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.
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."
"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."
"I used to think that Buffalo was mostly black people, but now I know that it's very diverse."
"I used to think that the West side was only hispanics, but now I know that it is filled with lots of ethnic groups."
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".
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
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.
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.