Graduate School

Making Power Visible

Posted by Mihaela Schwartz on November 21, 2013

Making Power Visible: Home Grown Community-Based Learning from Karachi to Philadelphia to You 

At the end of October, the Graduate School hosted the event Making Power Visible: Home Grown Community-Based Learning from Karachi to Philadelphia to You, with the Council of Students (COS). Presented by Yue Fang, president of COS, and Sehr Karim-Jaffer, Metropolitan Museum of Art educator and Bank Street Museum Education graduate ’13, the event attracted a lively group of attendees including faculty members, alumni and current students actively engaged in a wide range of community-based and non-profit organizations.

The Event

The event gravitated around two interesting films that depicted exemplary work of several communities. The first movie, A Small Dream, focused on the work of Humaira Bachal, founder of a co-educational school in Pakistan.

As National Public Radio (NPR) reported in January this year, “Humaira Bachal, 25, has become a crusader of sorts. She has passion for education in a country where going door-to-door asking fathers to send their daughters to school can mean risking their lives.” Bachal has been the subject of two documentaries, the first in 2009 and a more recent one as part of a series in which her efforts to educate children in her Karachi neighborhood of Moach Goth were centerpieces of her community-based work.

The second movie was Life Do Grow: the Philadelphia Urban Creators, a film by Bank Street Alumna, Sharon Ahram ’12, that was created in conjunction with her Integrative Master Project (IMP) at Bank Street College. Sharon’s work on that project, which was led by Dr. Bernadette Anand together with other Bank Street students, studied exemplary sites of social justice education. Sharon stumbled upon a site where she knew youth learning was taking place, and through video and photographs documented how youth of color, in a once blighted urban area in Philadelphia, created a productive farm that sustains the community and fills an educational gap.

Panelists

A panel discussion led by two dedicated and creative community leaders, Alex Epstein and Miriam Durani, followed the two movie screenings. Alex Epstein, the co-founder and team leader of Life DO Grow: Philadelphia Urban Creators, is currently involved in community work to educate, energize, and empower Philadelphia youth, ex-offenders, with skills, resources, networks, and analysis to become passionate leaders in the movement to transform blighted urban landscapes into models of community-based, social and environmental sustainability. Miriam Durrani, a University of Pennsylvania student working on a joint doctoral degree in anthropology and educational linguistics, is actively engaged in research focusing on students who migrate for higher education in both Pakistan and the U.S. She is committed to using participatory film techniques to explore multiple forms and multiple voices in research presentation. Miriam has taught University-level English composition courses at LUMS in Lahore and a visual rhetoric course at Aga Kahn University in Karachi. Miriam has also worked in the education N.G.O. sector in Karachi.

The evening ended with an open discussion session where the audience was invited to reflect upon the film’s message and its impact on the audience personal connection. The audience provided feedback in the form of inspirational questions.

The entire event confirmed the value of these community-based projects and their potential for forthcoming Graduate School international initiatives in Pakistan or other countries in future years.