Cultural Eye: A Creative Lens for New York's Diversity
By Matthew Roberts
To me, culture is defined as what makes humans uniquely different from one another. I say this because the YouthBridge Cultural Eye Committee, which I am a part of, has helped all of the participants explore what diversity means to us through the culture and art of photography. In the first Cultural Eye meeting we got to know one another and saw a video on the components of photography and how to use Flickr. Flickr is a photo sharing site online, and it is a key component of the cultural eye program, as in every session we are given an assignment with different types of pictures we have to take, which we then upload and put on Flickr so that everyone in the committee can see! For the first Cultural Eye homework we had to take 5 pictures that we felt best described us. It was really interesting to see the types of pictures that people took.
The second committee meeting was about identity and the idea of what makes us different from everybody else. We were first presented with the question “what is identity?” One of the committee members said that “identity is knowing one’s self and characteristics.” During the meeting, we all had index cards and had to put down what we think describes us, and what we like vs what we don’t like. Then we had to say how would this be shown if put into a picture. Everybody's answers were different, and we learned that although we are all teenagers, we are all different from one another. Identity is the key to knowing yourself and what makes you stand out from everybody else, and although you might share some connections with other people you also have so much inside you that makes you different.
After that meeting we were given a homework assignment for the third committee meeting to photograph what we feel represents the word ‘family.’ That third committee meeting was about diversity and community. We began that meeting like the previous one where we were given a focus question that we had to answer with our own opinion. After that, we presented our pictures on family to the group. All the pictures were amazing because of how different they were; we really got to see the different viewpoints on the assignment. We then watched a TEDtalk video about different perspectives, and how we see things vs how other see it. We were then given our monthly homework, this time the assignment of the month was to take 3 pictures on what we think community is. The beauty of Cultural Eye is that even though we have to take pictures on the same topics, no photographs ever repeat. We all view the assignments and lessons so differently from one another, and that is what culture is all about.
Check out some of the Cultural Eye Committee members photographs on identity and family thanks to:
Abisola Akinfenwa Ishika Kasliwal Aisha Khan
Jared Lopez Charlize Marinez Matthew Roberts
Dell Wednesdae Tangente Jaclyn Wildes Davida Krauss
Alyssa Garraway Ayelet Kalfus
Fellows Find Their Way
By Ashley Bisram
The YouthBridge-NY Fellowship has had three Skill-Building meetings thus far focusing on communication and tolerance.
The September meeting began with an interactive game in which each of us was given a slip of colored paper that made us abide by certain interactions with people of different colors. The activity strengthened the sentiment that effective communication with new people is a necessity, as their beliefs and way of life may differ radically from ours based on their culture. Without effective communication, either party may end up unintentionally doing something offensive.
The importance of communication was reinforced in the October meeting, where we were given an enlightening talk by YouthBridge-NY Board Member Marsha Haygood of StepWise Associates. She taught us about how first impressions are shaped through the way we present ourselves, including body language and public speaking, which can be applied to professional settings. Something I found particularly interesting from the materials Marsha provided was that touching your neck while speaking, something I had previously done subconsciously in casual settings, is a sign of deceit. When asking Marsha after her talk about how much our first impressions matter in casual settings, she discussed how we shouldn’t always be dependent on what others think of us, but we should want to be in control of how we come off to them.
Although we learned in our October meeting that we can control the first impressions we give to people, at our November meeting we talked a bit more about how we shouldn’t judge others based on those impressions with Don Kao at Project Reach, our first meeting outside of the YouthBridge office. Don had us participate in a game called the Boat Activity, which caused a mixture of frustration and excitement. Don told us a short story on how 14 people were on a roof during a storm with a rising flood and there was a boat that could only hold 10 people, whose descriptions were given. Using our listening skills in small groups, we had to use consensus building techniques to figure out who to save and how to save them. After sharing our solutions, Don told us that there was no right answer, and we had a discussion on labels versus descriptions of people. We, as participants in the activity, saw the descriptions and made them into labels in our own minds. Together, we discussed the topics of discrimination and prejudices against different groups, as well as how we should avoiding judgment of someone entirely based on what little we may know about them.
We learned a lot about each other and about the topics aforementioned through these past three meetings, and I’m sure we all are looking forward to learning more throughout the rest of the year!
