This year’s Media Arts for Social Justice (MASJ) screening was an inspiring display of Pitzer College students’ eagerness to apply theory learned in the classroom to practice in the surrounding community. Under the instruction of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media Studies Gina Lamb and Visiting Lecturer of Media Studies Victoria Mudd, seventeen students collaborated with various organizations in the Los Angeles and San Bernardino areas.
In December, we invited the site directors and participants of our community-based projects to a screening we held of our final products. Students were involved in an array of impressive projects, ranging from a documentary video in response to a controversy at a private school in Pasadena that erupted over the school’s push for diversity education to create support for students who come from gay families, to an empowerment project with the organization Girls and Gangs, where a young woman, transitioning out of juvenile detention, was able to document her life and family to create an autobiographical video with the guidance of Pitzer students. Additionally, students collaborated with organizations such as Reach L.A., which works with urban youth to mobilize health education and fight HIV/AIDS through the media arts; youth detention facilities Camps Afflerbaigh and Paige; L.A. Freewaves, a nonprofit that promotes experimental video art from around the world; and Lideres Campesinas, an organization by and for farmworker women.
For my community-based project, I taught photo and video classes with Kate Goodwillie and Elliot Scher to young women involved in the Spanish Trails Girl Scouts in Pomona. We met at their community center on a weekly basis. During the MASJ screening, Kate and Elliot presented the video we worked on—a portrait of the girls’ learning processes. The video utilized images the girls had taken with the Polaroid and disposable cameras, their oral accounts of what inspired them to take the photos and other footage the girls had taken.
On an alternate day at the site, I began an intercultural Web exchange program between the Pomona girls and other teenage girls that I had met during my Pitzer in Ecuador program. While in Ecuador in Spring 2006, I got to know teenage girls that lived in a home for girls. I shot testimonies of five girls while in Ecuador with the intention of creating an international video pen-pal project. When I approached Gina Lamb with the possibility of continuing the project, she encouraged me to work with the Girl Scouts and to create an online Web exchange.
The Web exchange proved to be a revealing experience for the girls and myself. Whereas some of the girls were initially nervous about their Spanish-speaking skills, they were able to pull through once they were placed in the situation of being forced to communicate with the Ecuadorian students in Spanish. Many of the girls in Pomona were either shy or relied on being the class clown or acting out as self-defense mechanisms. By the end of the semester, many had opened up to me and felt more confident being themselves in front of the camera. The girls on both sides of the project were ecstatic to share their culture, personalities and experiences. I am pleased that this semester, the International Programs Office has given a digital camera to the Pitzer in Ecuador program. I also recruited a Pitzer student to head up the project on the Ecuador side so that communication will be more consistent as we continue the project during Spring 2007.
As a graduating senior who is preparing to go into community-based documentary work on both international and local levels, I feel strongly equipped to carry out my goals with the tools that the faculty and staff at Pitzer College have provided me with. The emphasis on service-learning and community involvement has inspired me in many ways and has assisted me in honing my organizational and networking skills. Additionally, this element of service-learning in the curriculum has influenced me and other students to continue collaborating with various nonprofits because of the great sense of satisfaction, empowerment and fulfillment it brings.
—Kimberly Bautista ’07