This fall, the Truth in Recruitment Program collaborated with an English class at Benito Juarez high school in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. The ten-week media project focused on the rich, historical activism in the Pilsen/Little Village neigh- borhoods, particularly the recent, captivating events that took place outside of Whittier Elementary School, just a few blocks from Benito Juarez.
It was here that parents from the community staged a 43-day sit-in to stop the demolition of a field house on the school property known as “La Casita.” Despite ongoing petitions to the city by community members to create a much needed library for the school in La Casita, the school board decided to demolish the building to construct a soccer field. In response, community members occupied the field house until the board agreed to invest the money in converting the field house into a library for Whittier students.
As part of the media project, students at Juarez devoted time to researching the history of organizing and activism in Pilsen/Little Village, including history surrounding the struggle for their very own high school, Benito Juarez. After working with students on interview questions and orienting them on flip cameras, we took a field trip to Whittier to interview the organizers, parents, teachers, and students to learn more about their motivation in the struggle for a library. Through this, they were able to draw connections about the struggles their community undertakes to fight for social justice.
Interviews from Whittier were followed up with various workshops on story-boarding, video-editing, and Garage Band (a music recording and editing program). Through these workshops, students compiled their own account of the events and gained an increased awareness of the power and importance of media documentation as an avenue for community story-telling. The project culminated with a final video telling the story of Whittier Elementary’s victory, through the students at Juarez. We hope this video inspires other community’s struggles. Check out the YouTube video at: http://tinyurl.com/4ophxkz
- ROANNA COOPER AND MARIA MARTINEZ, AFSC Interns