Friday, June 09, 2006

Schooling Baltimore Street

I am always searching for good examples of media mentoring organizations. I believe I found one last night when I attended the Wide Angle Media premiere of a 15-minute student film called Schooling Baltimore Street at the University of Baltimore.

2 student filmmakers Kyle Halle-Erby and Lendl Tellington spent the last year following youth-led organizing for education equity in Baltimore's public schools Demonstrations by an interviews with members of the Baltimore Algebra Project provide the basis for the film. It's an exploration of the motivations and effects of youth activism.

The theater was packed with a multi-racial, multi-generational audience. Organizers did a good job of pre-production on the event and the energy was high with viewers rooting for the young artists.

After the event, an impressive panel:

-Lee Boot, filmmaker, media artist and associate director of University of Maryland Baltimore County Imaging Research Center

-Edward Burns, producer and co-creator of HBO's The Wire and Homide, Life on the Street

-Joyce J. Scott, visual and performing artist who has lectured, performed and exhibited internationally

-Anthony McCarthy, moderator, journalist and public policy advocate

A few of the comments:

Kyle Halle-Erby: What the film did for me is what of the students we interviewed said... I always knew I was smart, but I was not aware. Being aware is a really different state of being.

(Q. Is this type of documentary film art?)

Lee Boot: I believe in media as an artform. The fine art community and I are currently filing separation papers. That community has sequestered itself culturally.

Joyce J. Scott: This evening is definitely an example of art. Now young people are able to express themselves in the first person. Soon they are going to be composing entire symphonies on their telephones. They are speaking to each other across all boundaries.

Lee: We love when our kids read books. What is it about that? Eventually we will see that this book thing was just a blip alone the timeline of our human experience. These students are speaking a contemporary language that is not yet reflected in mainstream society. Video and film are not toxic waste.

Joyce: Those ideas will change. We will croak. This is the first language of kids your age.

Kyle: I look at video production as team sports for people who can't play sports. We are the first generation with these types of options.

(Q. We want to call this art, but production like Homicide and like The Wire portray Baltimore in a bad light - is that art? Some people feel it is bad for the image of the city.)

Ed Burns: What I see here tonight is raw, it is alive, it is a statement. It is like a snow fell on the city of Baltimore 40 years ago and we all fell asleep. It is so bad out there, it is criminal. That is the magic of bringing the message home. Good people educate each other. You put this type of thing out there and and it is not yours, it is not mine anymore. It is the viewer's.

Lendl Tellington: One thing I learned from this is that I felt my peers were taking a chance and able to making a change.

Kyle: What I took away from this is that people care. If you want to make a change, there is an audience for it. There is a way to do it. This project took me beyond caring for myself.

What I believe is that the kids in the Algebra Project and the City of Baltimore are on the same side. They are just not playing well together.

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