If These Halls Could Talk

11 Jun

Let me begin this post by saying that I haven’t seen the latest film by Lee Mun Wah, who is best known for his documentary The Color of Fear.

That said, I still want to share that If These Halls Could Talk is coming out soon. The documentary features “eleven college students discuss[ing] what it is like on campuses across the country today. The students shared the frustration and anguish of trying to be understood and acknowledged on campus where the faculty and students are predominantly white” (http://www.stirfryseminars.com/store/products/ith_f.php).

In an interview with his own staff, Lee reflected on what he had learned from the students:

What comes to mind is that so many of the things that they said, previously, I had no words for. When Jahmelia (African American) shared with Joe (White) in the film that he seemed to be angrier at the students of color for making him feel uncomfortable rather than about their condition, I was stunned by how that suddenly made so much sense to me. Because up to this day, I was always made to feel that I had done something wrong or inappropriate if I talked about or pointed out racism to whites.

Another key point was when Will (Black, Haitian, Dominican), pointed out to Leif (White) that Leif’s “not knowing” was really more about his ‘numbness’ and his loss of humanity.  I have seldom heard of that perspective before and it sent me into deep thought about how many times I had heard that from whites, “I don’t know how I feel” (http://www.stirfryseminars.com/pdfs/newsletter.pdf).

I can relate to learning from students how to name what I myself had previously “had no words for.” A couple of months ago, a student identified herself to me as “heteroflexible.”

I stopped, smiled and asked her what she meant. She explained that by “heteroflexible,” she meant that she has been and is currently heterosexual, but that she can’t say whom she’ll love in the future, and she’s open to whomever that might be. It made so much sense! And it seems so much better a way to most of us who simply can’t predict the future and don’t want to build walls just for the sake of having them.

Lee’s thoughts on his experience with these students has made me think (yes, without having seen the movie itself!) about the importance of creating spaces where youth can speak in their voices about what they have to say. Not just regurgitating or paraphrasing what they’ve heard from us. Open, diverse and innovative opportunities to talk about the world around them don’t just give youth forums to speak in. They give adults places to listen and continue learning.

If you’re interested in learning more about If These Halls Could Talk, the first link above includes a clip of the film.

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