Students were asked to create a product representing the culmination of their course and the Storytelling Project. This product would be a representation of transformation and regeneration and demonstrate influences of identity, cultural roots and resistance. We encouraged students to include elements of hip-hop culture and wellness, but wanted to empower the form of expression they ultimately chose.
Accompanying each product is a statement from the student speaking to the following questions:
- What does this piece represent?
- Who were your influences?
- Why did you make the choices you did in depicting this topic?
- How does this demonstrate wellness, transformation and/or regeneration?
“I love playing baseball. That’s the main thing I want to do when I grow up to play baseball, especially to play in the MLB. When the day I’m told I’m going to pitch that day I get super nervous at the same time I’m excited to pitch and try to win the game for my team but that nervousness always gets me the most. I would listen to my playlist to make me feel better, some songs get my hype, some songs get me calm. My playlist is full of random songs to make me calm. In general, they are some country, some Spanish, and some rap really just songs. If I’m in the slump this playlist makes me so happy and I would usually do awesome in my game.”
“This piece represents the different cultures in the world, and how we all are similar in various ways but that the world is filled with hate and so much negative energy that it divides us. Equity and equality: the end result we all , the ones that don’t want to live in misery desire. These things never come to or remotely remain in the public eye. And the youth is never inspired to take a stand to make a difference. The youth, that is, the ones full of innocence. The ones inspired by the things around them, to matter. You should always feel free to voice your opinion, but to act out on these irrational thoughts in every shape or form is disgusting. You cannot, as black or white or any skin color, call yourself the supreme race when moved out of your comfort by the opposition’s color, their skin color. That is no form of being or demonstrating being a supreme being. If you are a supremacist, be unmoved by the opposition. Remain unscathed in the comfort of your own home, in your own realm. Demonstrate care for the youth’s future. Are you willing to risk your child’s future due to your own bigotry? The choice is yours, but your child will not stand for the hate. This generation will be loved, nurtured, heard and understood. The world and actions that we see in media and around us in this generation inspired me to paint this, too show that we all are equal no matter what cultures we come from, we all one big family in the end. The choices i made in this piece reflect each one of us to show diversity not just to aim it at one culture and race but to all. This shows demonstrates wellness, transformation and/or regeneration by showing the path of regeneration and cooperation will create a greater level of well-being, health, happiness and equality for everyone and all life; and in the process of co-creating a better future together, our lives will be more meaningful, fulfilling, creative and fun.”
“The piece that I created represents black beauty and intricacy. I worked off of a project for my AP art class. My idea was to depict the African experience from the homeland, to the Americas, through slavery, and to the White House. This was the first piece of the series.
I wanted to remind my audience that the African American experience didn’t begin with chains and subjugation. It began with beauty, wealth, and color. I sculpted an African woman wearing a head wrap popular in West Africa. It is very color and complexly woven. I pushed myself to make her face as true as possible— because of our Eurocentric society, depictions of African Americans are often anglicized— making her nose wider, and lips fuller. It is important to recognize this beauty and to promote it so that young black people aren’t ashamed of their bold, black, and beautiful features.
This piece demonstrates regeneration and wellness because it is a reminder of what used to be and what has always been: black excellence. Sometimes, we get bogged down in the memories of segregation, Jim Crow, and slavery instead of realizing that blackness has persevered through it all. It is important to go back to pre-colonial Africa to see where the beauty all began.”
“In my art piece, I wanted to metaphorically make a statement about regeneration and transformation. When put in bad conditions, it is important to continue trying instead of just giving up. In the painting/mixed media piece shown above there are small shrubs, bare of flowers and just peeking out of the cracks of rock(left). These shrubs regenerate in this barren environment and eventually transform to be much larger, surrounded by green grasses, and thriving with blooming flowers(right). People can also pick themselves up and change their environments for the better. Especially in America, and globally, there are so many groups of people who are discriminated against whether it is about race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, handicap, economic status, and sadly the list goes on. However, if we look at where we are now compared to even a few decades ago, we have made progress in the right direction towards true equality and it is important to continue fighting for it. If we push for this transformation, our country too can one day no longer be barren and falling apart.”
“Wellness for me is something that is something that I have trouble identifying a lot of the time. I have never been able to recognize what helps me find wellness, I think a lot of times I go out of my way to avoid it.
I have created this idea that wellness is something negative and that taking time to relax and just center yourself is not good and even harmful. For this reason I ignore some of the things that bring me wellness.
This website helped me identify and explain to others but also to myself the things that are always around me that bring me wellness and help me escape from the stress and chaos of everyday life.
This website was influenced a lot by what I consider to be wellness. In doing this I realized that a lot of my wellness practices are influenced by people I trust, like family and close friends. Even things like sports and hobbies are things that I share with my family, they are a way that we can connect with each other.
While trying to represent the different wellness practices I tried to find an image or picture that I thought represented that specific practice for me and then explain that practice and how it helped me achieve wellness. These explanations were meant to be for myself to serve as a reminder to how these practice made me feel but also as for someone looking in from the outside to help them better understand how some of these activities bring me joy.”
