November 17, 2015
(Photo credits: Caitlin Wolf/Center for Inspired Teaching)
“How do we break the cycle of going to jail?”
“Do you think black celebrities represent black people and the communities?”
“Do you think integration helped or hurt the black cause and racism as a whole?”
On November 12th, Real World History students engaged with powerful questions like this by watching the transmedia art piece Question Bridge: Black Males and then speaking to the project’s creator, Chris Johnson, at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.
The intention of Question Bridge is to “facilitate a dialogue between a critical mass of black men from diverse and contending backgrounds and create a platform for them to represent and redefine black male identity in America.” Inspired Teaching’s Cosby Hunt, the instructor of Real World History, was the driving force behind bringing Question Bridge to DC. As a result, the Phillips Collection asked him to engage in a public conversation about the project with Mr. Johnson.
After viewing the exhibit, Real World History students met with Sarah Coleman, an artist and community activist. Building on the themes discussed in Question Bridge, Ms. Coleman led a session for students about personal expression through body sculptures. Students formed new ways of expressing their thoughts through movement and also generated ideas for potential National History Day projects involving performance.
Later, students and other audience members observed the conversation between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hunt and asked Mr. Johnson questions about the intentions and methodology behind the piece.
For students, the evening was an opportunity to debate and add to the national conversation about race in the contemporary United States and also to observe the skills needed to conduct a successful interview; both will help students as they create oral histories with senior Washingtonians about their experiences in the Great Migration.