“The project helps people find a place of home in themselves and you learn from it and then you get to share it with the world.”
-Bianke, 11th grade participant
“You can never take what I fought for as a child in the refugee camp, the love of my life, the opportunity to learn. “
-Ar, 12th grade participant
“Try to take away my pride, take away my hopes leaping high. But you will hear this beautiful black girl’s voice because I matter.”
-Camille, 10th grade participant
What did a teenager escaping the juggles of Burma have in common with a teenager fleeing Iraq in fear of political reprisals? What do teenagers leaving Mexico and Haiti both for family economic survival have in common with African American teenagers who are stopped by police on the block where they live and questioned about stealing groceries they just bought for their Mom?
All were students in Albany High School’s after school Social Justice Theatre program. In 2016 the students wrote, developed and performed a play entitled Which Way Home that told their person and family journeys to find a place of home, a place of peace in Albany, New York.
Arts, Letters and Numbers was invited to collaborate with the Theatre Program to witness the students in the telling of their stories and to design a single stage set that would be used for this production along with seven other student-written and performed plays as part of an annual festival. After the festival, ALN hosted the Albany students at the Mill and with Youth FX, a local non-profit film arts program, they filmed and produced a dramatization of students’ stories.
The Social Justice Theatre Director, Noelle Gentile, explained, “The purpose of the piece is to highlight the transformative power of listening to one another, hearing each other’s stories and discovering the bonds that unify us. The piece aims to empower all those involved and those who witness it as audience members.”
Other collaborators in this project included the National Coalition Building Institute who facilitated coalition building and story telling activities with the students that formed the basis for the script for Which Way Home.
These films will then go on to be a teaching tools in classrooms with students grappling with similar issues.