People find the fact that I’m working on a grant-funded documentary related to exploring the climate of public education in Kansas City, Missouri, fascinating. Often, the next question asked is related to what my “position” is on education. I usually resort to explaining that the documentary is based upon others’ experience of education in Kansas City, Missouri (and beyond) and the goal is to “neutrally” create a dialogue, share those experiences amongst players in education, and see the anticipated outcome when equity is given to others’ experiences. The following conversation usually ensues:
“Who are you interviewing in the documentary?”
“The documentary captures various players in education: students, parents, educators, activists and elected political staff.”
“What about principals and the [Kansas City, Missouri] school district?”
“Well, I’ve reached out to them as well. Public school principals have been very excited to find ways to contribute to the project. Unfortunately, these principals require sign-off at the district level. Despite numerous attempts of getting “the okay”, this never happens. The Kansas City Missouri Public School District is missing from the conversation.”
This is a frequent conversation. In fact, just yesterday while visiting with a new friend –a Kansas City native, wishing to share her experience engaging with education in New York – a similar conversation occurred. She asked about the documentary and later recounted that she could “see why ‘They’ [the Kansas City Missouri School District] don’t want to be on camera talking about education in a documentary. -IT’S RISKY,” she said.
“Risky”?! Wow. Okay.
Sometimes I’m idealistic, but I try to keep it grounded in reality. I imagine that all of the people (ahem, “the players”) who affect and are affected by education depend upon each other and therefore have a relationship. While my presentation of the project is neutral, I’m surely not neutral to what healthy relationships look like. From my work on the documentary project thus far, it seems that there is some relationship dysfunction (trust issues, requests without accountability, feelings of being devalued, and more). In sources that I looked at related to the qualities needed to have healthy relationships amongst those mentioned (such as “love” – defined as a commitment to treat someone right or favorably; as well as others such as, having a serving heart; friendliness; patience; and loyalty) COMMUNICATION is ALWAYS included. The truth is, you have to have real conversations about things that matter most or you can’t really incorporate the other aforementioned qualities and subsequently have a good and healthy relationship.
Sadly, there seems to be a purposeful bureaucratic tendency to avoid the “riskiness” of communicating with people (er , the broader community players in education) that beg for, request, and (in some cases) demand communication as a tool to (re)build trust in a failing or “rebounding” district (depending on who you talk to), be heard, and establish accountability. No wonder Kansas City, Missouri public schools have issues.
Parent/Teacher Conference received a grant that is funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (again, thanks to the Charlotte Street Foundation and the University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art). I would venture to say that the “art” in the case of the Parent/Teacher Conference documentary project is really one of the players in Kansas City Missouri’s public school system embracing risk for the sake of the “art of relationship building”, using the “art of communication” to address the longstanding, deeply-rooted issues that have/are negatively impacting Kansas City, Missouri public education. It would be a visual masterpiece if all the pieces (“players”) found themselves at the same table, communicating… building a healthy relationship. However, that may be too “risky” –or idealistic, depending on who you talk to. – Lyn E. Cook
So far we have:
*Settled on the treatment for the project
*Begun interviewing people for the documentary component of the project
*Filmed a small group of the Generation Rap students related to the documentary for the student segments
*Begun the transcription process for the interviews that we do have
*Settled on a date and location for the 3 public forums related the “players” in education being able to meet.
We have 2-3 national figures that will allow us to interview them in the documentary and we will film them as their schedule permits. Mama Charlotte Hill O’Neal an international figure from the original Black Panther party who focused on community building, education, and economic and physical health in the 70s. She will have to be filmed when she returns to Kansas City; Dr. Umar Johnson, a Black Psychologist and National Certified School Psychologist, based in Philadelphia will be filmed in January.
Kihei and Lyn were on the radio to discuss the project earlier this fall on (Generation Rap, 103.3 FM, a high-school student produced show that allows students to discuss issues important to them every Saturday from 8-9am).
Many are excited about the project, and we are looking forward to beginning the filming of the music video.
All forums will take place at the Mary L. Kelly Center 2803 E 51st, Kansas City, MO 64130
Forum #1 will be in the form of 2 workshops on January 10, 12-3 PM
Forum #2 will be January 17th 12:00-2:15 PM
Please see the Rocketblog calendar and further posts for details.
Recording of the music video will take place in the Spring. We still need a school that will invite us to film in their building!