Friday, December 18, 2009

"Where I'm From": recognizing one's social location as preparation for reconciliation

This past summer, Dean of SPU’s School of Education Rick Eigenbrood(on the right with my girls and busy bee) offered me the opportunity to teach a diversity course to students entering the Teacher Education Program at SPU. So beyond editing the newsletter and hanging out and conspiring with art studio director Katie Kresser at the Seattle Art Museum, last fall,I’ve been spending time stretching and being stretched by our students. It's been transformative for me as an educator. Part of helping students to understand the perspectives of others requires helping them to understand their own social location. In order to do so, we have included a literary exercise in the course that involves writing a poem titled: "Where I’m From.” The first time 'round in class, our students provided some of the most transparent writing that I've heard in a while. What follows below are poems from three brave and brilliant students who were willing to share their thoughts.
Please scroll down to read our students' poems. I'm sure that you will be moved.

Anna Coulson

Life Hasn’t Always Been so Easy

I am from the Sun Shine State,
lived there a long time
Grew up on many streets;
Thought that was fine.

From rich to poor my roots are defined broad,
that’s OK cause’ in the center there was always God.

My parents are Stanford grads, they wanted a better life for me,
So instead of sending me to school, they taught me how to read!

Being home-schooled was such a great way to learn,
Taught by my parents, respect was earned.

I have been blessed to have the parents I have had,
because if they hadn’t adopted me, life could’ve been pretty sad.

I have brothers from different backgrounds, I never saw the difference,
Because my parents taught us - it wasn’t about appearance!

From the streets in California to the green Irish land,
I love the variety of where I come from- but prefer the beach and sand!

I am from the moments that show up in family pictures,
Bright eyes and happy smiles are remembered through the years.

Life hasn’t always been so easy,
I struggled with abandonment,
Because I had those birth parents
who did not want to commit.

God has taught me to forgive, move on, and be grateful
Because some kids don’t ever get the blessing I have had, ever at all.

Trace the history and you’ll land in Ireland and England,
Although that’s “where I ‘m from,” I have never been.

Jenny Braun

A Yearning for Difference

Growing up had blessings and disappointments.
From Buckley to Bonney Lake back to Bonney Lake, WA.
That’s where I lived with
a family who cared and always loved deep.
Minus the fact that sister smoked crack,
and my brother, just a pothead who was mean.
Parents always there with insurmountable support.
There is nothing you can’t do, seek the Lord and go, be you.

All white, though sister looked Mexican.
Never knew why, that’s just how it is.
Longed for difference, always attracted to people different.
Then nephews were born.
Beautiful with skin so smooth,
Could hold him for hours mesmerized by those deep brown eyes
Touching that curly brown hair.
Looking at that creamy brown skin.
World was changed when another one came
They looked just the same except for the name.
My heart yearned for more difference

Always grew up in a white society
Where money was always there and education was in front of me.
School was easy, never got pushed.
Until Mr. Waz you are too smart not to go and be “gifted”.
Taking his advice, going for the challenge,
Hated the place and the people were vicious.
What are you too smart or something? We don’t wanna play with you!
Confidence all gone, just wanted to be social.
Went back to the place where I could be me with people who weren’t mean.

Missing the innocence of life.
Playing with neighbors, riding on quads, up and down on the teeter totter
Playing paintball with brother
Making memories in Sunday school, trusting in God
Only care in life was getting up for school
And occasionally getting the owie that mama nurse had to fix.
Blessed with athleticism so played every sport,
Always got made fun of cause I was always too short.
That’s how God made me and now I see, his glorious workings in simple old me.

To see the importance of where you are
Don’t forget to look back from where you were from.
Past is the key to understanding the story of the person in the present.

Chester Pineda

Born by the Wedding Band

A switch or belt
Football pads and soccer cleats
The lingering sting of defeat
I’ll always remember how it felt

Vicks cured all that ills
Blistering fever or freezing chills
(I’ll always remember my grandmother saying, “you’re not sick till you’re dead or dying")

Family comes first
Just after God

From Spain to Mexico
Pineda grew
Viermas (that’s Friday) from the Philippines flew

A rosary hung from my great grandmother’s hand
To Saint Rita she prayed and prayed
For the great grandchild, born by the wedding band

It is my job to prove
To the Saint of lost causes
I’m no lost cause
But how, how do I choose?

Shake it off you’re not hurt
Nothing is bleeding, broken or burnt

According to Chester Pineda, writing this poem required a little trip down memory lane for me. I recalled some of my most prominent childhood memories, soccer, football, and martial arts. But what I remember most is always what my mother told me, "Unless something is broken, or you're bleeding; you're not hurt." He can still hear these words ringing in his ears today.