Category: 2014: I, Too, am America

I, Too, Am America: Talia Cooper

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Talia Cooper: Program Director at Ma’yan

What is your Illuminated identity?

My name is Talia Cooper, I am the program director of Ma’yan, a feminist organization empowering youth and the educators who work with them. I am formerly the executive director of Jewish Youth for Community Action. I am also a singer/songwriter.

I was honored to get to co-create and co-lead an intro to Judaism workshop for the Illuminated youth, along with Ma’yan alumna Arielle Tannin. Arielle and I both loved the experience of talking about Judaism with the Illuminated youth, because their questions helped us to understand our own religion more deeply. We realized there are a number of concepts in Judaism that we take for granted, but being forced to explain them meant that we got to reclaim them for ourselves (for example, the concept of Tikun Olam, or healing the world).
How do you want to be remembered as a part of America’s fabric?
In thinking about the legacy I want to leave: I write, sing, facilitate and engage in activism all in service of holding out a vision of deeper connections in the world. I believe that humans are naturally intelligent, creative, hilarious and loving, and we will be able to end oppression.

Washington D.C., Detroit, Chicago: Recap in Pictures

On July 25, the Illuminated team concluded its national, multi-city portion of our programming. Our students submitted their best photographs and some of them created captions. These photographs are a reflection of many, but not all, of the workshops and trips we took within each city. Reflections and reports from our travels will continue to be posted on our blog. While our LaunchGood fundraising campaign has ended, you can still continue to support our work here.

GENTRIFICATION IN WASHINGTON D.C.

Special Thanks to: Marzena Zukowska and all our hosts at the Lamont Street Collective

1. Story: At the beginning, we didn’t think we were going to make it up these escalators in DC. But, then we reached the top, just like we completed our trip, and we couldn’t believe we did it!

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“We Made It”

2. During our visit to Anacostia, we were welcomed by Brother Amir Muhammad at the Islamic Heritage Museum, who explained the history of Islam in America in detail and gave our team much to reflect upon.

Special Thanks to: Iman Kandil and Brother Amir Muhammad

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Brother Amir who has an incredible depth of knowledge about Muslims in America
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Reflection Time after Brother Amir acquainted us with the history of Islam

3. While Marzena and Zehra were at the radio show, the rest of the team explored the DC area near the White House.

Special Thanks to: Sabiyha Prince, Nicole Cutts, and Sheila Reid

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Guests at the Radio-Show about Gentrification and Displacement of Communities in D.C.
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The White House: Smaller Than We Thought
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Finding each other after the radio-show

 4. Screening of Chocolate City + Discussion by cultural anthropologist Sabiyha Prince

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With Guest Speaker Sabiyha Prince

5. The team at Ashoka Changemakers provided the Illuminated team with a series of workshops that were a great introduction to social innovation plans.

Special Thanks: Marzena Zukowska, Tsega Tadesse

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Artwork: Collaboration between Ashoka and Illuminated teams
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Farewell, D.C.!

BUS-RIDE FROM D.C. TO DETROIT

1. Story: Night fell as we headed to Detroit, and the moon inspired me to stay illuminated as we continued on our 15+ hour uncomfortable bus ride.

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Surrounded by darkness, it is still illuminated

2.

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Breakfast… lunch? We lost track of the hours.
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One of our many random stops where they cleaned our bus
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The Gender Wars continue: Raldenys Tolentino after being called an “extreme feminist” by Anthony Ramos.
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Sometimes, we have Skittles for breakfast (horrifying)
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Too alive for 3:30 AM

SEGREGATION IN METRO-DETROIT

Special Thanks to our Host-Family: Tasneem Taj Raza, Alina Raza, Yaseen Raza, Salman Raza, Ali Imam, Gohar Taj

1. Story: As we walked through the suburbs, we found no excitement at all, until we looked up and saw the sun setting.

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Something Worthwhile in the ‘Burbs
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“In one hour, we only saw two grannies and fireflies.”

2. Story: Does a temple really need to be this high end? Will God come if the place was a tiny four-wall-room? This is the main place of prayer in the temple, where bar mitzvahs take place.

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Shalom Temple Israel

3. The city of Detroit is currently experiencing water shut-offs and its residents did an emergency protest to show solidarity with those in Gaza and elsewhere experiencing human rights violations.

