Tag Archives: backpack journalism

Faith That Does Justice? Faith in Injustice?

After 72 hours of backpack journalism bootcamp, I lie in my bed absolutely exhausted and overwhelmed at how much information we’ve received, but confident that we’re making notable progress.

So far, we’ve spent some time learning about the art and technique of videography, foundations of feature writing, and introductory theology. More than anything, I feel as though today marks a huge turning point — the foundation has been set, and it’s time now to dive in.

We all have the skills now to “fake it ’til we make it” and from this point forward, I feel as though we’ll be applying these last three days of information constantly, pushing ourselves to live and breathe light meters, to begin to raise questions about our own personal definition of church, and to think about how to ask those same questions of others in a respectful but intentional manner.

Much to my surprise, I’m pretty excited to see how the theology class ties into our project. I was expecting videography training, dos and don’ts of interviewing, and a crash course in good storytelling, but the biggest curveball for me so far has been wrapping my head around tying theology into our agenda.

We’re working our way towards a better understanding of ecclesiology — the study of church. Specifically, we’ll be discussing the definition of church within the context of border culture in Nogales.

This past fall, my understanding of church expanded tenfold when I was blessed with an opportunity to travel to Philadelphia to join a million and a half others in celebrating Pope Francis’s visit to the US. As we held hands and recited the Our Father, giving each other peace in the streets of downtown Philadelphia, I had goosebumps witnessing faith and mass ritual bring people from all over the world together in prayer. My own definition of church changed that day, and I’m looking forward to seeing how migrant culture challenges that even further.

Christian traditions are practiced all over the world, but with each culture brings a new interpretation and understanding of faith and community. As we continue to prepare ourselves technically and emotionally for this border immersion experience, I have found myself newly ecstatic to experience and absorb a new and different definition of “church,” as understood by the people of Nogales.

In the midst of such trial, transiency, and systematic injustice, how do migrants keep their faith? How do those serving humanitarian purposes in that area find strength to keep working towards a distant goal? How do those negatively affected by an increasing number of immigrants strive to live like Christ?

First Day Nerves and a New Adventure

Sitting down to write this blog I feel just as awkward as I did at the start of Welcome Week. It’s the first day of school jitters all over again. And what’s worse is they don’t go away unless you lock onto a tiny bit of courage and introduce yourself. So hi, my name is Rachel O’Neal. I’m a Journalism and International Relations (I.R.) double major. My favorite color is black, my favorite animal is a bison, and I have 6 siblings. Good, now that we have the basics out of the way let’s talk about Backpack Journalism.

While I came to Creighton with the intention of declaring a double major in Journalism and I.R., I heard about the Backpack program long before I became a Journalism major. My freshman faculty advisor was actually the first person to suggest this program because he knew I had a passion for telling stories (the truthful kind). I immediately decided that at some point during my 4 years at Creighton I would go on one of these trips. The fact that this particular trip happens to connect with an issue I am passionate about – immigration – was just an added bonus.

Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com
Photo courtesy of freerangestock.com

Growing up in California it’s hard to ignore the reality of an unjust immigration system. Families are torn apart by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) on a daily basis. On Sundays families and interfaith groups gather to protest I.C.E. holding centers with candlelight vigils. And the list of these types of events goes on. What people fail to understand when they watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh is that the people these so-called journalists spew hatred about are living, breathing human beings. Undocumented workers aren’t statistics to be used to fear monger. They’re people just like you and me.

As a Jesuit University its imperative that we address this topic so that people understand what respect for human dignity truly means. It’s not a sermon to be given on Sunday and promptly forgotten on Monday. It’s a lifestyle. Recognizing that no human is illegal is fundamental to this tenet of Jesuit Catholicism, which is why I am excited to be a part of this journey.

 

The Intent Behind the Camera

You’re surfing through Netflix after finishing your binge session one of your favorite TV shows; given the fact that this show has just come to an end, you’re devastated and in need for something else to occupy your time. But you want to try something else before you dive into another series, something different. You scroll down the list of shows and categories, and you hit the Documentaries section. “Alright,” you think to yourself, “I could try to inform myself on something.” So you pick one that seems interesting to you, say, something about killer whales in an amusement park. You finish the documentary, and you’re now left to your thoughts on the film and the issues it presented.

