“Near the Columbia Heights metro station I saw a man who’s legs were laying in the middle of the street. I was tired and had my ipod in and wouldn’t have seen him except that a couple people around me were looking at him worriedly. They ended up deciding it was okay but I was worried and went over to just ask him to move his legs out of the street so they wouldn’t be smashed. I wasn’t sure if he was drunk or just exhausted. When I asked him to move his legs he looked up and whimpered “Help me!”. I had only planned on making sure he was out of physical harm but suddenly that seemed cruel so I said “Ok, I’ll help” and I brought him into Panda Express and helped him eat some food. He had just come out of the hospital. His name was Bill, he tearfully told me his whole family was dead, he was old and frail but assured me he could do construction work. He didn’t finish his whole meal and eventually left to ostensibly go sleep in a shelter. I have no idea if he ever got there. I think about Bill frequently now. I think about him vis a vis DC cutting it’s social safety nets, or health care or all these issues where we’re talking about the “poor” and “less fortunate”. It’s easy to get caught in abstractions but Bill is a real person and he’s not dispensable.” -Anonymous response on spring semester student survey
Current WCSC participant Grace Engle has a great blog that tells about her experience in DC this semester and has some pictures, too! Check it out! gracearound.blogspot.com
During seminar on Wednesday, each student gave an update on their internship experience so far.
Grace: Peace Activist, Colman McCarthy – Colman arrived late to teach his inner city high school peace class, so Grace jumped up and started engaging them in a discussion about their passions.
Fetsum: Asian American LEAD (after-school program) – One of his students rejected the other intern’s offer to check his homework because, he said, “Mr. Fetsum is a teacher.”
Christa: Teen Center at LAYC: Helped with tutoring, made fliers and PowerPoints for the teen center programs this week.
Andrew: Community IT Innovators – 5 servers went down in one day, so Andrew got to observe his coworkers handling some tricky public relations situations.
Jasmine: Capitol Hill Group Ministry – “I learned how to give a surprise drug test.” Jasmine made a bunch of home visits to families and individuals with HIV, mental illness, and/or substance abuse problems.
Bryan: Servant-Leadership School – About 40 people showed up for the opening of the 2010 Servant Leadership classes, including EMU grad Rebeca Barge and other DC volunteers.
Sanjay: Promotores (Mentorship) Program of LAYC – One of the kids receiving services is preparing to go to jail for the next year. On Friday Sanj has been invited to participate in a conference on gang violence.
Lindsay: American National Standards Institute – Lindsay has been updating a Wiki about trade in China and India and polishing the Chinese-English translation of an important report.
Jess: Interfaith Immigration Coalition – She finds herself comparing this internship to her previous internship experience. She feels she’s making a more significant contribution, but the work itself is more mundane.
Corrie: DC Rape Crisis Center – Helped to run a Women’s Power group–the highlight of her internship so far.
Monday morning. I look at my phone: 8:07. I stand on the curb, waiting, looking anxiously down the road. Sigh. I look at my phone again: 8:13. I send another glance back down the road. Still nothing. Five minutes later I hear its brakes and sure enough the trusty H8 bus is making its way towards me.
As the door swings open I make my up the steps and scan my card, flashing the bus driver a smile and returning his friendly “good morning.” I make my way down the aisle as the bus takes off and I take a seat next to a young woman with headphones on.
In a matter of minutes the bus pulls over at Second Street to pick up three African American girls on their way to school. They giggle and whisper among themselves as they scramble onto the bus, sometimes catching the eyes of some young men seated in the back.
A few minutes later, the bus stops for a young Latin American father with his five year old daughter. She shyly holds his hand as they make their way onto the bus. He bends down to adjust her pink book bag and little braided pigtails. The father waves and smiles as he sees some familiar faces. He finds a seat and begins a conversation in Spanish.
The bus begins to fill up. An older African American lady climbs aboard, adorned with her brightly colored jewelry and scrubs. A young Latin American mother climbs on with her two year old son who gurgles and smiles as they take a seat. A middle aged African American man makes his way aboard, headphones in ears and briefcase in hand.
These are the regulars on the H8 bus. Rain or shine, warm or cold, they are all here, each with their own story. As I see and smile at all the familiar faces I can’t help but wonder what’s really behind those eyes. What families do these people go home to? What jobs do they have? What are their fears, hopes, and dreams? Perhaps I will never know, or perhaps I may one day find the answers as we ride on the H8 bus.
Screaming on Paper
The shy young man approached the stage, power in his stance, focus on his face, and fire in his gaze. Approaching the microphone he let out a powerful scream: “I’m screaming on paper! I said, I’m screaming on paper!” His intense declaration was shared by all twelve contestants at the Busboys and Poets poetry slam on Friday night. These poets were releasing their innermost passions by screaming on paper through their poetry.
Since I had never been to a poetry slam before I had no idea what to expect. The line outside the building was long and tickets were in high demand but I was able to purchase one of the last tickets just in time. The concert room in the back of Busboys and Poets was packed- each table, chair, booth, and couch filled to capacity. The energy in the room could be felt even before the poets began.
Each poet had three minutes to deliver their original poetry. I was blown away by the power and passion in each poet’s voice and body. Topics ranged from God to sex to relationships to hate to racism and nearly everything in between. Some poems were filled with humor and the audience would burst into uncontrolled laughter. Others were so intense with emotion that audience members would nod their heads or clap their hands in affirmation. Several times I felt goose bumps on my arms because of the intensity of the performers.
