Charleston Promise Neighborhood and the Charleston Jewish Federation are collaborating on a program that brings Jewish high school students and Neighborhood high school students together to discuss issues of social justice and create arts projects to illustrate what they have learned from each other.
Called Teens Talk It Up: Interfaith Arts Project, it brought in Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker to lead the students in a conversation about social justice through poetry.
Following the discussion, Amaker encouraged the students to write three statements starting with these words:
I used to…but now I…
I remember… (referring to colors)
Here are some excerpts:
“I used to be ignorant of the world’s problems but now I know (too) much of them.”
“I used to see everything separated but now I see everything as one.”
“I used to think in black and white but now I only see shades of gray.”
Can you guess which ones were written by Jewish students and which by Neighborhood students? You probably can’t. High school students of all colors and religions have most of the same perceptions and misconceptions.
“I wish that everyone (could) work together as one. That all people are better than no one.”
“I wish the idea of race and color would just go away. Issues of color harming people every day.”
“I wish there wasn’t so much hatred and conflict against one another. I wish we could all put our differences aside and come together as brothers.”
Whether they were black or white, Christian or Jewish, the students all had the same wish, expressed slightly differently. It’s a metaphor for all of us: we all have the same big hopes and dreams; what distinguishes us are small differences that make each of us unique.
“I remember when my favorite color was orange. It reminds me of something put in storage. Now my favorite color is blue. This color shows I’m true to everyone including you.”
“I remember when I was young and saw the whole world as it should be….I saw it on my paint palette as a million different colors. Every color was different but just as beautiful as the last one I created. For so long I could tell people that my favorite color was rainbow.”
Given the opportunity to look at all colors, the students focused on the full spectrum, not black and white. Think there might be a poet among these students? We hope that all of them come away with more open hearts, a better understanding of different perspectives and a spirit of advocacy for social justice.
The Interfaith Arts Project will culminate in 2018 with art created by all the students to demonstrate what they learned about each other…and themselves.