How did the film make you feel? Did you learn new things from it that you otherwise would have never known about before? Did it make you want to inform yourself more about the issue at hand and do something about it? Overall, did the film leave a lasting impression on you? If someone is able to answer any of these positively, then the documentary did its job well.

This summer, a handful of students, Creighton University faculty and staff members and I are on a journey to Arizona and Mexico in an effort to make a informative documentary about the lives of migrant workers and how the politics of immigration affect their lives. We’ll be working with the Kino Border Initiative and interviewing those who are affected by immigration policies to learn about their stories and their lives altogether. Through this pilgrimage to the South, our hope is to raise awareness on the issues of laws pertaining to immigration, and the impact it has on those these laws are directed at.

Kino Border Initiative Cafetiera
A cafeteria located at the Kino Border Initiative, where we’ll be going for service and interviews.

Being a graphic design major in the Journalism, Media and Computing department, I’m able to experience and learn about things outside of the field of graphic design, like journalism, film, and so on. I’ve learned to develop an appreciation for these other fields, especially when it comes to film and documentaries. I love the idea of being able to tell a story through photos and video, and really respect those who have put their heart and soul into films with the intent of informing others about certain issues that they care about.

I am really looking forward to this trip with my peers and faculty members down to Arizona and Mexico, and am very excited to listen to the stories of those we’ll be talking to, and making their message heard through the documentary we will put together. Given the heated debates that surround the topic of immigration, especially during this election season this year, it will be and insightful experience to create an informational film to present the issues through the perspective of those that are affected by it.

Hopefully those of you who are reading these blogs throughout our trip, not only by me but from my peers as well, will become interested in our journey and continue to follow along and learn with us!

Storytelling, More Than Just Fairytales In The American Southwest

As we start our journey to Arizona and Mexico to document the subculture along the American/Mexican border I truly hope to become a storyteller.

When the word storyteller is used many mental images come to mind, but the one that is always most prominent in my mind is the grandpa in the film The Princess Bride. In this film the grandpa reads a mythical story involving “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, (and) miracles” to his (somewhat) sick grandson.

Though, by this standard, I am not the quintessential image of a storyteller I am participating in the Backpack Journalism program to Arizona and Mexico to better understand the skills needed to responsibly tell others’ stories. The fictional character of the grandpa in The Princess Bride demonstrates the success of storytelling. For him, the story is already there, all the grandpa does is illustrate the book so that his grandson, who was originally reluctant to hear the story, empathizes with the plot and characters. That is what we are trying to do in the next five weeks. Through this experience I hope to gain more knowledge on genuinely telling other people’s stories in a way that allows for the audience to be interested in the process and outcome of the story. I want to work to be able to make conscious decisions that better a narrative.

1176538131_826025dd21
A scene from The Princess Bride, where the storytelling brings the book alive

This skill of constructing a narrative connects my collegiate studies. I am studying history, graphic design, and dance. At face value, these fields seem random and not intertwined. However, in reality, storytelling is truly one of the main things that unite these programs. History is the telling of certain narratives to support an argument and when done correctly uses narratives often forgotten or originally omitted. Graphic design is visual communication—telling a story without an emphasis on text. Lastly, dance is storytelling though physical movement. Storytelling connects my interests but its significance is much greater than that.

Storytelling allows for voices usually ignored to be heard, for forgotten stories to be shared, and when done right works to inform its audience on the truth while creating interest and empathy. I chose Creighton as a place to explore different mediums to present these narratives and on the Backpack Journalism trip to Arizona and Mexico I hope to work toward becoming a more skilled visual storyteller. I am participating in the Backpack Journalism program to Arizona and Mexico to start the journey to becoming my version of the grandpa from The Princess Bride (a storyteller).

Preparing for another journey

I’m finishing up getting my work ready for our Backpack Journalism class when it begins tomorrow. And I’m working on my list of lists for this week: Things to pack, things to bring, people to call, work to do.

And as I try to manage all of this, I keep smiling. Smiling because even though there is work and there are many miles and many loose ends to chase down, I am so grateful and happy to start on another Backpack Journalism trip. We have a terrific group of students. We have an important story. We have experiences ahead that I know will deeply touch all of us. So bring on the road trip, the heat, the long days, the laughter and the conversations, the joy and the sorrow.

