Fighting Poverty with Passion
“New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don’t have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going.” – Bob Dylan
New Orleans overall has been a mixed bag for me. When I first started my term I was full of excitement, anticipation, and joy. The joy is still there. However, the excitement has turned into frustration and raw curiosity. Living in a city with such a high rate of poverty has forced me to reflect much more on social and economic inequities.
It’s a reality that you can’t hide here. There’s no pretending.
These inequities have helped me (despite my “progressive” outlook on life) to stay curious and check my assumptions. I carry these assumptions with me at times that I’m not even aware of. Whether it be someone asking me for a dollar (and the concurrent flood of insinuations that pop into my mind) or unpleasant service at a restaurant. It is something that I’m trying to work on. Less imagination, more understanding.
Lately this has led me in the right direction in terms of my “professional”/VISTA life. Recently I’ve been collaborating with College Track, a program of the Urban League of New Orleans on various projects. During the past month I gave three presentations to the organization on the benefits and pitfalls of social media. This was particularly awesome due to the fact that I was able to actually conduct outreach and teach about a subject that not particularly fun to talk about. Also, I TOTALLY underestimated the knowledge and abilities of students AND their parents/grandparents when it comes to social media. It’s amazing how that can often be the case. For the Fall 2011 semester, College Track and I are going to collaborate on a senior capstone project for the students. The details are still being worked out, but it will involve training the students on how to use social media to effectively generated resources and publicity.
Lastly, I’m also pumped for the workshops I have planned for the Fall. So far I have plans to offer two tracks of workshops. One focusing purely on the basics of Social Media and Networking as it relates to community partners. This is important in part because many community partners have basic needs and knowledge about social media. I’m hoping through this workshop series to equip them with best practices on how to effectively create a social media strategy.
The second track will focus on Community Journalism and Digital Storytelling. This workshop track will equip partners with the tools to tell their stories and promote themselves. I’m also hoping that the skills that our community partners gain in this track will make them better advocates for their clients and their mission.
– Y. Frank Southall, Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA. Please e-mail Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the Social Media Initiative, FREE social media consultations, workshops, and community presentations.