After each poet’s time was up, five judges, chosen at random, would score the poets on a scale from one to ten: one being the worst and ten being the best. For every good score, the audience would applaud and cheer and for every bad score the audience would “boo” their disapproval. The five highest scoring poets would advance to the second round where the top three scoring poets would be declared the winners.
I was lucky enough to be squeezed into a table with five of the performers, three of whom won the slam. These five men were not professional performers, not well known artists. Some were college students, one was in high school. One was from Trinidad, one from Virginia, three from D.C. But they had one thing in common: they were ordinary people, making a difference through the written word.
I was so inspired by each of their stories that I started thinking that perhaps I could one day perform poetry myself. Perhaps I could make an impact on someone’s life the way they had impacted mine. Perhaps one day I could have the courage to scream on paper.
My first classroom experience at WCSC was far from the “normal” first day routine. As I sat in a circle with my classmates, pondering what I was about to learn, a short, sweet lady walked in and introduced the lesson for the day: self defense. Little did I know the lessons I was about to learn were like nothing I’d ever learned before and this “short, sweet” lady would be one of the strongest women I have met.
Marty Langelan began the class with discussing the first step to self-defense: getting to know your community. This small and often overlooked step is one of the most crucial. “Do you wanna know who will have your back in a tough situation? Joe from down the street and Mrs. Maguillicutty from next door, that’s who. Make friends with your community, they’re your first line of defense, “ Langelan stresses.
The second step is observing your surroundings. Langelan encouraged us to always have a ten-foot circle of awareness around us. “You should be able to name three things about every person that walks by you,” Langelan explains. “Give it about a week and you’ll feel a big weight lifted off your shoulders because your awareness will be much greater. “
The topic of sexual harassment proved to be one of the most serious but also one of the most entertaining. “When you’re walkin’ down the street and you hear those guys on the corner yellin’ ‘Ooo hey baby, mmm come and get some,’ here’s what you need to say: Stop harassing women, I don’t like it, no one likes it. Show some respect.” These simple but powerful words have been proven to work time and again by Marty and her self-defense team.
And if simple words don’t stop an attacker, Marty’s self defense moves will. The five-foot, several inches tall Langelan has been able to throw a 400-pound man twelve feet. Yes twelve feet. But Marty doesn’t believe in any more violence than necessary. “Do what you need to do to get away. You don’t need to pommel the attacker into the ground.”
This brings me to Marty’s second phrase of powerful words. “I don’t know why we are told to yell ‘Help!’ when we are in danger. Help is one of the weakest words in the English dictionary,” Marty exclaims. Instead she encouraged us to use these simple words: Kiya! It’s an attack! Call the cops! Why this particular phrase? The strong consonants allow your plea for help to be heard more clearly.
Marty’s knowledge and expertise on self-dense are endless: what I have touched on are just the tip of the iceberg. Not only did we learn practical defense tips for everyday life, but we were also blessed with knowledge from one of the most inspiring and influential women in self-defense training today.
I have one really great experience during my last week at my internship. One of the friendlier doctors walked up to me and asked if I would like to take out staples! Of course, I jumped at the chance to do something new and exciting. He told me that I would be removing about thirty staples on a patient that had hip replacement surgery. He also told me that he would come get me when the staples were ready to come out. A few hours later, the doctor told me that the patient was ready. He showed me how to take one of the staples out and he said that the rest I would take out on my own. The really cool part is that taking staples out of someone’s leg is just like taking staples of paper. I took the staples out one by one; it took me about five minutes. Then I put steri-strips over the patient’s incision. This was a really great experience; I am so glad that I was able to do it.
Long After I’m Gone by Deborah Good with Nelson Good was a memoir about
the life of Nelson Good and how it was interpreted by his daughter, Deborah. This book was very interesting because it helped me learn more about the Washington Community Scholars Center and the Rolling Ridge Retreat Center. This book really helped me to appreciate the program more. Before reading his book, I was not aware of whom Nelson Good really was, and I feel that his opened my eyes to parts of his life. I especially liked the part where it talks about the Rolling Ridge Retreat Center and all of the work that Nelson put into this program. I also really enjoyed reading about the WSSY/WCSC program and how it all started by a small idea that Nelson had and how it has grown into a full and thriving program. It makes me appreciate this house that we live in more and the things that we are studying in class.
Today, I had a patient who was a below the knee amputee. He was from Mexico and his main language was Spanish. However, he is also pretty good at speaking English. While, I was helping change his dressing on his leg, he asked me if I knew any Spanish. I told him that I knew a little and he began saying some things in Spanish. Surprisingly, I understood some of the things he was saying and responded back to him. We had a little conversation in Spanish and that completely changed his mood. He started smiling and laughing. I think it was comforting for him to hear some Spanish and I am glad to know that I made his day a little better.
City living is going really well also. On Monday, the house went out to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant. It was really fun because we all were able to bond and hang out. Although the food wasn’t that great, the company was!
I also really enjoyed the retreat. At first, I was skeptical of how this would help bond the house together. However, I feel that we all have grown together and really strengthened our relationships. Plus, the retreat was really fun. I enjoyed being away from the city for the weekend and doing outdoor activities.