I think I’ll start with a prayer that I used when we went to Uganda. It’s perfect for journalists and everyone else. a lhandwritten list of things to doAdapted by John Veltri, S.J.

Teach me to listen, O God, to those nearest me, my family, my friends, my co-workers. Help me to be aware that no matter what words I hear, the message is: “Accept the person I am. Listen to me.”

Teach me to listen, my caring God, to those far from me — the whisper of the hopeless, the plea of the forgotten, the cry of the anguished.

Teach me to listen, O God my Mother, to myself. Help me to be less afraid to trust the voice inside in the deepest part of me.

Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit, for your voice — in busyness and in boredom, in certainty and in doubt, in noise and in silence.

Teach me, Lord, to listen. Amen.

 

I asked for burger… I got an extra cheesecake

In my first blog, I imagined our project as a combo burger. Actually I had a fatty rich one, I learned a lot in photography (Thanks Tim), journalism(Thanks Carol) and theology(Thanks John).  But God is generous and always has surprises for me. He always add an extra addition to my order, this time was an eternal amazing cheesecake that I am enjoying right now. After I finished with my burger, it is time for dessert, the sweetest thing in this magical “restaurant”. Click continue to see the surprise.  Continue reading I asked for burger… I got an extra cheesecake

No more amateur documentaries

The crew in action... my keystone for future projects
The crew in action… My keystone for future projects.

Our documentary wasn’t the first video experience for me… Though, I learnt a lot as technique, heavy practicing will improve your skills whatever level of professionalism you had… But what I discovered more was than I am not a professional yet… documentary is more than camera and photographer… This why I won’t film a documentary the way I used to.  Continue reading No more amateur documentaries

A Difference Maker

Thank you to Scott Prewitt for capturing this moment.
Wearing my Alaska hat and taking in the beauty surrounding me. A special thank you to Scott Prewitt for capturing this moment.

At the start of this journey, I was looking for adventure. I hoped to learn and grow in my journalistic and video skills. I was excited to travel to Alaska, a new and fascinating place.

Now that we have completed our final day of the Backpack Journalism Program, I can say that I have accomplished all of this and so much more.

I can’t even come close to adequately putting this experience into words. It has far exceeded my expectations, and I feel so grateful for these past five weeks.

The Backpack Journalism team traveled to a place at the world’s edge, often unseen or forgotten by the lower 48. There we stayed in the small but welcoming community of Bethel where we learned about the Yup’ik culture, the people’s connection to the land and the effects of climate change. I was amazed by the openness of the community and how willingly people shared their stories with us. If they had not taken the time to be interviewed and filmed by us, the creation of our documentary would not be possible.

After learning about how climate change is affecting Alaska, this trip allowed me to reflect on my own life and how I live. Over the years, it has been easy for me to be critical of others who do not believe in climate change or chose to ignore it. But because climate change is a collective problem, I am as much a cause of this environmental crisis as anyone else. I recycle and walk to school, but I still drive a car and feed into the consumerism that is much of the cause of climate change. In the next few months, I will make the changes in my life necessary to live more simply and reduce the amount of energy and resources that I use.

Because of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I also gained a sense of confidence in myself and my abilities. I feel that I can now take on any challenge in life, which will be especially important as I begin my senior year of college and look to the future.

The memories I shared with my team members will be ones I’ll cherish forever, from watching the magnificent sunset during a boat ride on the Kuskokwim to the beautiful tundra walks to the countless games played in the social hall. The perpetual laughter of our group, no matter what the circumstance, made this experience unforgettable. The amount of joy that I have felt in the last month has renewed my spirits and inspired me to continue fighting for what I believe in.

I already miss the people and landscape of Alaska, but soon I will miss spending time with the 19 incredible people on the Backpack Journalism team. Thankfully we will always have a connection to each other and Alaska because of this film-making and community-building experience. Even though it was our last day of class today, I know that the journey is not over. We still have a great deal of editing to do on our documentary, and then comes the most exciting part of this project: sharing our film with others.

I feel blessed to be a witness to a part of the world that is hurting but still lively, rich in culture and appreciative of the land and community. I can end this five-week experience feeling as though I made a difference in some way, but I know that Bethel has made much more of a difference in me.

