Now that artist Carmen Papalia and the class have become more acquainted with one another, last week’s activities were met with a writing workshop and a march around the Strathcona Elementary school hallways and courtyard.
At the beginning of the day, Carmen introduced a poem that he wrote which composed of a list of ‘I wants’. Both students and adults discussed the various types of wants and desires in the poem and how these individual needs might reflect on larger, common needs too.
Carmen also shared an adapted version of his piece, Open Access, which he rewrote especially for the class:
In 2015, I wrote five paragraphs about the kind of support that I want when people help me because the support that I was getting wasn’t working for me. I wrote about people patiently listening to each other in a respectful environment where everyone feels welcome and can ask for help as their needs change. I titled the piece “Open Access” and showed protest banners with the paragraphs on them in art exhibitions across Canada and the US. I think of Open Access as a set of instructions for how to create a supportive environment where everyone can be themselves and ask for help when they need it.
I eventually went on a worldwide tour and shared Open Access as a new way to think about the ways that we help others. I hope that the people that I meet find it useful; I tell them to remember the Open Access guidelines whenever they, or someone they know, needs some help or understanding.
Open Access is an open conversation with a trusted friend; someone who will listen, who is willing to help. When things are openly accessible we feel like we can freely be ourselves and rely on the people around us for kind and patient support. Sometimes we are the person asking for help, and sometimes we are the person helping.
Open Access is a conversation about support that we can revisit at any time, as our needs change. Anyone from any background, who is experiencing any sort of problem at all, is welcome to join; because everyone brings something valuable to the table and is an expert when it comes to who they are and what they need.
When things are openly accessible we can live and learn in the ways that work for us; especially if we have a different way of doing things. Open Access creates a safe and respectful environment where we can ask for help, do things our own way, and share what makes us unique without the risk of being discriminated against or put in a box.
When we make things openly accessible we create a forcefield that pushes away the things that make it difficult to be our unique selves; like negative thoughts and discrimination. We make a bubble that people who support each other can stand inside of; a place where “normal” doesn’t exist and everyone celebrates the many things that make them who they are.
Open Access is something that we have to keep working at so it keeps working for us; we shouldn’t ever assume that things are openly accessible for everyone. People, and the things that they need help with, are always changing; the help that we get, and give to others, needs the freedom to change too.
In small groups, the class read aloud and discussed each of the adapted five tenants of Open Access, coming up with a list of 10 ‘I Wants’ addressing each of these tenants. Choosing from their list of ‘I wants’, the students then turned these into campaign signs, and together, the class presented a march around the school.
The ‘I Wants’ were diverse:
‘I want people to stop labeling each other’
‘I want people to step up more’
‘I want international hug day’
There was even a campaign sign for cheeseburgers!