Monday, May 26, 2008

How Do You Define Cheating?

In the making of True Grit(s) we asked people in Los Angeles, NY, London and Paris 5 simple questions about cheating? Where are you from and how would you answer these questons?

How do you define cheating?
Have you ever cheated on someone?
Have you ever been cheated on?
What did you learn?
How did you heal from it?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fuel to the Fire - A Hot New Ghetto Savant

The Ghetto Savant crew expands with the addition of my dear friend Dyana Valentine. A fellow Antioch University alumni, Dyana, like myself, holds a Master’s degree in Applied Community Psychology. She’s been a part of the True Grit(s) experience from the very beginning. So when I heard that the International Conference on Community Psychology in Lisbon was accepting proposals, I immediately asked Dyana if she would like to co-create a presentation. I knew she would bring new fuel to the project, and with fuel prices sky high -- she’s priceless!

Here is the proposal that we submitted describing what the True Grit(s) experience is all about. There is a method to the True Grit(s) madness.

Using New Media and Social Networks to Promote Wellness

Our session addresses how new media and social networks can be used for community consciousness-raising. The session is based on the work of community psychologist and co-presenter Blaine Teamer, who created a new genre of film that integrated citizen participation, social support and peer-to-peer problem solving.

He and his community of African-American artists in Los Angeles, frustrated about limited opportunities to make films and mass media’s role in creating social myths, decided to harness their various talents, skills and resources to make their first short film, addressing infidelity, entitled TRUE GRIT(S). The filmmaking and screenings were socially empowering for the artists.

Conversations sparked by the film after its release led to a documentary composed of interviews responding to the social issue. These conversations led to a deeper understanding of what infidelity means to community members, both personally and culturally. Insight into the interviews was provided by a mental health professional, whose input was combined with the original narrative and documentary footage. An emphasis on experiential knowledge helped to create a peer-to-peer relationship among all community participants.

The documentary is currently being circulated via screenings in diverse communities. These screenings serve as a springboard to further discuss the focal concern, capture more documentary footage, develop new social understandings, and strengthen community relationships.Our session will consist of a case study presentation, a five-minute film clip of the film and intentional conversation. Participants will be able to view the conversation initiated in Lisbon by joining an online community, and be invited to collaborate with their community psychology colleagues to develop similar social networks.

True Grit(s) and Community Psychology

What is community psychology?

Community psychology deals with the relationships of the individual to communities and the wider society. Community psychologists seek to understand the quality of life of individuals, communities, and society. Their aim is to enhance quality of life through collaborative research and action, and they seek to work with community members as partners. One of the goals of community psychology involves Empowerment of individuals and communities that have been marginalized by society.

“Empowerment is viewed as a process: the mechanism by which people, organizations, and communities gain mastery over their lives.”
- Julian Rappaport, PH.D.

Seven Core Values in Community Psychology:

Individual Wellness
Sense of Community
Social Justice
Citizen participation
Collaboration and community strengths
Respect for human diversity
Empirical Grounding

As an artist and ghetto savant with a M.A. in psychology, I was interested in applying the principles of community psychology to the art of filmmaking. So with this marriage of art and psychology, True Grit(s) was born. In June, the film and the psychology behind it will travel to Lisbon.

True Grit(s) Screened at Warner Bros.

Black Employees @ Warner Bros hosted a very special screening of TRUE GRIT(s): a faux cinéma-vérité docu-dramedy. History was made at the legendary studio, as the first film ever to deal with infidelity, healing and HOT GRITS graced the big screen, and the audience ate it up.

The evening consisted of a screening of the film, a panel discussion and a Q&A segment focusing on the issue of infidelity. Guests made there way through the outdoor sets of such TV classics as: 77 Sunset Strip, The Dukes of Hazzard, & Friends. Why there was never a storyline with Rachel throwing some grits on Ross, I’ll never know.

Unfortunately, no grits were allowed in the theatre; however, dessert and coffee was served in the lobby before the screening. Next the guests made their way into the beautiful theatre. Indira and I introduced the film, and sat in back and clutched our hands in prayer. “Dear Lord, it’s me, Blaine and Indira. I know you are so busy, but please let these people like our little movie.”

The film that asks the question “what is cheating to you?” received an enthusiastic response from the audience, and they were ready to respond to the question and ask the panel some questions.

The panel consisted of the “usual suspects” filmmakers Indira Gibson, Shawn Carter Peterson, yours truly, Blaine Teamer and our resident therapist Antonio LeMons; however, this marked the first time that Tonya Pinkins joined our panel discussion. The legendary stage diva did not disappoint and dived right in. Candid, charming and full of charisma, Tonya gave her perspective on the topic of infidelity. She shared lessons that she learned and how she healed from the experiences.

Fueled by the panel’s honesty and insight, the audience could not wait to have their say, and they did. The film opened up Pandora’s Box. As usual our resident therapist Antonio was on hand to help people work through what the film brings up. The film introduces the audience to therapy in a unique way, and the screenings give them direct access to one.

What amazed me about the audience discussion were the unsuspected viewpoints and the social myths that were deconstructed. Also, how audience member shared their perspectives in order to help other members who were dealing with their own issues. It was group therapy with a TRUE GRIT(S) twist. I think we are onto something.

The whole purpose of the film series and our screenings is to stimulate a conversation about social issues and to get people talking about it. Then let them define the issue and co-create the solutions to solve the problem. Mission accomplished at Warner Bros. Next stop Portugal.