Bridgers Discuss identity
By Emily Ma
In our meeting in October, we met at Project Reach to discuss homosexuality and homophobia with Don Kao. Don began by asking us the question, "When did you first realize homosexuality existed?" Most people said they didn't know homosexuality existed until age 10 or 11, when they were exposed to it through television or through conversations. I also found out about homosexuality at around that age, when my classmates would often use the word "gay" in a derogatory way. This negative connotation to the word made itself apparent when Don asked us the next question: "How would you react if someone thought you were gay?" In our discussion, we thankfully all agreed that we are not inherently against being gay, but it was revealed that a lot of us would feel defensive if someone were to think that, because the associations of being labeled as gay are almost always negative. We discussed how people typically make the assumption that you are gay if you act in a way that the opposite sex stereotypically would - like a feminine male or a masculine female - which we realized implicitly reinforces gender roles and behaviors. This helped me understand how sexism toward both genders contributes to homophobia, and that in order to help combat it, we must be able to transcend prevalent and constricting gender norms. We ended this meeting with an activity where we each said we were gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender around in a circle in order to stand in solidarity with those of us who were out of, and potentially in, the closet, and to show that Youthbridge is a safe space for all.
In our most recent meeting in November, we again met with Don Kao at Project Reach the day after the election results came out. Emotions were high and politics had been in the forefront of the nation's psyche that week, so we felt that it was important to start by talking about the election. Firstly, we acknowledged that though we are diverse, we do not represent all of the different American demographics and political beliefs, but we would be as understanding and respectful of those differences as possible. Then we dove in and shared how we felt about the outcome and the election season as a whole, as well as our fears and hopes for the upcoming presidency. It was relieving to be in a space where I felt comfortable in expressing my feelings about the election, and it was also eye opening to discuss the larger social factors that influenced the outcome, such as sexism, nationalism, and elitism.
Afterwards, we shifted gears to talk about the correlation between identification and social control, and it made me realize how institutions can use identification systems to target a certain demographic and establish a tense environment. It reminded us of how some schools require ID scans in and out of the building and even metal detectors, while others do not. Don asserted that although physical ID's represent you to the government, your identity ultimately represents who you are. To show the importance of self-identity, we did an activity where we displayed what made us who we are on a chart, based on categories including race, gender, wealth, health, and age. This made me realize not only which categories largely make me who I am, but also which categories make me feel most unsafe and in which I have the most privilege. It was also so interesting to see all of the factors that shape my fellow Bridgers, and it helped me know them even better. It made me feel that by understanding other people's identity better, we can become more tolerant and respectful of others' differences.
YouthBridge Gives Back: Teensgiving with 92Y
By Wendy Lau
On Sunday, November 13, YouthBridge Fellows and Bridgers participated in the 92nd Street Y's Teensgiving event along with other schools and youth groups, helping to contribute to the city by cleaning up NYC parks: raking leaves and adding mulch to soil for the trees. The weather was beautiful and sunny as we traveled to Crotona Park, located in the Bronx. In total, about 108 large bags of leaves were collected, which was a massive amount considering the leaves we raked were part of a very small section of the park. This contribution depicts how it is essential to give back to the community, and how a small difference like raking leaves and adding mulch can help to clean and enrich local parks for people to enjoy. It was an awesome day with YouthBridge, and it felt great to give back to the community!
YouthBridge-NY loves our alumni! This year we are working with our alumni on new strategies to ensure that YouthBridge-NY is a continuing community. Recently our alumni participated in a college information panel for our Bridgers, where they discussed how the lessons they learned in YouthBridge-NY impacted their college experience. A big thank you to alumni Lara Barak (Class of 2007), Seth Wittman (Class of 2005), Carolyn Collado (Class of 2012), Michelle Lee (Class of 2011), Ravi Seujattan (Class of 2009), and Taylor Rochester (Class of 2013) for taking the time time to speak to our Bridgers! Our alumni committee has also been busy planning different programs and activities to connect alumni with each other and with current fellowship participants.
Check out some photos of our alumni college information panel below.
If you are a YouthBridge-NY alum interested in being more involved in alumni activities and engagement contact Rebecca Abrams at firstname.lastname@example.org