Taking art everywhere

Back in fall 2013, when the idea for I Am My White Ancestors first came to me, I envisioned the project appealing to all kinds of groups: high school English classes, genealogy clubs, college religious history courses, diversity and inclusion trainings, psychology courses, and so on. In particular I wanted to bring it to groups and communities that might not voluntarily examine their beliefs about oppression or white identity.

So I was pleased to meet Sara Anderson, librarian and genealogy teacher at Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA. last January at the reception of the project at Northfield Mount Hermon. She was on fire and wanted me to address her class via remote technology.
So last week I sat at my computer in Portland, OR with my face projected into a remote technology classroom all the way across the continent in Massachusetts. I could see the students and teachers sitting on chairs and desks and talk directly to them. It was almost like standing in the front of the room giving a presentation. I know this is nothing new but it was my first time. I was struck by the possibilities. How many other ways could I think of to share the project?
Sara teaches a two-week intensive genealogy class at Lawrence Academy each year with history teacher Natasha Huggins. During the course, students are exposed to all sorts of technology and methods for finding their ancestors. So I proposed to Sara and Natasha a presentation where students could think about the emotional and historical aspects of their family using my project as an example.
In order to bridge the distance and keep them engaged I divided the talk into three sections interspersed with a simple listening process. For the listening process I asked them to pair up and take two minutes each to answer specific questions that related to the short talk I had just given. This allowed them follow their thinking without being interrupted or criticized. For example, after the section on whiteness and what I learned as a white person the students answered this question: What are some values or beliefs you learned from your family? After the section on specific oppressions my ancestors acted out the question was: What systems of oppression were your ancestors affected by or acted out on others? How does that affect you now?
I appreciate Sara and Natasha for being able to see how the project related their class. I also thank the students for being so brave and honest. I began the class with the hardest question, say your name and one thing you like about yourself. About halfway though the class, Natasha's 8 year old daughter Zinnia piped up. She wanted to tell us what she liked about herself just like the high school students did. Her answer? "I like that I am creative." Natasha said she had never heard Zinnia say this before.