Monday, October 20, 2008

Our America

On Friday, remember to go straight to the EPI-Center for a special talk by LeAlan Jones. Here is a short bio:

Mr. Jones is a freelance writer and journalist in Chicago. He began his career in journalism in 1993 at the age of 13 when he collaborated with his friend Lloyd Newman and radio producer David Isay to create Ghetto Life 101. This award-winning radio diary about growing up on Chicago’s South Side aired on National Public Radio. Jones and Newman spent ten days collecting stories on tape about their day-to-day lives; the stories ranged from throwing rocks at cars to a harrowing encounter with Newman’s alcoholic father.

Two years later Jones and Newman produced another radio diary called Remorse, which examined the horrifying murder of Eric Morse, a five-year-old living in the Ida B. Wells housing project in Chicago. Again, Jones collected interviews from members of the community to produce this Peabody Award winning radio documentary.

In 1996 Jones, Newman, and Isay together wrote the book Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago, which was based on the previous radio programs. Today Jones works as a freelance writer for N’Digo, a weekly paper in Chicago.

Jones’s mission is stated in Our America:

"We live in a second America where the laws of the land don't apply and the laws of the street do. You must learn our America as we must learn your America, so that maybe, someday, we can become one."

Here are some questions you might think about in advance of LeAlan's visit:

  • What stories would you collect that best represent your neighborhood?
  • What are some advantages in using radio to communicate ideas as opposed to visual arts?
  • Who gets to tell the story of your life, our lives? Whose voices do not get heard?
  • What might Jones mean when he says, “We live in a second America ...”?

5 comments:

Kimber said...

As I learned more about the work of LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, I was shocked but inspired. I was shocked at how young people living 30 minutes south of me were living in such poverty, surrounded by violence, crime, and drugs. This is truly a 2nd America, compared to my calm life surrounded by academics, sports, community service, family, and friends. However, my work through Erika’s Lighthouse and Haven has revealed that there is a 2nd America in my own backyard. There are kids who are abused in their own homes and schools. There are students fighting depression, addiction, and poor self esteem. This 2nd America remains hidden on the North Shore. LeAlan Jone’s 2nd America is also off our radar.
In order to get the situation on our radar, LeAlan Jones brilliantly used radio as his media. The use of radio takes away a layer of prejudice. When we hear stories, we create our own visual images. We can better imagine ourselves in the situation. Opening people’s eyes to this 2nd America will hopefully lead to effective change.

S. Bolos said...

What did Mr. Jones mean by living a "purposeful life"?

"The division of labor in this country is not equitable"

Kimber said...

I think that when Mr. Jones was talking about a “purposeful life” he was trying to get the point across that people should be living for things that are more important than money. LeAlan Jones has succeeded in life and is famous for the books he has written and the radio stories he has shared, including “Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago” and “Ghetto Life 101.” He could be living the high life, but instead he chose to take responsibility in raising his niece and nephew. He even teaches at a school in one of the poorest, most violent areas of Chicago. He has lived a purposeful life, not only making money and achieving his goals, but also by giving back to his family and the place where he was raised. He makes a point that should be carefully considered by those of us more well of on the north shore, that money is not the end goal, but it is what you do with your time and resources that determine a purposeful life.

I would interpret Jones’ comment that, “The division of labor in this country is not equitable,” as meaning that some of the most strenuous, difficult jobs are left for the poorest, less fortunate people in our society. The wealthiest CEO’s sit in high-rise buildings, in soft leather chairs, pushing paper, conducting meetings, and talking on the phone. Similarly, actors and actresses bring home multi-million dollar salaries for pure entertainment. On the other hand, our country would not be running without the hardworking construction workers, factory workers, maintenance individuals, and other low paying jobs. These low wages promote drug trafficking and other illegal behavior. As Mr. Jones stated, it is easy for a drug dealer to make $500 dollars in a few hours, whereas it would take a week’s effort for a hard working laborer.

Gutty The Great said...

I think that living a purposeful life is different for everyone. For some, it means making a lot of money and being successful financially. It all depends on how you define the word purpose. When Mr. Jones spoke to our class he made it clear that his purpose in life wasn't just to made money. He had the oppurtunity to work with stocks and make big bucks. He also had the chance to work with showtime on a movie about his life. But for him, living a purposeful life meant making a difference in his community. The area of chicago where he has spent the majority of his life. He is a community leader in his neighborhood. People respect him and look to him for advice. His dedication to his community is part of his purpose in life. To be there when times are rough, and when times are getting better. Mr. Jones is living a purposeful life not because he is making 2 million dollars a year. Because he is giving back to his community and doing something that he loves and is commited to.

Cathy F said...

What does LeAlan Jones' mean when he said " We live in two different America"?