Backpack Journalism at Creighton University is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the Journalism, Media, & Computing Department. It came about because of a theologian interested in social justice and filmmaking and a journalist and an artist interested in filmmaking and social justice.
Each summer, a small group of students travels to a community in search of a story. Led by professors Dr. John O’Keefe, Tim Guthrie, and Carol Zuegner, the students immerse themselves in the communities, interviewing, filming, recording, and writing. When they return to Creighton, they take the stories they have collected and develop them into a short documentary film. The Backpack Journalism documentaries have been accepted at several film festivals, including the Omaha Film Festival. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda. In 2014, they will head north to Bethel, Alaska.
Now that we’re back in Omaha, it’s back to Hitchcock 205 to get down to business. Half of the class has been working on the story line and the other half has been sifting through the copious amounts of videos that were taken.
The past few days I have been very busy. I’ve been filing through all of the B-roll that we filmed in order to piece different scenes together (B-roll is alternative footage that is weaved along with the main shot.) It’s like going on a scavenger hunt to find the perfect pieces and then creating your own puzzle or getting to write your own story. I’ve really loved being able to create different scenes and watching the stories come to life. I feel like a storyteller, and I love it.
When I was younger, I was interested in directing and editing film. However at the time, I had an amateur digital camera that I got from Santa (I planned on proving that Santa wasn’t real the next year by placing my camera strategically on the fireplace and letting it film the whole night) and the old Windows Movie Maker. I apologize to my friends who i drafted for my horrendous, amateur movies.
As I grew older, I didn’t have as much time for videos and lost touch with one of my favorite things as a child. I’ve felt nostalgic over the past few days. I’ve been asking Nico to review the scenes I’ve been editing. I’m determined to pick his brain and ask constantly for constructive criticism. My goal is to become a master of Final Cut Pro, just as Nico is. Who knows, maybe I’ll want to do this for awhile.
I had the chance to conduct my first interview with a gentleman named Danny who is a citizen from Nogales, Mexico who volunteers at El Comedor.
One of the questions that I asked was, “Where do you see God in all of this?”
After a few meditative moments, Danny’s response was, “God is in us.” He explained that even though he prays for things to get better, he sees God in the actions of people helping other people. He emphasized the ability to see migrants as people and not as a statistic. When we treat people with human dignity and interact with them as an equal, our hearts are impacted and transformed. What an incredible response that really embodies the very essence of what it means to be made in God’s likeness.
I’ve always wanted to change the world, to make a positive impact for those who needed it the most. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that it’s a lot harder than it sounds. But I refuse to be derailed from my goal to change the world. My goals have just have just become more focused. I’ve realized that every person has their own world that weaves through other worlds. When my world collides with another, it is the perfect opportunity for me to take the gifts I have been given to share with another. Our human stories become one, if even for an instant, and we both can benefit. The weaving of all stories under the human race is truly an awe-inspiring mystery.
Even for those of you who don’t believe in God, I hope you believe in the beauty that surrounds us everyday, especially in the face of hardships. Since I have been on this trip, I have seen this over and over again.
Natalia is a singer/songwriter who used to volunteer at El Comedor. She was born in the US but spent most of her time growing up in Columbia, where she became fluent in Spanish. When she started to hear these stories that the migrants would tell her, she became moved to write songs about their terrifying experiences and turn them into hauntingly beautiful songs.
Natalia performed a concert at El Comedor that I was able to help film. A group of men who had just been deported moments before, had been dropped off just as everyone had sat down. The only table left was between my camera and Natalia. While I was filming, I made eye contact with a man and immediately smiled at him. He just sort of stared back at me. A few minutes later, our eyes met again and again I smiled. Shyly, a grin started to emerge from his face. The next time that our eyes met, he was beaming and his eyes twinkled. After dinner, I was conversing with a few other men in my broken Spanish and I could see him standing back and waiting. I went over and introduced myself to him and held out my hand to meet his. I learned that he was from a town in Central Mexico, 20 years old, and traveling by himself. His warm smile is what kept my tears from pouring out. We spoke very few words between us as I had to start packing up our gear, but the smiling seemed to be enough for the both of us.
This wall that everyone keeps talking about is ugly both physically and symbolically. It’s brown and metal and not aesthetically pleasing whatsoever. A Mexican-American artist, Ana Teresa Fernández, has painted murals on the wall in different cities at the border. Her project is called, “Borrando la Frontera,” or “Erasing the Border.” Her mural in Nogales is sky blue, meant to look as if the sky had been brought down and the border erased.
We need to believe in the power of our individual talents and abilities to interact with others in a way that can make a lasting impact, even if only for an instant.
“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity,” Joseph Addison
Today is Tuesday, the 24th of May. Joanna took us to the Kino Border Initiative’s humanitarian shelter for women migrants, Casa Nazaret. We met women and children who had been staying in an apartment room on the top floor of a rickety old building. As we reached the top, we were greeted with grins and giggles by the families seeking shelter.
We listened to a presentation about the people who the Casa Nazaret served. I learned that the Border Patrol has a program that is aimed to interrupt migration routes by separating families traveling together. This makes families more vulnerable in an infinite amount of ways.
A fact that left me bewildered was that 75% of these women have had less than a middle school education.
How could this be when I have had the privilege of attending an all-girls private, college preparatory school. I had a flashback of all the things I had learned there and how much I had developed into a confident, independent, thinking leader.
I asked Joanna why this was. She said that even though education was free, families still had to provide money for books and uniforms and transportation. Most families can barely even afford their children taking time off of work to attend school. Since the education for women is so low, it becomes harder as they grow older to find work. Weavings of Hope is a program that provides women with the opportunity to have some sort of income by making bracelets.
After the presentation, I read testimonial after testimonial of women who had passed through Casa Nazaret. I found the main thing that tied a lot of the stories together was family.
I remember one story about a woman who had grown up in a family where she had been neglected simply because she had been born with the wrong set of chromosomes. She was abused both physically and mentally in the most crucial stages of her life. As she started to have children of her own, she made a promise to herself to never expose her children to the hardships she had known growing up. She crossed the border illegally and had four children in America, a place where she could receive aid and her children could receive an adequate education.
One day, she had been driving her daughter to an appointment. She was pulled over, handcuffed, and taken to be detained right in front of her daughter. She had no time to gather her things or say goodbye to her husband or her children. This women was deported back to Mexico, miles away from the loves of her life. But how could she call her children and explain why she had to leave?
At the end of today, I am thankful. I am thankful for the opportunity of not only an education, but one that celebrates what being a women means. I am thankful to have been able to focus on my studies rather than having to work all of the time at a young age. I am thankful for having job opportunities that provide me with more than $4 at the end of my shift. I’m thankful for the nurturing family that continues to care about my whole well being and supports me.
This is my first blog post for backpack journalism, two days late. I’m sorry (Carol), but I wasn’t born on time either and I’ve been cursed ever since.
But to be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. The writing prompt was to talk about myself and why I chose to participate in this adventure. Easy, right?
Over the past year, I have learned so much in my courses at Creighton, particularly this past semester. The course that has made the most impact is my International Mass Communications class (Thanks, Carol). I was told at the beginning of the semester that this class had changed students lives. I didn’t expect it to change mine. I suppose this class was a main reason that I signed up for this trip.
I realized that I was taking my freedom of speech for granted. I am lucky to live in a country where it is deemed a fundamental right. Others aren’t as lucky to have such a privilege. This class helped me realize that I need to be using my voice for those who don’t have one.