A reflection by Maura Schwitter

The LTP class has opened my eyes to the community and school systems around Duke University. It is a shame that some people go to school here without experiencing some type of exposure to the city of Durham. Not only did I learn a lot about the city of Durham, but also I learned about education, effective learning techniques, and the importance of stimulating students’ creative juices.
Sometimes in LTP it must be hard for the students to imagine where the work is going or what the final project might look like in the end. However, this is part of the creativity. Showing them past years’ examples might change how they go about their own work. At the beginning even I didn’t fully understand how my LTP internship would culminate with a final movie. I had a general idea of the timeline we were following, but it wasn’t until I saw “Stories from Stagville” LTP videos from past years that I understood what our work would look like in the end. When the students at Club Boulevard School began looking at ex-slave photos and narratives, they were excited, but still not fully convinced about our project. They would talk amongst each other and even joke about the pictures, but once we discussed that these were real slaves who had very hard lives they were more eager to work towards it. For example, Jayla wrote an awesome story from the perspective of her ex-slave named Jennylin. Jayla wrote her first draft very quickly – she took the directions and ran with them. Jayla’s opening sentence was “Blood, it was the most blood I ever saw in my life.” This was really inspiring to read. This single sentence showed that Jayla really grasped the pain and suffering the slaves had to go through. While other students either didn’t get to their first draft that day or wrote fictional/fantastical stories, Jayla was writing diligently at her corner seat a story that really impressed me and the rest of the class. I read it to the class to give them an idea of what we were looking for, and even though Jayla wanted to remain anonymous at first, she was very proud of her writing when all the other students responded with “Woah! Who wrote that?” I was really excited to see Jayla come up with such a unique first-person narrative of Jennylin. Her writing was sincere and graceful, and from that moment I was really excited about where our LTP project was going. This writing encouraged all Jayla’s classmates to focus more on the stories they were writing. I loved how they were able to learn from their peers and inspire each other to work hard. Their stories about the slaves’ lives went from mystical and fictional stories to very honest and serious stories.

Below is a screen shot of Giovanni’s video-recording.  It was his first take on camera that was not used. The screen shot is from the video right after he said he messed up. Even though this video wasn’t used, it is one of my favorites.  I loved watching Giovanni’s narrative come full circle. When I read through Tiney’s narrative with him he was borderline enraged by what the Yankee robbers had done to Tiney’s mother and brother. We talked about how it was impossible to imagine being in their shoes, and I encouraged him to write his feelings down on paper. After his paper got ripped I urged him to try to remember what he had written down. Just to speak from the heart about how he would feel in Tiney’s shoes. We had to do a couple takes because he was a little sheepish on screen and lost his train of thought a few times, but he was smiling through it and had fun with the project while taking it very seriously at the same time.

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