Community Visions 2005

Community Visions Project of 2005

Aztec Dance in Philadelphia by Ollin Yoliztli Calmecac

Meaning “School of Blood Moving in the Heart” in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, Ollin Yoliztli Calmecac is a dance and cultural troupe based in the heart of South Philadelphia. A visually captivating portrait of the group told through their own voices, Aztec Dance in Philadelphia raises questions about indigenous history and the retention of cultural heritage in the context of modern immigration. “We consider it a school because we are learning about the culture we have lost,” says one of the group’s members. The dancers of Ollin Yoliztli Calmecac bring their audiences a pre-Columbian heritage with roots in central Mexico. Kept alive by modern keepers of the culture like those in this trilingual Spanish/English/Nahuatl documentary, Aztec dance has followed the paths of contemporary Mexican immigrants into the United States. That migration has brought Aztec culture here, to Philadelphia. Aztec Dance in Philadelphia is an engaging resource for educators teaching modern immigration and a colorful testament to the resilience of indigenous cultures. (15:39)

How Can We Make a Change? by Mothers in Charge and The Arts and Spirituality Center

Mothers in Charge is a determined group of women who are taking a stand against neighborhood violence. They are the family members of loved ones—mostly sons, fathers, or brothers—who became unwitting victims of Philadelphia’s deadly patterns of violent crime. The group was founded in 2003 by Dorothy Johnson-Speight after the murder of her 24 year old son. Grieving but courageous, members of Mothers in Charge conduct violence prevention, grief counseling, community outreach and education projects in an effort to support neighborhood safety and non-violent conflict resolution. They ask each other: “What have you done to save a life today?” The group’s youth initiative, Teens With Power, was founded by one mother’s daughter as an outreach program to reach potentially troubled youth. The two groups have partnered with The Arts and Spirituality Center, an organization that “utilizes the arts to heal the wounds of injustice.” Together they have produced dramatic performances that provide an outlet for grief and a powerful expression of community solidarity. How Can We Make a Change? is a portrait of everyday courage in the face of fear, and a testament to what a community can accomplish when they take collective action. (14:11)

Love of Nationality and Citizenship by Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc. 

Taking video cameras to the street, members of Philadelphia’s branch of the Moorish Science Temple of America ask interviewees of various ethnic backgrounds a provocative question: can the term “African American” accurately describe one's nationality? Members of the Temple say it is not a matter to be taken lightly. "Nationality is important because it lets us know what our contributions were as a people," says one member. "If you don't know your nationality, you don't know where you came from." Founded in Newark, New Jersey in 1913, the Moorish Science Temple of America believes that African Americans are descendants of the Moors of Middle Ages North Africa, and thus originally Muslims. The Temple's objective is to "help in the great program of uplifting fallen humanity and teach those things to make our members better citizens." Members honor their chosen heritage by identifying their nationality as Moorish American, just as one interviewee characterizes herself as a "Russian seed planted in American soil. I'd rather be Russian-American than just American." With its lively street interviews and statements from Temple members, Love of Nationality and Citizenship prods us to reexamine our perceptions of the links between ancestry, nationality and citizenship. (12:36)

Who is Paulo Freire? by The Freire Charter School

Named for the Brazilian educational philosopher, Freire Charter School is an innovative, college-preparatory high school in Center City Philadelphia. The school is known for academic excellence and its distinctly Freirian emphasis on individual freedom, critical thinking, and experiential learning. Programs such as the PEACE Project provide students with individualized, self-designed curriculums. But in Freire Charter’s seventh year, some PEACE students realized that few at Freire knew much about the school’s namesake. Who is Paulo Freire? is the result of a collaboration between 7 students and 2 adults who set out to understand Freire, a radical educator and a Marxist who wrote the influential book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and figure out how his contributions to education philosophy and social justice apply to their own lives. Field trips and Freire’s writings guide students on a journey into the social dimensions of their own education. With their characteristic analysis of oppression and focus on student-teacher dynamics, Freire’s ideas are challenging for students and teachers alike. “It really is frightening for an educator to really truly implement a Freirian method in the classroom,” says Brian Lundberg, a Freirian scholar working with the school, “because it upsets the balance of power.” (19:12)