Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Judy Baca Arts Academy

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the first session of the Emancipation project at the Judy Baca Arts Academy.
The Academy, an elementary school, is four years old and situated in Watts, an area made internationally famous by the riots of '65 and '92 and for the Watts Towers, (which I'm hoping to visit next week)
The academy is named after Judy in order to provide students with a living role model, someone who is recognisably from the area and has achieved demonstrably important and socially conscious work throughout her career. From the brief time I spent at the school, this obviously works. The kids look up to her and she reciprocates their attention with love and warm humility.

A lot of the kids at this school have very tough lives, dealing with colossal traumas, from the deportation of parents to family members involved in gang violence and all the usual everyday problems associated with poverty. They are bright and funny kids. This programme, the school and it's teachers are utterly devoted to improving their life chances.

The project will create a mural for the school, which will feature portraits of all of the students and include content they have developed.
The project design is facilitated by Judy, her staff from SPARC and ten UCLA students who are working with small groups of children to create the work.

This people heavy production method works. I can confidently assert that everyone involved in yesterdays session benefitted from the experience.

I went for a drink in a bar on Abbot Kinney Boulevard after I got back from Watts. At the school I had been one of only a few white faces. In the bar, serving $8 drinks to self described motivational speakers earning $000's a speech with 25 year old nephews selling their internet start up's for millions, there were only white faces.
It didn't feel good.

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