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.
Every other 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 across the United States. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda, Bethel Alaska and Nogales Arizona/Sonora.
The next project is scheduled for the summer of 2020 and will focus on deforestation in Eastern Africa.
Due to our very long and rigorous schedule, I find myself behind on posting my blogs. As soon as something happens during the day I write it down in my notebook, but as soon as I think about writing the post for the blog, something even more amazing occurs. So please bear with me as I try and explain the current hectic and crazy happenings that are occurring in my brain.
Tuesday was a really hard and difficult day. We got up at 4:00 a.m. in order to get some broll of the sunset in Nogales. It was a beautiful event to witness. I’ve never gotten up early to watch the sunrise and watching the sun peak up over the corner of the mountains and on the wall was a beautiful experience to witness.
It was interesting to see the actual physical presence of the wall that divides these two countries. But, when I look out at the sunset, all I see is the warmth and joy that is the sun and for those moments, it seems as thought there is no current crisis involving a country that deserves the same basic and natural rights as any human being.
The rest of the day consisted of going to the women shelter, lunch in Nogales, interviews and a walk through Nogales.
I have never felt like a minority in my life. That was the first time I’ve felt out of place in the world and that I didn’t belong. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared of who I am and where I came from. That moment of walking through Nogales was one of the first times I’ve felt ashamed and mad at myself for having the life I have.
After we left the commodore, we went to have lunch. In order to get there we took the bus. We all stumbled onto the bus and filled it with our equipment. People from Nogales stared at us just as much as we stared at them. I struggled to make eye contact with those on the bus. I didn’t want to encroach on their environment anymore that I already felt I had. The next individual who boarded the bus was a disheveled looking man. He was caring some of his few belongings in a plastic baggy. He began to ask the occupants of the bus for money.
I watched as many of my fellow students avoided eye contact with the man. I struggled with what I should do. There was this internal struggle to help the man but to also pretend like I was invisible and I couldn’t see the man and that he couldn’t see me. Later during our evening reflection, we talked about the bus ride. The man went up and talked to Nico. He asked him to translate into English that he needed money. Nico replied that we had no pesos. The man was persistent and continued to ask Nico to ask us for money.
During our reflection, Nico told us his thoughts and feelings he was left with after the bus encounter. He asked us why we acted as thought the man did not seem to exist to us. Why do we treat some individuals who we’ve never met with care and compassion and others with little to no love or care? Where do we make the distinction? I know Nico’s asking of the question wasn’t to make us feel bad or ashamed of what happened, but I did. I felt pretty ashamed of being American.
I know that I will have more experiences with this kind of feeling or interactions. I am wondering what the solution is . I know that there is no easy solution or easy answer to any of this.
I like to think of myself as a very compassionate and giving person, but for what reason did I treat this man as though he should be ignored? I am thinking that maybe it was because he made me uncomfortable, because he was asking for money or because he was dirty. All of these could be reasons for me wanting to not look at him. But If him and I are both on this bus, both trying to do our best in life, then why didn’t I allow him to feel as though he was important.
We are taught in our life that avoiding eye contact with an individual is a sign of disrespect. It is important to show eye contact so that people know that they are being heard. It allows you to make a deeper connection with a person.
Wednesday: blog post to come
Today we got to kind of relax. This was one of the first days that we actually got to do some touristy stuff. We went to the Old Jesuit Mission. It was very pretty and we got some of that b-roll. We also were able to take some photos of each other which was nice. Afterwards we went to this great place for lunch. It was muy delicioso. Our next adventure was a park where we just walked around. And then we took some more broll.
Tonight will be a night to relax and reflect. The trip thus far has been extremely difficult but also very rewarding. It has been great getting to know this wonderful group of people. I am absolutely dreading going back to Omaha. I find myself even now as I am lying on my inflatable mattress that I was at the commodore. I wish I could be there helping in any way I can. But for now, I will take in the relaxing day and get ready for another eventful day in Nogales.