My Listen Up!

Echoes of Brown v. Board

Organization Echoes Institute for Arts and Social Justice and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY).

Credits Michelle Fine and Maria Elena Torre
A collaboration between researchers from The CUNY Graduate Center, youth from New York and New Jersey, Poet-educators from Urban Word NYC, dancers and choreographers from Ron K. Brown's Evidence dance company, the Rockefeller Foundation.

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Echoes of Brown is an innovative multimedia book comprised of intergenerationally-produced writing, research and analyses about the persistent problems of educational inequity. A DVD, along with contemporary art, photography, poetry, performance documentation and social scientific research, is incorporated into one hip red/black and white bounded package with punch.

Released at the time of the 50 anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education's landmark decision, Echoes of Brown was quickly lauded by communities, scholars and activists as a seminal youth-centered examination of the ongoing fractures in the delivery of educational justice and equality. Echoes of Brown is one unique outcome evolving out of the Opportunity Gap Participatory Research Project, a series of research camps involving high school students, school districts, elders, artists and educators that were conducted over the period of two years in the region of New York and New Jersey (2002-2004). The research camps were organized and led by Dr. Michelle Fine, Dr. Maria Elena Torre along with several Graduate Center students of City University of New York (CUNY). read more

Unique Practices and Approaches: Participatory Action Research

Often traditional research involves university academics and experts "studying" others in a community, Participatory Action Research (PAR) is carried out by the members of the community themselves. The logic is that the people most directly impacted by the issues being researched should have control over what questions are researched according to their own needs. In the case of the Opportunity Gap Project, high school students acted as co-researchers alongside professional educators from The Graduate Center at CUNY. Together they formed the survey questions, culled and analyzed the data, presented findings to a public, and initiated actions in response to what they found.

For Maria Elena Torre, who along with Michelle Fine, organized and led the project with dozens of high school students over a period of three years, Participatory Action Research represents an important shift in the context of youth media work. read more

Unique Practices and Approaches: Contact Zone

The Echoes Institute brought together thirteen radically diverse youth participants, ages 14-21. As Michelle Fine and Maria Elena Torre describe it the youth were "African American, White, South African, Latino, Arab; Jewish, Christian, Moslem, atheist; wealthy and working class/working poor; AP/Honors and Special Education students." In doing so, Michelle Fine and Maria Elena Torre aimed to create, in the words of Mary Louise Pratt, a "contact zone." a messy social space where differently situated people "meet, clash, and grapple with each other" across their varying relationships to power (Pratt, 1992).

Torre and Fine have often referred to the contact zone as "radical inclusivity", defining it as a process that allows, and in fact, encourages, disjuncture through dialogue around challenging points of view. As Torre explains, "The goal of the Echoes Institute was definitely not 'wouldn't it be nice if we all just got along.' We had no illusions that we could create a space free of vulnerability. It was a safer space - not a perfect space. read more

Change and Impact

The project was reviewed in several publications and distributed as a Book/DVD to educational networks and youth development agencies nationally. read more