Reverse Selfie Project

 

The Reverse Selfie Project is a 6-week, creative-and-critical thinking workshop hosted in Tulsa Public high schools and middle schools.  

For students who have never lived without technology at their fingertips, we are giving them a moment of stillness. This is where the difficult virtue of practice, concentration, discipline, wrestling with the ego, and revision come into practice. Our goal is to foster a new generation of curious thinkers who play an active role in the world going on around them.

We’re teaching poetry through the lens of the Reverse Selfie Project because we believe narcissists aren’t good for society. When we are the center of our world we cannot see (or serve) the real world. With the rise of a Kardashian-rich and value-poor culture, we hope to turn the perspective around from self to community.

By having the creative and critical means of analyzing our inner selves through poetry, we increase our capacity to know and care for ourselves; empowering us to contribute to our community, instead of depending on our community for resources. 

But we can’t do this without your help.

It’s going to take a revolutionary approach to shock our students out of selfies and snapchats—and we’re up against the clock. One way to think of funding this innovative workshop is from the perspective of an investment. Remember James Baldwin: “These are all our children: we will all profit by or pay for what they become.”

As future budget cuts threaten major arteries of our society, supporting The Reverse Selfie Project is an investment into the mental health of the future generation. Let’s give them the tools to navigate the mind hiding behind their smiling faces.

 

Thank you for granting a student’s scholarship.

Note: All donations are tax deductible.
Please make checks payable to MUSED. Organization.


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Reverse Selfie Project
The Teachers

Casey McLerran is the Literary Editor at the Black Wall Street Times. She is a Sooner State transplant from Forest Hills, NY. McLerran arrived in Oklahoma at the age of three shortly after gentrification displaced her and her family out of their home in New York. At first glance, many think they have McLerran figured out. To be frank, she’s a biracial American young woman that unapologetically embraces her half-African identity — a feminist-womanist she is. Her pen operates as her voice as well as her sword. Her accolades include the 2018 Rural Oklahoma Poetry Museum’s Oklahoma Poem Award, a business management degree, and her three beautiful children. Her objective with the Black Wall Street Times is to elevate and amplify the literary art of modern black American culture, pay tribute to African-American literary trailblazers, all while simultaneously linking and introducing children to the world of colorful American writers.


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It was very quickly clear that these students had no interest in poetry, and our work was cut out for us...


Our NARCISSISM + ACROSTIC workshop exposed the idea of empathy, and showed students how empathy runs the opposite spectrum of narcissism. These students belong to an extremely unique generation: they are generous, creative, and inventive self-starters. They are also the first generation who has never lived without technology at their fingertips — which also makes them, as critics say, “the most entitled, competitive, self-centered, and individualistic breed on record.”

Surely the critics aren't talking about these kiddos though. 

It was great to see the students "get" the poetic form Acrostic (they even noticed the narcissist in the poem Nuggets). For their group exercise, they wrote acrostic poems to their school - which meant they spelled the word STREET down the left hand side of the page, and then filled in stories and images of their experience at Street School. 

My Favorite line I wrote during the Acrostic workshop was:

"Independently on my own."
"Determined to find love so much that he’d die for it."
"Forgive but don’t forget."


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We're tackling big ideas pretty quickly, while keeping it magical at the same time. 


Our ALTRUISM + METAPHOR workshop got students talking about "helper's high"- the feeling we get when we perform a random act of kindness. They wished they could have played the "grab bag of Metaphor" a little longer, and chewed over all the ways we understand Sylvia Plath when she says: 

"I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf."

One student said, "its seems like we're always both trapped inside and infinifinly free." We love to see this tipping point: where the student's rational mind jumps off the cliff; and when the imagination feels safe to fly.

One way I practiced Altruism was: 

"I gave a homeless man $20."
"Buying Christmas presents instead of the video game I wanted."
"I let others speak first, walk first, and eat first."


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Taking pictures are easy. Letting ourselves be truly seen isn't as simple a concept. 

Our VULNERABILITY + PERSONIFICATION workshop helped spell out the benefits of worthiness that come trough acting vulnerable. We became familiar with the gospel of vulnerability according to Brené Brown, and then found a way to practice vulnerability through the perspective of personification. We don't have a favorite example, but if we did, this might be it: 

The sun rays run around the room
the clouds come chasing the sun rays
the could start to cry as the
sun rays disappear, as soon as the
sun rays come back the clouds stop
crying. I am so emotional.


One thing I learned about myself through the Vulnerability workshop was: 

"I need to be myself even if someone doesn't like who I am."
"I am more open to others than I thought I was."
"I want to take time to be more vulnerable because it's beautiful."


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Where is the crux? 


Our SELF CONFIDENCE + IMAGERY workshop helps us understand emotional literacy is based on a sliding scale: we can't be cocky and have no shame, but also, we can't be push overs with low (or no) confidence. 

Together we read a poem about growing up in Oklahoma and learned from Hala Alyan's version of our state: 

The Mexican girls let me sit with them as long as I braid their hair, my fingers dipping into that wet black silk. I try to imitate them at home — mírame, mama — but my mother yells at me, says they didn’t come here so I could speak some beggar language.

Later we wrote a group poem about Street School. These kids aren't romantic about their situation. We talked about the judgement they get from the community and in the halls: 

Street school a pot full of flowers
Shadows of judgements lingering on our stem.
Turn your back and see us growing toward the sun
Shining like used china at a garage sale can
if you put a little elbow geese into the scrub --
Don’t judge us, unfished master pieces.

My favorite part of the Reverse Selfie Project so far is :

"Expressing who I am."
"I get to come up with ideas without hesitating."
"The teacher of it."


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"Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die."

Our LEGACY + LIST POETRY workshop helped students map their lives to the very end, then asked "what have you left behind?" Paige told us it didn't matter how much money she made, she just wants to be a therapist and help struggling teenagers, just like the professionals at Shadow Mountain who helped turn her life around. We read Ron Padgett's "How to be Perfect," brainstormed the meaning of perfection, and wrote how, even in our imperfection to use our strengths and plant a legacy.

My favorite line I wrote today way: 

"Knowledge is food = feed the hungry."
"Dress up, look pretty, even if you are tired."
"Love those who deserve it, but don't hate, even if they have done you wrong. Move on."


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As walked into our last workshop with pizza, ice cream, soda, and literary journals as gifts, Leo exclaimed -

"Oh don't leave, Victoria, we wish we were doing poetry all year long." I know exactly what where he's coming from. When I turned in my final poetry manuscript in my undergrad and graduate school, I felt disconnected from some part of myself.

When I finish hosting our POP events or leave a Magic City reading, I know how he feels: knowing how good it feels to think critically, but also how difficult it can be. How you don't know if you can trust yourself to take yourself back to the page. That he might lose the self he just found. 

So when Leo says he doesn't want me to leave - like the rest of the class will do before the end of our session - maybe the person he is longing for is himself. And hopefully this workshop helped him develop a habit of learning to "know thyself" through poetry.


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