Thursday, April 24, 2008

Final Project Update - Change of Concept

After my visit to the L.A.N.D. offices on Monday, April 14th, I decided (specifically influenced by advice from Toni) that my previous final project (commemorating the Peace Walk of 1994) may have not been the best choice, for several reasons.

From a practical standpoint, it would be tremendously difficult to locate residents who were around at that time and remember the walk and its effects, so most of my content would be from the media's point of view. I would prefer to focus on a more grassroots issue.

Secondly, Toni advised that my project should focus on a more positive issue. The peace walk was motivated by recent acts of drugs and violence.

So, after searching through L.A.N.D.'s document binders for hours, I found something of particular interest to me. Beginning in 2002, L.A.N.D. had a child organization named P.A.L., Parents against Lead. Lead poisoning is and was a very important issue affecting Milwaukee and there was even a large lawsuit filed by the City of Milwaukee against several major paint producers that eventually even L.A.N.D. itself was drawn into.

Katina Coleman, a former employee of LAND was a community liaison for this particular issue. She went door to door, sent out letters, and organized groups to promote awareness of the issue. She encouraged families to get their young children tested for lead, and in cases where high levels were detected, she visited the houses and tested problem areas (windows, stairways) for lead levels.

There is a wealth of information about this topic. I am hoping to get three brief video statements - one from Katina Coleman, one from the City about the Lead Abatement program, and ideally one from some of the residents whose children were affected by lead poisoning.

Regardless, I can't wait to get some footage together!

Final Video Project Proposal (First Draft)

I decided to take on this project by myself. It’s just my personality, it can’t be helped! I love doing things by myself. Since I have a strong background in video editing, the hardest part of this project will be building up the courage to approach people and discuss the things that I hope to discuss.

Most of my inspiration for this project comes from the packet of newspaper articles that Professor Greene distributed on the first day of class. One article particularly interested me – that of the community march past several important community sites, including drugs houses that were later shut down and a murder scene.

I would like to interview some of the staff at LAND and find the locations of some of the sites that were visited on the peace march and visit some of the sites with my video camera, and show the improvements that LAND has made in the community. I would also like to stop at other places where LAND has influenced had on the community such as the St. Thomas Aquinas Church, the Lisbon Ave. Health Center, and of course HomeSource. I would ideally like to interview some community members that have been affected by LAND and document them on video. I have so many ideas to pack into a short video, so I believe some trimming down of content may be necessary.

But overall, I would like to focus on a fairly straightforward history of the impacts LAND has made on the community, rather than focus on one event in particular.

Snapshots of the Views, Residents, and Businesses of Lisbon (Photo Essay Artist Statement)

I visited the L.A.N.D. service area on March 22nd, with nothing but a camera and notebook in hand. I had a goal: to engage in conversation with a few community members and use the information they gave me to create a photo essay. I didn’t quite know where to look or how to start such a conversation.

I visualized Washington Park in my head as a place bustling with activity. Unfortunately, due to sixteen inches of snow on the previous day, this dream was not realized. There wasn’t a soul in sight. I saw a peculiar building in the center of Washington Park which turned out to be the Urban Ecology Center. There were a large number of cars in the parking lot, so I decided to have a look to see what was going on. As I walked in, an older African American man clad in a fancy suit asked me how he could help me. A quick glance around revealed that everyone was dressed well, and I can only imagine how much a white 20-something with a notebook and camera would have stood out in the crowd. Embarrassed, I quickly detailed the nature of my Photo Essay. He explained that they were throwing a retirement party for his mother. Although the encounter would have been impossible to document on film, the experience of such a gathering gave me vital clues to understanding the nature of this community.

Next, I walked to 42nd and Garfield, a pleasant residential neighborhood with decent-sized houses. I was most fortunate to encounter Wilmore, a resident who was attempting to remove some of the snow that had fallen the previous day. As we passed, he looked up and said hello. I took advantage of the opening and explained my intents. Wilmore was very proud of his neighborhood. He said that the block he lived on was mostly working class, and it certainly showed. I asked him if he had seen any changes in the past or if he saw anything big coming on the horizon for the community. At this point, Wilmore mentioned that he had only lived here for a little over a year – but luck had it that one of his neighbors, Ms. Aniakudo, had just pulled up to her house. He informed us that she had lived on this block longer than anyone he knew. Ms. Aniakudo was delighted at my interest and invited me inside her home to talk. I asked her primarily about the businesses of the area. She said the number one issue that most residents have with the businesses on Lisbon is surprisingly parking. She commented that the area she lives in is slightly more upscale than some of the surrounding areas.

I felt that this experience brought me closer to the reality of the Lisbon community. I was surprised by the amount of beautiful things that I saw that I felt drawn to take a picture of. My encounters with the residents were completely positive, albeit embarrassing. This experience also planted a desire in me to improve my ability to engage in conversation with people who have so much to share.

Photo Essay

Several weeks ago I ventured into the L.A.N.D service area and created a photo essay documenting my experience. I am please to have the opportunity to share it with you today.

My journey began near Washington Park.

The Urban Ecology Center, located in the center of the park.

A view of the neighborhood from the park.

A walk in the residential area near the park (42nd and Garfield)

Ms. Aniakudo, my Garfield Ave. Guru

Ms. Aniakudo says parking is a huge problem for business in the area.

New buildings arise where old ones once stood

A community gathering place

One last view of the park