Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Evolution of a Passionate Group of Young Men

Youth must be given the opportunities to succeed and fail because those experiences build the confidence and vision to demand and enforce more of themselves and their environment.

Engaging the many young men with cooking club sessions, I find we sometimes reach a point of stagnation where their behavior reflects their poor understanding of the possibilities available. And so I've tied to emphasize their own capacity for producing healthy meals, whether through creating Nutritious cooking homework, providing flash cooking opportunities, or cafeteria tastings, with all this students have the opportunity to put their skills to the test and really enforce the kind of group culture they want to see. The issue that has come up in the last few sessions and will certainly continue to come up, is with the opportunities to succeed have also come opportunities to fail--too much side-talking and misbehavior. Failure being part of the learning process, I want to move beyond it but also recognize the evolution of the group mentality. These young guys are no longer testing me but instead are confused as to the long term goals of the program I am implementing. What the group needs is a strong message of clarity about the purpose of the group and what it can achieve. Therefore, I believe it most productive and enlightening for them to outline the numerous projects they could take away from this experiment into cooking.

These young men need to keep in mind that the opportunities available to them now ought be pushed and not just accepted at face value. With some urging on my part, they need to begin using the freedom of working with me as a chance for doing more of what they are passionate about. Collaborating their interests into the work of the group should be the goal for me and them.

They have come a long way. From the disturbed energy of misbehavior to implementing productive exchanges of food and fun. I can see their vision, but can they?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Shell of a Man

Democracy has become an idea that doesn't aid conversations anymore. Democracy doesn't imply probably the energized resistance to corporate control that it did hundreds of years ago. The word doesn't imply institutionalized bottom-up leadership (and that is exactly what I am talking about). It doesn't provoke imagery of a cyclical governing system designed to inform the top of the concerns of the bottom and truly apply the pressure to get work done. Recycled too many times over, it has lost creativity and originality. Implementation requires patience and dynamic interventions to liven debates and investigations of critical issues.

The solution can be found by flipping the organizational framework and reinstating a culture of civil service to communities instead of entitlements and elitism. Putting into place leaders who generate dynamic group work capable of engaging the disengaged. (This often requires proving to 'followers'' potentials for future work through hands-on skill building.)

I stress group work because democracy requires the incorporation of all the members' skills and ensures culturally-relevant conversations.The solution to our problems of community decay, gentrification, unemployment, lack of healthcare, poor schools, requires a great deal of coordination between many different families and stakeholders. We must gather people together and begin a democratic conversation around agreed upon subject matter. Call it 'a community conversation'. Through creative group work we can dig into the causes of our challenges and successes and build stronger, more unified communities. Only then will democracy come to mean what it once meant: power to the people.