Students Discuss Interviewing Activists at Women’s Studies Brown Bag

On Tuesday, February 3, students who went on the Colgate winter break trip called “Education, Transmedia Activism and Social Justice” in Philadelphia talked about what they did on the trip and presented some of what they learned in a Women’s Studies Brown Bag titled “Oral Histories as Feminist Methodologies.” Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Mark Stern led the group on this trip and was also in attendance at the Brown Bag. Each of the students spoke about the trip and explained the process by which they were able to travel around the city of Philadelphia and interview people involved in the making of documentaries on issues of social justice.

The first students to talk about the trip were seniors Kristi Carey and Jamie Newsome and sophomore Sharon Nicol. These students discussed the idea of activism and the role that “community media” plays in Philadelphia, which was the focus of their trip. Newsome described “community media” as a kind of “democratizing media” that allows groups of people to get a particular message across about something that may be negatively affecting a community. This kind of media can take several different forms, including visual media or radio broadcasting. On this trip, these students focused on looking at “community media” in the form of documentaries produced by a company called Scribe Video Center.

Next to speak was Professor Stern. He provided background on the bombing of a group called MOVE in Philadelphia in 1985, when eleven people were murdered by a government-ordered bombing of the area. Stern talked about how the media at the time had vilified those who were bombed, rather than those who did the bombing. He went on to say that he did not think too much about this until he had seen a documentary on the bombing called “The Bombing of Osage Avenue” from the opposite viewpoint, created by Louis Massiah, the founder and Executive Director of Scribe. Scribe was the company that this group of students worked with to produce these interviews.

Stern went on to talk about the trip itself and the role that the students played in interviewing those involved in the documentaries. They traveled through Philadelphia and went to people’s mosques, houses and workspaces, conducting interviews that could later be archived. Stern appreciated what the students on the trip were able to complete.

“It was amazing work. I think everybody got a lot out of it,” Stern said.

Other students in the group presented information on some of the different organizations that they visited, providing the audience with brief clips from the “community media” documentaries of different groups and pieces ts of the interviews that the students had conducted themselves. Junior Madison Paulk discussed the interviews that the students conducted with a group of Islamic women in the organization called Lajna Ima’illah, who were in a documentary for the “Muslim Voices of Philadelphia” project.

“Their goal is to change the narrative of women in Islamic culture,” Paulk said.

Senior Ewa Protasiuk and sophomores Natalie Pudalov and Mallory Keller spoke about a group called Every Mother is a Working Mother, which created a documentary titled “DHS: Give Us Back Our Children.” The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took these children away from their mothers, who created this group because they felt that their children were taken from them unjustly and were working to protest for the right to get their children back.

Senior Sarah Wooton and sophomore Anna McHugh then presented their work interviewing members of the group Friends of Mt. Moriah, who were involved in the creation of a documentary called “Precious Places.” Wooton and McHugh talked about how this group wanted to restore a cemetery that was in the community, as it had fallen into neglect. The film was about honoring the cemetery and trying to “revitalize” the community, something the students found out more about through their interviews of people involved in making the documentary.

First-years Woohee Kim and Sophie He were the last to speak about the trip. They discussed the importance of getting experience as interviewers and the preparation that this involved. Sophomore Hannah O’Malley also attended the trip but was not at the Brown Bag.

The brown bag ended with a question and answer session. Some of the questions from the audience and responses from the students acknowledged such factors as privilege and the possible dangers of “taking” these stories from the people who were directly involved with these issues of social justice. The students were aware of this privilege, and many of them conveyed the same sentiment – that this project was about listening to other people’s perspectives about issues within their group or community.

Overall, the students involved in the experience all conveyed positive reactions when it came to describing their trip in Philadelphia and their work interviewing these different organizations.

“This whole process of going to a place as a group helped us develop as a community and bond together,” Kim said.