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.
The life and movement of the people and the cities.
Street shops and street signs.
The wonderful tasting fruit.
Palm trees in cornfields.
All of the people who wave and smile at our bus.
The spirit here.
Genuine hospitality from strangers.
Indifference to appearance or body odor.
Stoney ginger sodas.
Long night and morning talks with Sara and Teresa.
The Southern Cross.
Being connected to, dependent on and always together with these 11 people.
Bus rides and looking out the window.
Time. Both feeling like it is unlimited and having it all planned out for me.
The calmness I feel here.
The animals. Especially the birds.
The red dirt against green vegetation.
Endurance. Patience. Willingness.
I have thought about Africa everyday since I returned to the United States. Some days I think about it more than others. But whenever I hear traditional music, see a child smiling or playing in the dirt, see someone walking on the side of the road, smell a fire, or get up early in the morning I am transported back to Africa. And I feel safe, content and free.
I wish I had access to a video or sound clip of the song that most likely began to play in the heads of any member of the trip whose eyes glanced over this post. It was a song sung to us by young girls in Abia and what I understood/can currently remember of the lyrics are as follows:
Be free in the water, be free in the air, be free like a fish, oh yes, oh yes.
When you I heard this song for the first time, I thought it was a strange concept to be free like a fish. Typical symbols or images of freedom are a majestic bold eagle flying in front of the American flag (out of sheer curiosity has anyone actually witnessed an eagle casually soar by a flag?) or the United States Constitution. However, as we listened to the song I was forced to imagine a new vision of what it meant to “be free.”
I am a citizen of the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” but I have never been able to wrap my mind around what that actually means. When I thought about what it could mean to be free like a fish, I actually began to understand why it could be the ideal way of living. To be free like a fish in water means to be free to explore, to swim in new directions, ride new waves, and go deeper. It means challenging yourself to face obstacles with courage, embrace the world around you, and carefully observe your surroundings.
It means allowing yourself to let go of worry, leave the past behind you, and enjoy the present moments that are creating your future. Oh yes, oh yes.