising that today we find ourselves with great cultural and racial divides. All too often we play into these roles without even knowing it. Why did this happen? Can it be undone? What role do I have to play in my town? These were the questions staff and students pondered and pusued answers to as they engaged in the "One Buffalo" expedition.

"One thing I want to do now that I never wanted to do before is to help communities work together more"--Tapestry student

Purpose

There is always more to the story. Knowing that, our students took to the streets with purpose in mind. Inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story, students listened, learned, and connected with businessmen and women, residents, and leaders from different communities in our city.

Through interviews and storytelling, students created a “One Buffalo” narrative piece. These narratives recognized and honored their own powerful stories and their purpose and place in our community.

Students turned their “One Buffalo” narrative into an artistic interpretation of the different neighborhoods and the assets found within them to present “the rest of the story”.

Finally, students celebrated their learning with stakeholders and shared their stories at a community block party.

There is always more to the story. Knowing that, our students took to the streets with purpose in mind. Inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story, students listened, learned, and connected with businessmen and women, residents, and leaders from different communities in our city. Through interviews and storytelling, students created a “One Buffalo” narrative piece. These narratives recognized and honored their own powerful stories and their purpose and place in our community. Students turned their “One Buffalo” narrative into an artistic interpretation of the different neighborhoods and the assets found within them to present “the rest of the story”. Finally, students celebrated their learning with stakeholders and shared thier stories at a community block party.

Mastery of Skills and Content

US History and Government

"We hold these truths to be self evident

That all men are created equal

Equal?

Ya ok"

--- Kioni K.

In order to understand what's happening now, we often have to look back. Students wanted to know "Why did this happen"? Throughout the school-year, the 11th Grade U.S. History and Government students investigated, analyzed, and reflected on the ongoing struggle for Civil Rights throughout American history. Starting with Colonial America and the effects of slavery to today’s ongoing struggle of inequality for example: the disparity in incarceration rates and examples of police brutality, students have studied the history, impacts and legacy of race in our nation. The One Buffalo expedition provided a new perspective for students, one that was close to home. Examining segregation in a Northern city, once an Industrial powerhouse was eye-opening for our students. Understanding how industrialization, migration, immigration and business shaped the city of Buffalo energized students to appreciate and learn more about their neighborhood identity as well as evaluate possible solutions toward improving the problems within the city.

English Language Arts

Artwork by Ja'Dae'la W.

In the English classroom, students spent a significant amount of time reading and researching about the contributing factors of modern racial and socioeconomic segregation in our community, Buffalo, NY. In addition to completing an in-depth case study on the practice of redlining, the practice of banks denying mortgages to people of color, the students unpacked the larger economic theories that shape our socioeconomic systems. During this study, students mastered economic domain vocabulary and content such as inflation, deflation, recession, eviction, mortgage, finance, interest rates, and social reproduction theory. Based on the research and reading students conducted, they then used their new knowledge to craft persuasive letters to city government officials, whom they had previously interviewed on their own. Students also transcribed their interviews to create a "One Buffalo" story that included multiple perspectives based on their interviews, their fieldwork picture stories of the neighborhoods in Buffalo and of their own expertise as residents of the city of Buffalo.

Students listening to recorded interviews to find similarities to create "One Buffalo" narratives.

Fieldwork

Students visiting the medical corridor and the suburbs

One of the fundamental experiences of this learning expedition was the opportunity for our students to experience the neighborhoods and neighbors of the city. Even though our students reside in the city of Buffalo, rarely do they leave the neighborhoods they live in. Students often perpetuate stereotypes and generalizations about other neighborhoods in the city and the people that live in them. It was important that students were able to spend an entire day visiting the suburbs of Buffalo and visiting the North, South, East and West sides of the city. Students talked to residents, investigated historical landmarks, photo-documented the streets, and walked several blocks of each neighborhood and made notices and wonders. Later students were asked to synthesis the day by juxtaposing their previous ideas to their experience in the field. We asked students to share what they learned.