“The reason I chose this song is because it’s a song about resistance and what it means to stand up when you know that you’ll fall. It’s a song that fully explains what it is to rise up to the occasion and to not let the flame die just because it’s small just like most modern resistances are right now.”
“This piece represents the growth and progress I’ve made and can continue to make. I was influenced by doodling and “zentangles.” I like doodling and drawing zentangles as a mindfulness and wellness exercise. Some of my favorite ones to draw are cubes or other 3D shapes which is why my main piece is colorful cubes. The coloring of my piece is a spectrum from dark to light. I don’t think of growth as a timeline or a definitive journey so it felt wrong to portray it any differently. Growth isn’t a steady path. You have bumps in the road. You have smooth sailing. You have breakdowns and stalls. Growth is a roller coaster but sometimes that’s hard to display especially with a piece that will continue to grow as I do. On the left side of the canvas, the harder days, are experiences, words and thoughts that made me feel the lowest of lows. As we move right, although they weren’t the lowest places, I still struggled to move past them. Toward the center of the canvas,when the sun starts to shine, are tipping points. Some of these things caused me to take 5 steps backwards, while others pushed me to grow. Farther right, are things that reminded me to grow, they reminded me of my strength and how far I could go. On the right side of the canvas, the brighter days, are affirmations, comforts and all my progress. These are the things that show how far I’ve been. These are things that prove I have grown and prove I am strong. The farthest right edge has a little extra room than the rest of the canvas. For the amazing things that can happen. For all the progress I have yet to make. For growth.”
“The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”
“The idea sparked from this creation was to begin my journey of film and invoke interest in our surroundings. We can easily spend so much time on our phones to be entertained when if we seek connection to the present, our envisions would be different. Videography and music is something that brings me creativity like no other. Video forces you to capture detail in observation & music matches perfect to strike emotion and imagination. Identity is something we’ve talked a lot about in ethnic studies and I was regenerated through this lesson of how each individual is a mosaic of experiences. My goal isn’t to find fear of what I don’t know but to live a background of much experience to grow in a lifetime. This is the creativity within me. What I film inspires me to see traveling in a beautiful way. You are given a choice. To remain in the same place your whole life or go out into the space of the world you were blessed with and discover an appreciable realm of culture & influence. Travel is a universal sign for discovering more than what you’re used to. Now most people I know that travel do it because it is something deeply inspiring for them. Cost seems to be a confrontation or barrier to what opportunity “you get” but in true belief, you can acquire anything you desire. Not in theory, but finding a way to achieve what you truly want. If you want it enough people will notice. People will look at you as an inspiration and through that you will gain positive energy and opportunity.”
“This piece represents how love can be impacted by many different things. I wanted to show how my perception of love has changed because of my culture. Being that I am a hisanic women I learned how much value family has in your relationship. Respect is a major quality that your person has to have towards your parents and can be shown with simply just walking to the door if we are leaving. I never really knew about any of this stuff because my family had never really talked about it. At the time I really wanted to make a video showing my happiest moments with my then boyfriend because it made me feel comforted and happy because those were memories I would forever cherish and hold. I think after all I have experienced I became more respectful towards myself and became a better person. I think even through all of the pain I in away mov on and see the positive in it as well because at some point I truly wanted all of it and invested myself fully into one person.”
“This piece represents the indirect diversity of my community even when faced with gentrification, these murals show our unity from different cultural backgrounds and our growth to overcome challenges that we have been facing as individuals and as a community. I got most of my influence from my family because coming from a multicultural background of Native Americans, Mexicans, and very little roots to African American ancestry I think these murals really capture my neighborhood since everyone here has vast cultural roots and every shade of color but that’s changing due to gentrification, so I think it’s good to appreciate this diversity before whites start to move in and ruining this diversity. These murals demonstrate wellness in many different ways starting with the mural with the American and Mexican flag to show our diverse cultural background within our community along with how long this community has been a whole for almost 120 years. The second mural with the fist and key show’s transformation and regeneration within the community by holding the fist high up to show and demonstrate overcoming hard challenges and learning from those experience and becoming better people the little details around the fist show a book, along with the 4 of spades which tell us that Life and knowledge are beautiful and powerful things we always have with us. Identity is important to appreciate and acknowledge because it’s what makes this community so diverse and what makes the people living in that community who they are and there are many natives who have been white washed and have totally forgotten their culture as a whole.”
“For a while now, I’ve been struggling with my anxiety and low self-esteem. In my mind (and I suspect few other people’s)I could only be one of two things, a perfect woman beloved by all, or a complete failure doomed to die alone. And there was no in-between. I felt like I had to work harder, think smarter, be better than the rest just to feel loved and appreciated, or else I’d lose everything. It was only after I moved to Denver that I realized my worth isn’t dictated by what others think of me. What truly matters is what I think of me. But that doesn’t mean my fears of not being good enough have gone away. I still have days where I doubt my strengths and even my own character. So I made this playlist to remind myself of what I’m capable of. Each song is a reflection on how far I’ve come on my journey to start fresh and rebuild myself.
