A reflection by Justine Kim

“Do I really have to do this? I really don’t know anything”
 

Our semester-long project of working with 5th graders at Club Blvd. Elementary was a constant process of learning. When I first decided to take the LTP course, I was merely excited by the chance to work with local elementary school children and do something fun. However, I soon realized that it meant much more than just ‘having fun’. The “Stories of the Stagville” project involved studying slavery in Durham, visiting Historic Stagville and then writing and performing the narratives of ex-slaves from various perspectives. I easily found some students very excited that they got to do some writing that involves imagination and creativity; however, I also easily found some students who were merely uninterested or even annoyed.

 

Anthony was one of them. He was not excited at all having to write and perform about something that seemed not at all relatable to him. When we headed outside the classroom to shoot the video, he did not have his script— neither in his hands nor in his mind. The picture above was taken by his classmate Nadia, who found it funny that he refused to be part of the video. I found this picture to be a condensed moment of his complex feelings in which he really wanted to leave and do nothing, while knowing that he had to be part of the project. This picture is also especially powerful to me because eventually he did become the courageous one who performed boldly in front of the camera.

 

Seeing how Nadia and Heather-Marie were coming up with such interesting narratives seemed to stimulated his own thinking about the story of Henry Bobbit, the ex-slave his was studying. It was really interesting how all the days we spent in the classroom, reading and writing, did not move his interest, whereas a single performance of his classmates made him so involved. He spoke up for Henry Bobbit in a way no one else would have. I still remember how he told me that he would keep his hood on since Henry would be gloomy and gloomy people hide under hoods. I could really see for myself how creativity and improvisation played its role in LTP.

 

It was Anthony who added humor, excitement, and sincerity to our final video. He was the one who took the project most seriously in the end. I never knew a child could change so dramatically throughout the project, and through him, I really felt the power of LTP. There have been several touching and impressive moments that I have never experienced before I met these kids at Club Blvd. I feel like Anthony will remain in my heart for a very long time.

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