“I Understand Everything”
Photography and writing by the students at Edward Smith K-8 School.
Understanding has been written about by philosophers, psychologists, religious leaders, politicians, children and many more. It is a word that carries concepts that are at the core of being human. You can use the word understanding as a noun, verb, or adjective and it still applies to a person’s ability to act humanly. One can understand by comprehension, one can understand by creating a harmonious relationship, one can understand by coming to an agreement of opinion or feeling: the adjustment of difference or one can understand by an explanation or interpretation. Understanding, to me, is at the center of what makes a group of people a community.
As I read Tiran’s poem I was struck with the idea of understanding. Tiran is autistic and non-verbal. He is often upset causing him to cry loudly and make loud sounds. I have just given you a simple understanding of Tiran, an understanding of him without his “voice.” Now hear his voice through his poem. He wonders, dreams, wants to dance, pretends to talk, and worries about his brother. He understands everything. Through “listening” to Tiran we come to a real understanding of him; one that takes effort and time but most of all the ability to listen.
In our current times with a failing public education system, killing of children like Trevon Martin, and wars all over the globe it is imperative that people take the time and effort it takes to listen to one another; to understand one another. This is a situation where people need to start at the grass roots. Start with our kids; these kids tonight. Listen to their words. Do what you can to understand them. It is through our actions as parents, teachers, and guardians that these kids will learn to listen and understand others. With understanding there is hope to change some of the daunting issues of our times.
Mary Lynn Mahan, Edward Smith School Art Teacher
PAL Project Collaborations with Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection
I Am …
Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet, writes, in his prose poem “The Blue House,” “All sketches want to become real.” A major part of our working with the community with our class (TRM 310/610 – Literacy, Community, and Media / ENG 650) is to offer up this possibility.
We encourage young populations to create diverse statements about themselves and the world they engage in through photography and creative writing. We try to indicate methods and means by which their imaginations can confer with reality, a conversation if you will. For some young people this is their first experience in letting their sense for visual art collaborate with their sense for the written word. We trust that through events like this exhibition, and with the completion of a book of their work, we will encourage young students to continue to acquaint themselves with creative possibilities in photography, writing, or other art forms.
It is okay to have “the blue-ooze” (poet Jayne Cortez). It is okay to have “low to high tone endings disappearing into / a charcoal forest” (Jayne Cortez). We show the students photography and writing which has “a very fine pulse” (again, Cortez). We try to indicate the pulse of the student work with our suggestions and choices. The real and the imagined can be found in something as simple as “I see the windows, and trees, and tomorrow” (Sapphire). Or the real and imagined can be as sweetly intricate as poet Terrance Hayes writes in “Wind in a Box” – “I want to be the mirror, / but not the nightstand. I do not want to be the light switch.”
This exhibition, and others like it, are celebrations of young student work in our Syracuse community. We hope you feel the lively pulse of their endeavors.
A special thanks to: Syracuse University, Chancellor, Nancy Cantor, Coalition of Museum and Art Centers, Near West Side Initiative, The College of Visual and Performing Arts, SUArt Gallery, Warehouse Gallery, Syracuse City School District, The Partnership for Better Education, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, Wayne O’Conner, Mike Olsen, Hillside Advocates, the graduate and undergraduate students from Syracuse University who took this course this semester and worked with enthusiasm and care with the young creators. Mostly, thanks to the kids for allowing us into your world.
Michael Burkard and Stephen Mahan
Why do you stare Just because I cover my hair Why do you glower Just because of my attire Why do you seem to think That I don’t care That I have no feelings No sense of compassion No sense of fashion No sense of what’s right And for whom I fight So just listen to me Truly… I’m free I’m part of mortality Not an alien freak And this hostility Is hurting me Deep inside, I’m burning Yearning to break free Of this stupidity
Why can’t you listen? Why can’t you open your eyes? See my tears See me cry See me and open your heart I’m not a strange being I’m not an invading force I’m just a human girl And you have no right To mess with my affairs To make rules and laws That goes against my way of life Against my sense of what’s true No matter what you think I’m not in need of a rescue I’m happy with what I choose I don’t need liberating And I’m not giving up I don’t need your blessing To follow my heart To live my life
But just listen I’m only asking you to listen See me for who I am See me for what I am Please… I’m asking you Just for a second Open your hearts See the truth See me for who I am See me for what I am Look past the screen Look past the barrier you see And look at my personality I’m not a murderer I’m not a beggar I’m not a failure I’m just a human being And I just want you to see Me for who I am
Underneath my scarf Underneath my hijab I’m just an ordinary girl With hopes and dreams And I want to be free Of you discriminating me Because I’ve done nothing wrong And you shouldn’t convict me For breaking a law That doesn’t exist Leave me in peace Stop trying to “assist” Because it’s not helping It’s just breaking Our souls By locking us up In a jail of hate and scorn And of adversity As if we have some fatal disease And it hurts
So please Listen to me When I say We are already free We have no desire No want to shed our attire We just want to be let free Of this cage of misery Of hate This boundary That you have helped create Pay attention to me Because instead of liberating me You have thrown me to the lions And I’m tired of being torn at I’m tired of being an outcast I just want to be me And I want you to see That you haven’t helped me to be free Instead you’ve taken that away Face it… you’ve imprisoned me And I hope you’re happy Because I’ve lost my liberty Why couldn’t you see? That I was already free…
Together We Made It
Public Reception: Thursday, May 17, 5-7pm