Before I started high school, I dreaded the thought of ever making a mistake because I was never really encouraged by my dad to learn from them. For those who don’t know, I’m the middle child of three kids on the spectrum as well as the highest functioning. Meaning I carried the burden of being the well-child; the one who was going to carry on the Givens family legacy. It didn’t help matters when my dad would rant about how other kids fail where I succeed, or how the world was full of cruel, heartless people who only cared for themselves. As if to say I was the world’s only hope of redemption; the one beacon of light in an otherwise dark, despicable hellscape (or so I interpreted). I felt so much pressure to abandon my own needs for the greater good, that it almost cost me my life.
Thankfully my mom was able to move me and my sisters away from him before things got too toxic. We stayed in Chicago with my aunt for about a week, then we flew out to Denver. Since then, I was able to reflect on my relationship with my dad, and how unhealthy it was to sacrifice my own well-being for others. I know now that I’m free to follow my own path; to chase my dreams; to be myself. To quote Mr. Rogers, “You don’t have to be anything sensational for people to love you.“
If there were three songs from my playlist that best represent my journey, it would be “Try Everything” by Shakira, “The Way I Am” by Charlie Puth, and “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman. All three of these reflect my transformation from perfect yet unhappy, to relaxed and carefree, and one lyric from each of them stand out in my memory.
From “This is Me,” we have “When the sharpest words want to cut me down/I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ‘em out/ I am brave, I am bruised, I am who meant to be/This is me.”
When I hear these words, I feel empowered to look in the mirror and say “You know who you are? You are an awesome, funny smart human-being who is gonna kick ass in the work field, and no one can tell you different.
From “The Way I Am” we have “Imma tell ‘em all/ Imma tell ‘em all that you can either hate me, or love me/’Cause that’s just the way I am.”
This serves as an active reminder that I have no obligation to change myself for love and respect. This is me; this is the real Mackenzie Givens. Take it or leave it.
And from “Try Everything,” we have “I’ll keep on making those new mistakes/I’ll keep on making them everyday.”
It reminds me of how grateful I am for all the amazing, positive people in my life. From my family, to my teachers, to my friends, to even my two cats, these are the people who give me the courage to learn from my mistakes and to keep growing as a person.
My journey of self-discovery is nowhere near over. And whether it’s another mental crisis or just a person I don’t agree with, I’m gonna face a lot of challenges along the way. Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to them.
P.S. I know I wasn’t supposed to write an essay, but I find the written word to be my best form of expression. Third only to visual art and music.”
“This piece represents an important part of my family that I feel most strongly connected to. It features a variety of family recipes that have either been used for decades or were created by someone in my family. I think that it symbolizes unity that exists within my family. Cooking can be a good bonding experience and we can all connect through the foods that we eat regardless of where we are. I was influenced by some of the examples that I saw in class. The butterfly canvas with newspaper cutouts as the background played a role in my idea for this project. I liked how the background looked with a jumble of words. I was also influenced by my grandma because over the weekend, she and my mom were looking through recipes and she seemed to know some of them by heart. She is an incredible cook and barely needs to look at recipes to make some of our famous dishes. I wanted the recipes to fill up the entire canvas. I could have included dozens more but I had to select just my favorites because the canvas was too full to fit all of the family recipes. I included some foods that are just significant to me. For example, lasagna was the first thing that I learned to make. It is a simple dish but young me, thought it was pretty cool to be able to cook a meal for my family. Not all of the foods have a recipe to go along with them but they all have some significance to my life or to a member of my family. Some of my favorite dishes that are featured on the canvas include Italian Wedding Soup and Turkey Enchiladas. My grandmother on my dad’s side of the family is Italian and this soup is a very traditional Italian soup. We don’t get to eat it very often but I am always excited when my mom is making this soup. It is really unique and it reminds me of my grandma when I eat it. Also the enchilada recipe is made by my great grandmother on my moms side. She was a Mexican immigrant and she worked hard to provide for her family in the US. While she pushed her children to speak English and try their best to fit in with American children, she would always make amazing traditional Mexican dishes for her family and this recipe has been passed down to my grandma and now my mom. Food is crucial to maintaining good health both physically and mentally. I find that a meal can be extremely relaxing and a sort of release being able to sit and enjoy food and conversation without having to worry about other things going on in life. I find that food is a huge part of my family, especially when we are on vacation. Most of our time spent in new places is eating food. I also think that this is related to transformation because as I grow up and learn about life I value home cooking even more. This is a skill that as I get older I hope to improve on.”
“This piece represents 2020, and everything that was happening. I started creating this last year in digital design in response to how crazy 2020 was. The rose has a bunch of images on each petal including: fire from the wildfires in Australia and California, Black Lives Matter, voting, and masks. The rose represents transformation in the beautiful flower that comes in spring, but also the thorns and all. The mouth eating it represents how everything was forced upon everyone. Not all transformation is wanted, but it is necessary nonetheless, and brings around a new spring: BLM, president Biden, new norms of the pandemic, etc. The transformation 2020 brought also redefined wellness. Mental health is bigger than ever with the pandemic and many people found expression in protests, in nature, and trying new things.”