JWA Institute for Educators - Day 3

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The highlight of today's program was a session on recording oral histories, culminating in a live oral history interview of Freedom Rider Judy Frieze Wright. This was a new experience for me, because I've never (to my knowledge) been in the same room as someone who actively participated in the Civil Rights movement by going south.

I particularly enjoyed the part where Ms. Frieze Wright talked about the impact of her Freedom Ride. Riding the bus, and during her monthlong stay in jail, she had no sense of the importance of her actions. It was only later, she said, once integration began to take hold, that she realized the significance of what they'd done. She recognized how oppression had changed since the time of her childhood, and she knew that real progress was being made.

The tone of today's interview was markedly different from that of Holocaust-survivor interviews, which are the only oral histories that I've seen conducted live. (I used a number of early-1900s Portland-area oral histories for my senior thesis, but they had been done many years earlier.) I suppose the difference between the Holocaust and the Civil Rights movement is that the latter succeeded, so participants can allow themselves to see the value (the meaning?) in the pain, struggle and danger that they endured. I'm not entirely satisfied with this explanation of the difference, but it feels necessary in my mind to distinguish between the two common "categories" of survivors of recent Jewish history.

Also today (though unrelated): I had a great discussion with three other educators about experiential service learning, and how to adapt the Living the Legacy curriculum to such situations. We talked about the point of service learning, and how to facilitate real sustainable change (instead of simple one-time community service). We also brainstormed ways to interface with community organizations in need, to work productively and constructively, and avoid coming off as patronizing. Allison (an educator from the south) put together an amazing series of four lessons to prep the service learning experience, and I can't wait to try it this year.

Personal note: Night out in Boston today. Blueberry beer (served with real blueberries in it) next to Fenway Park, and canolis in the North End. I still don't want to live here, but if I did, the North End would SO be my neighborhood.

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