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Anthony at the Detroit-Gaza Solidarity Protest

4. Story: Plastered all throughout Heidelberg Street, clocks remind us that we are all time here spent on earth and that our hands should keep moving until our time is up because, when our hands are moving, we are doing and heroes do.

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Together we Tick Tock

5. Story: A lot of empty houses run along Michigan, and I don’t understand why. What happened to these people? What happened to their houses?

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Broken Windows, Broken City

6. Each night, the Illuminated team did its daily debrief which, among other things, consisted of keeping  a journal about five things we appreciated that day because gratitude is linked to happiness and success.

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Daily Debrief that Included Reflecting on 5 Things We Appreciated
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Bonding Before a Bollywood Movie in the Suburbs. We only managed to watch 45 minutes of three hours.

REVERSE MIGRATION IN CHICAGO

Special Thanks to our Host-Families: Baljinder Singh Bathla, Sagina Hanjrah, Sharan Kaur Singh and family, and Amrit Kaur

1. Story: Sleeping below these images for three nights made me wonder why humans give their unwanted food to animals if they don’t even want it.

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“Would you like a Corn Dog?”

2. Story: Illumination by SWOPing our VOYCE‘s

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Riyaz Ali
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Illuminated Team Meets VOYCE and SWOP members at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network space

 

3. Story: Chicago’s downtown area is so nice, but those from other parts of the city do not always get to enjoy this beauty. This makes me wonder if the only reason it’s this nice is because those other people aren’t there.

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Chicago is illuminated, but at what cost?

4. Sharan Kaur Singh, the host-mom from our suburban host family graciously arranged a visit to the gurdwara, a Sikh Temple, for our team. Our teacher was Simerneet Singh who explained many concepts in Sikhism.

Special Thanks to: Amrit Kaur, Sharan Kaur Singh, Simerneet Singh

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Riyaz, Jean Carlos, and Diana with their host-family!
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After the Gurdwara visit we took the train from the suburbs back to the city

5. We were able to have a discussion about reverse migration and what community revival means with LeAlan Jones, author of Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago, who was 13 years old when he began reporting about his community, the Ida B. Wells Projects. Both photographs, old and current, below were taken around the area where the Ida B. Wells Projects existed before they were demolished.

Special Thanks to: LeAlan Jones, Hana Worku, Marzena Zukowska

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LeAlan Jones and Llyod Newman
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LeAlan Jones and Anthony

UPON ARRIVAL: AIRPORT + UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MIGRATION + ERIC GARNER’S FUNERAL SERVICES

1. Illuminated Youth-Fellows had been invited to be judges at the United Nations Organization of Migration‘s Pre-Screening of PLURAL + Youth Video Festival. With most of us on one hour of sleep, the team had a pretty hard time. But, we made it through!

Special Thanks to: Syed Mehmood Kazmi and Jordi Torrent

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Raldenys waiting for her luggage at Liguardia Airport
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Anthony being grumpy outside Cafe Grumpy on one hour of sleep

2. The Illuminated team attended funeral services for Eric Garner to show solidarity.

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Reading about organizations working to raise awareness about NYPD brutality

FINAL SUMMER 2014 EVENT IN NEW YORK CITY

1. Our evening began with the Illuminated team describing their summer and answering questions that the audience had such as, “What were some of your most challenging and most exciting moments?” and “What is your understanding of heroism after this program?”

Special Thanks to: Sharmin Hossain at Ya-Ya Network and Catalina Spinel

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Explaining the Journey

2. In collaboration with Catalina Spinel, we screened 5 Broken Cameras.

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During the film-screening of 5 Broken Cameras

3. We used the space at the Ya-Ya Network, a youth political education program.

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During Post Film Discussion through an Illuminated Exercise
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During the Student Discussion of Illuminated

4. We had two birthdays during our travels that we did not get a chance to celebrate. So, some team members decided to surprise us all!

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Our “words of wisdom” throughout the journey, inspired by Anthony: “The one who throws the rock, forgets. The one who receives it, never!”
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It was a surprise!

5. In the words of Youth-Fellow Anthony Ramos, “We have made history. We are the first group who has made it through the local, national, and global Illuminated program this summer!”

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Once Illuminated, Always Illuminated