As I wandered around the property of Club Boulevard Elementary School looking for the perfect place to record the Stagville videos with my group, I found myself noticing potential distractions or background items that would take away from the students’ videos. Listening to children on the playground or cars driving by would not enhance the performance of the students in my group or the quality of their final product. After searching for the perfect spot, Liam sat down on a bench with a broken chain link fence in the background and declared that this was where he wanted to record his video. I was initally skeptical. Why would he want a broken fence in the background? I thought that maybe he did not notice that it was there, so I decided to point it out to him: “Hey Liam. What do you think about that fence in the background of the video? Do you think that fences like that existed during slavery?” He looked at me and responded: “I don’t think these fences existed during slavery, but I want to record my video here because the chain link fence to me could represent the chains of slavery.”
In that moment, I was amazed and silenced. Where I saw a broken, modernday fence, he saw something that he could use to symbolize slavery. I found the insight that he demonstrated in that moment to be remarkable. He had clearly given this some thought, as everything he had done up until this point was deliberate. In class, he moved through his writing slowly, not because he did not want to participate, but because he was so carefully crafting his narrative about Clay Bobbit, who was enslaved in North Carolina. He wanted to give himself the time to think between each sentence as to what the next logical thought should be. When it was time to record the video, he took five or so minutes to gather his thoughts before he improvised a very genuine monologue where he demonstrated both respecet and empathy for Clay Bobbit.
In addition to his deliberate decision making, Liam’s creativity also impressed me. While he would likely not describe himself as creative, his ability to link two seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts was impressive. It just goes to show that creativity is so much more than having the ability to draw or paint. Liam was able to take in the world around him, and use what he saw to create a greater message than one he could have expressed solely through writing or drawing. While he wished that he could have worn a different outfit in his video, he was very pleased with the outcome. After he recorded his monologue, he looked at me and said, “I did not expect this to happen, but I am really proud of myself.” It is moments like these that make LTP so special.