"I used to think that North Buffalo was full of only white people, but now I know that it's not that way."
Picture story captured by students of Buffalo's North Side
"I use to think that the East Side was all ran down, but now I know there are a lot of self-owned businesses around."
Picture story captured by students of Buffalo's East Side
"I used to think that Buffalo was mostly black people, but now I know that it's very diverse."
A Picture Story captured by students of Buffalo's south side
"I used to think that the West side was only hispanics, but now I know that it is filled with lots of ethnic groups."
Picture Story captured by students of Buffalo's West Side Neighborhood

Guest Experts

What's the danger of a single story? We all have preconceived ideas of people and places, but are they accurate? Why do we think what we do? Are we willing to change our minds? From listening to and learning from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story, students started to understand that “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” So, our students cooperated with city councilmen, city block club representatives and familiar faces from our own Tapestry community to listen for the shared universal experience, no matter if we were from the North, South, East or West-side neighborhoods. Students interviewed, and anaylzed interviews because we know that "When we reject a single story, when we realize there is never a single story of any place, we regain a kind of paradise".

Students interviewing city councilmen and residents of Buffalo.
Students interviewing Block Club Leaders of Buffalo.

Character

Appreciation for Diversity and Inclusion

Being that the Tapestry student body is overwhelmingly African American students from the City of Buffalo, the need for diversity and inclusion is vital to their own success. Although these terms are often used as social justice buzzwords, Tapestry students used their own voices to share with the community the importance of inclusion. These students do not need to learn the importance of diversity and inclusion. This is because they are not the ones doing the excluding and they are the ones who are labeled as “diverse”. The purpose of this expedition was to give them a voice to tell those in the community who do have the power to change structures to stop excluding them from neighborhoods, institutions, and socioeconomic mobility

Artwork by Autumn F.

Citizens ready for action

The students that participated in this expedition learned how to be activists in their own community. At the beginning of the expedition, it was not a rare occurrence that a student would ask “what is the point of this, none of this matters to me”. When some of the students realized that there were tools of systematic oppression being used against them and their families for generations, many of them began to engage and take action. When the spark of activism was harnessed, the students took to the streets (literally). The care for their community, love for their people, and commitment to justice will serve these students for the rest of their life, especially when learning to navigate a system that was not designed for their success.

Craftsmanship

"Faces of Places Buffalo" project by Nick S.

Photography

In addition to creating artistic representations, students participated in a broad range of photography and film practices. From the start of the kick off, students used iPads and high quality cameras to document their experience from their own perspective. We traveled to almost every neighborhood in Buffalo, NY, where we created a Picture story of the neighborhoods (as seen above). The key to this photographic element is storytelling. From the outset, students began to tell the story of Buffalo through photos. The stark contrast between five car garages and broken bottles and abandoned houses gave students a chance to look back and see the differences in physical spaces that divide us.

Students used SLR cameras, phones and iPads to capture their images.
Artwork by Sophia A.

Integration of the Arts

In addition to writing persuasive pieces, the students dedicated several weeks to crafting multimodal projects that they felt represented the issues facing Buffalo. Many students took to painting, drawing, and fine arts. Some of the artwork depicted food deserts, struggling neighborhoods, black power etc. Beyond fine arts, several students took to creating documentaries, woodcutting, and photography. In addition to the creation of these pieces, the students mastered the craft of public presentation of artwork, speeches, and spoken word poetry in front of an authentic audience that was comprised of members of the community.

Public Presentation

The students had to prepare to present their work in front of an authentic audience of community members. Knowing that they would have to either stand next to an artistic piece, or present a piece of poetry, the students learned to take ownership of the work that they create. We followed the motto of “if you put your name on it, it better be good”. On the night of the showcase, students learned to dress professionally, network with members of the community, and take a serious and academic pride in their work.

Students, families and community members gathered for the expedition showcase at an iconic building in downtown Buffalo.
Students shared their thoughts and knowledge with families and teachers.

"People see headlines and think that

they know

"They're a threat to society"

"They are putting on a show"

But I live in a place

Where people are kind

They are always outside enjoying the weather

a beautiful space to relax and unwind

They are creative. Passionate.

Attentive. Lively.

Courageous. Friendly.

Overall Divine.

If only everyone could see

the beauty within these streets

maybe the stigma would be

changed and there would be less

Police

Sirens"

--- Mya J.

Artwork by Kiera T.

Credits:

Created with images by Cayetano Gil - "Towers of NY"

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