Mi Voz, Nuestra Historia (My Voice, Our Story): Cultivating Social and Educational Inclusion in Colombia
Mi voz, nuestra historia es un proyecto audiovisual que promueve inclusión y conciencia en la educación popular colombiana || Mi Voz, Nuestra Historia (My Voice, Our Story) is an audiovisual storytelling and teacher training project that promotes inclusion and awareness in Colombian popular education.
The official “Mi Voz, Nuestra Historia” documentary can be viewed and shared here. It premiered on October 20th, 2017 at the UNICULTURAL event in Bogotá.
What does it mean to feel heard? Can you recall an experience where you felt truly listened to?
Envision that moment: Who were you with? Was it a small, seemingly unimportant moment, or one you knew could change your path? How did this person validate your story and elevate your voice?
Sharing the Mi Voz, Nuestra Historia project’s message of inclusion and popular education with students, colleagues, and friends over the last few months has been the impetus of an ongoing conversation and collective knowledge sharing, providing a framework to ask big questions about the role of the teacher as listener.
After filming the documentary in September, director Leonardo Rua and I communicated daily to ensure the film would be ready for the October premiere at ÚNICA. We enlisted the help of Pacific Coast native DJ Charly, who wrote original music for the film that included the traditional Pacific sounds of the marimba with a modern hip-hop beat.
I arrived in Colombia for the second phase and UNICULTURAL Mi Voz, Nuestra Historia workshop the week of October 16th. That week, I met every day with Carolina Abello, UNICA’s Director of Student Life, as well as Charlie Buenaño and Laura Vacca, the two UNICA students who facilitated the workshop. My goal was to stay true to the goal of the project by making the workshop as student-driven as possible. During these planning sessions, we developed Laura’s presentation on an Introduction to Digital Storytelling as a Methodology for Inclusion and drafted questions for the panel on popular education that Charlie would moderate with the film participants. We made sure the corresponding technology was in place to air the ÚNICA student video interviews, presentations, and the official Mi Voz, Nuestra Historia world premiere. I also attended a meeting at the Fulbright Colombia offices for an interview about the project and met virtually with Leonardo to finalize the film for its debut.
Julieth, Angela, and Neris reunited in Bogotá on October 19th for the first time since their days in the Escuela Ciudadana, bubbling with nervous excitement for the following day’s event. At dinner, we reviewed the structure and agenda for the day, and Neris, a storyteller through and through, regaled us with the stories from his life and his rural informal education that he planned to share on the panel. To kick off UNICULTURAL the next morning, ÚNICA Director María Lucía Casas welcomed our guests and spoke about the invaluable knowledge and understanding gained from listening to someone’s story, emphasizing that it is the most truthful way to forge lasting human connection. By the end of the day, María Lucía even fondly beginning to refer to Neris as “profe” (teacher) and joked that they were going to hire him in Bogotá as the newest ÚNICA staff member. Students and future educators, Laura and Charlie, facilitated the workshop and panel as we premiered the digital storytelling project. There was listening on both sides as students processed how this framework could impact the climate of their classrooms. The university’s student committee planned a lunch to chat with the guests in a more intimate setting. In the afternoon, classes performed short skits, musical selections, and mingled with the activists.
The best part of the day, for me, was witnessing the effortless connection that formed between the ÚNICA community and our invited guests. After the panelists shared from their own experiences — including Neris’ admission that he never thought he would be recognized in a formal education setting, given his own informal education — several ÚNICA students and staff were inspired to take the floor and tell their own story. One professor even shared that she too grew up in a rural community and never attended primary school. Participants sent notes of reflection and gratitude after the event, sharing that this experience renewed a great deal of strength to continue on in the fight for recognition. I also collated the data from the workshop exit ticket and found that we met the goals stated on the proposal’s Performance Monitoring Plan of 95% or greater agreeing with the statement, “I am confident that today’s sessions will help me build a more inclusive and culturally responsive classroom.”
After returning from Colombia, I stayed in close contact with Leonardo to edit the final version of the video by adding English subtitles and audio masterization, and we are proud to share the final result. It has led to several profound conversations in a variety of settings around inclusion, the universality of searching for a voice, and what it means to feel truly listened to. In the last few months, I gave a presentation to my colleagues on the Instructional Coaching team at Academy for Urban School Leadership. Julieth shared about the project at the United Nations while participating in a Fellowship for People of African Descent living in the diaspora. I also met with the lead member of an Afro-Colombian musical group in Chicago from the Pacific Region, who came to the U.S. as a result of the armed conflict, and the final line of the film has inspired the group to compose a new song with the same theme of “taking a stand to say: our people deserve respect”. Fellow U.S. Alumni TIES alumna Jessica Peng and I are collaborating on a paper entitled “Imagining New Forms of Knowledge Production: The Role of Visual Communications in International Educational Practices”, which was presented in March at the Comparative and International Education Society’s annual conference in Mexico City.
This project has taken on many shapes and forms in its short life, leading me to believe that this is just the beginning of the conversation. I remain extremely grateful to the U.S. Department of State and World Learning, and I look forward to continued dialogue as the message of Mi Voz, Nuestra Historia continues to spark conversations around the world.
The official “Mi Voz, Nuestra Historia” documentary, which premiered on October 20th, 2017 at the UNICULTURAL event in Bogota, can be viewed and shared here. For ideas on how to structure conversations around the film within your classroom or organization, reach out to Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.