Learning to Live in the Moment

Yesterday, we created a small B-roll team to go shoot some footage around Omaha (it makes sense for the documentary, I promise). Myself and five others squished into Hannah’s vehicle, excited for the chance to take the cameras out again. We quickly realized something though: here in Omaha, people are terrified of cameras in public places. Everyone was very paranoid about our presence, and our filming was nearly always halted by security guards and managers.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but the greatest thing about Bethel was how open and accepting everyone was.

It seemed like everyone was willing to help us with our film. And we were able to take cameras everywhere: stores, public buildings, neighborhoods, wherever we needed, basically. And everyone we interviewed was honest, open and willing to share their stories. It was incredible.

Coming back home, it’s easy to see how differently we live as opposed to the people in Bethel. People here don’t seem as open or friendly. Everyone seems very closed off and in their own world. In Bethel, no one hesitated to ask about our cameras, our purpose, our background. Yesterday while we were out, no one cared what we were doing. In fact, it felt like everyone just wanted us to leave. Everyone was too busy moving onto the next thing they had to do, or walking around absent minded, distracted in the world of emails, texts or Twitter.

And I myself, am included in this. It’s very hard to break habits.

In Bethel, as you probably know, we didn’t really have cell service. For short amounts of time, we were able to connect to wi-fi, able to connect to friends and family. During the day, we were completely disconnected though, and sometimes it was really nice. We were present, we were observant, we were living in the moment.

Before our trip began, I had a feeling that we would learn a lot from this experience. I never knew how much it would teach us about the way we live, however. As I said before, it’s really hard to truly be present in the moment. I’m honestly terrible at it, craving a glance at my Twitter feed or needing to eliminate notification icons immediately.

I don’t want to continue these habits though. Bethel taught me how important it is to simply pay attention to your surroundings. When you step away from the problems of your own life, that’s when you gain the most from the world around you. That’s how you learn about the people around you. And that’s how you learn the most about yourself.

A Certain Feeling

I’m at a point in my life where a lot is uncertain. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a job for the rest of this summer. I’m not sure what I want to do after I graduate, I’m not sure where I’ll end up in a few years. Out of all this uncertainty, wanting to go to Alaska was the one thing I was certain about.

Now, here we are at the end.

I’m still not entirely sure what it was that drew me to it; The posters, knowing people who have been on CU BackPack before, just the thrill of the experience of a lifetime. But now, as the last day as an official group comes to an end, I just look back on the past five weeks and think of how proud I am, of myself and of my entire team.

We started off uncertain of so many things. We were uncertain what we’d find, how to work the cameras, exactly how intense Johnny I really was, and how this trip would stay with us. Now, with a rough cut in production, and a chance to reflect on all that’s happened, I just want to climb to the top of a mountain and shout, “LOOK AT WHAT WE DID!”

Team, we did it. We got that B-Roll, we worked those cameras, we met some amazing people, we bonded all together, and now we’ve put together a story. A story that does the culture, the stories, and the people of Bethel a great justice. And that is something we should be very proud of ourselves for.

Being in Alaska was like a different world for me. I was able to put my phone away, and ignore the comfortable world that I’m accustomed too, and experience the real, raw, harsh, and yet absolutely beautiful world for an entire two weeks.

We were given the opportunity to step into someone’s life, and learn from both the good and the bad. So while we were there for the greater purpose of making our documentary, we were also there to learn.

So to answer the question: What is one thing you can do differently based on what you learned? I would say, Live with an awareness

John and Carol summed it up perfectly today as we wrapped things up; something chose us to participate in this experience, and therefore we are both blessed and given the responsibility to act based on what we witnessed and learned.

To live with an awareness comes in parts: to cherish, to expand, and to preserve.

Cherish the things we’ve been given, whether that means in life, relationships, the environment, and things we’ve learned. Seeing the importance these types of aspects play in our lives is crucial. Expand then means to share what we learn with others. Keep the conversation going. That then can lead to more knowledge, discussion, and sharing. Finally, preserve what we know, have, and share. Work towards making a difference.

While my lesson may be vague, the things I learned and experiences I had are far from it. I truly hope I can go forward from this point with a sense of certainty that I learned something and acted with that new knowledge.

Either way though, I do know for certain that this experience will never leave me. Thank you so much to Tim, Carol, and John, for working with us, and allowing us to be a part of your incredible mission. And thanks to my people, all of y’all. I have absolutely loved working with you all; we couldn’t have gotten a better team!!

Quyana, from the bottom of my heart <3