Refugees, Sesame Street, and Friday Music

Courtesy of NPR, an excellent article on the newest visitors to refugee children: the Sesame Street Muppets.

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image via NPR

We are fascinated by the research process that Sesame Workshop is up to here.

In partnership with the International Rescue Committee, Sesame producers and early-childhood experts are soliciting guidance and feedback from relief organizations, trauma experts, academics and others who have worked with refugees. They’ll also be making research visits to refugee camps in Jordan.

According to the IRC, of the 65 million people displaced from their homes worldwide, more than half are children.

As American readers, steeped in multiculturalism (not to mention as Bay Area readers, used to a high level of diversity), what stood out the most to us, though, was what children might not be taught.

Cairo Arafat, who oversees production of the Arabic language Sesame Street from Abu Dhabi, urged her colleagues not to make assumptions that refugees will share their values such as inclusivity.

“In many of these populations,” she said, “children are still taught, ‘No. Be wary of the people who don’t talk like you, don’t look like you or come from a different sect.’ ” With the special conditions facing refugees — including security issues — Arafat advised careful thinking about what they would like to teach.

Continue reading “Refugees, Sesame Street, and Friday Music”

Friday Music: Precious Friends

I listen to a lot of kids’ music these days. So here’s one of my favorites, in two versions. First, the cover, from the wonderful Canadian trio, Sharon, Lois, and Bram. And below the lyrics.

Just when I thought
All was lost, you changed my mind.
You gave me hope, (not just the old soft soap)
You showed that we could learn to share in time.
(You and me and Rockefeller)
I’ll keep pluggin’ on,
Your face will shine through all our tears.
And when we sing another little victory song,
Precious friend, you will be there,
Singing in harmony,
Precious friend, you will be there.

But if you know this song, you know its origins: the great Pete Seeger. This is the version I found myself listening to late at night, just after the election last year, for a bit of consolation. Easy to sing along, hopeful without being saccharine, and a lot of fun to dance to. Enjoy!

Blog note: Maybe the only silver lining to Eva heading out into the great wide open for a few weeks, at least from my perspective (because hey, she’s on vacation!), is that I get to take over Friday Music posts for a little while. So get ready for some toddler-friendly music with an emphasis on banjo. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Storytelling

We’ve been musing about the direction Small Stones should take and one avenue we’re pursuing and deepening is storytelling. By that, we mean first-person narratives with a focus on the topics and themes we’ve been blogging about: discrimination, bias, racism, prejudice, and also the tools available to confront these.

Frequent readers will remember some of our oral history posts, including Oral History: An Introduction and Oral History: A Community College Assignment.

As we start developing interviews, we’ll share some resources pertaining to the storytelling process.

Today’s are from The Moth, a storytelling program that’s one of our favorite podcasts. First, three values The Moth promotes, which we offer in the spirit of “food for thought”.

  • We believe that processing experience through narrative can provide insight and agency
  • We believe that listening to stories can widen our perspective and help us realize what we have in common.
  • We believe that a community is strengthened when its members share stories with one another.

And next, some concrete tips for storytelling from The Moth. Keep in mind that The Moth is interested in oral story telling with a particular format, so some of the tips are specific to the genre.

“What to do

“Have some stakes: Stakes are essential in live storytelling. What do you stand to gain or lose? Why is what happens in the story important to you? If you can’t answer this, then think of a different story. A story without stakes is an essay and is best experienced on the page, not the stage.
Start in the action.

“Have a great first line that sets up the stakes and grabs attention: No: “So I was thinking about climbing this mountain. But then I watched a little TV and made a snack and took a nap and my mom called and vented about her psoriasis then I did a little laundry (a whites load) (I lost another sock, darn it!) and then I thought about it again and decided I’d climb the mountain the next morning.” Yes: “The mountain loomed before me. I had my hunting knife, some trail mix and snow boots. I had to make it to the little cabin and start a fire before sundown or freeze to death for sure.”

“Know your story well enough so you can have fun!: Watching you panic to think of the next memorized line is harrowing for the audience. Make an outline, memorize your bullet points and play with the details. Enjoy yourself. Imagine you are at a dinner party, not a deposition.”

“…and what not to do

“Steer clear of meandering endings: They kill a story! Your last line should be clear in your head before you start. Yes, bring the audience along with you as you contemplate what transpires in your story, but remember, you are driving the story, and must know the final destination. Keep your hands on the wheel!

“No standup routines please: The Moth loves funny people but requires that all funny people tell funny stories.

“No rants: Take up this anger issue with your therapist, or skip therapy and shape your anger into a story with some sort of resolution. (Stories = therapy!)

“No essays: Your eloquent musings are beautiful and look pretty on the page but unless you can make them gripping and set up stakes, they won’t work on stage.

“About that (fake) accent: If your story doesn’t work in your own voice, or that of your people of origin, please consider another story. In our experience, imitating accents from another culture or race rarely works and often offends.”

By way of a bonus, here’s a recent broadcast from The Moth: Pam Burrell’s “My Unlikely Brothers“. Click the story name to re-direct to the story, which doesn’t have embed capability.

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(P. Burrell image by Jessica Taves courtesy of The Moth; featured moth image from“[Planches enluminées d’histoire naturelle” (1765) via Flickr.)

Friday Music: Matisyahu’s Reservoir

In honor of Passover, a song with allusions to the Exodus by Matisyahu, the American musician. Emphasis is on his voice and the lyrics.

You can read a review of the Akeda album, from which Reservoir is taken, here. (Akeda is Hebrew and refers to the binding of Isaac).

“Reservoir” (lyrics courtesy of A-Z Lyrics)

I just wanna talk to You now
This is for the One
You kept me alive
And so I thank You

Moses is on his way down town Continue reading “Friday Music: Matisyahu’s Reservoir”