Perry House Couch

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sara.gladwin's picture

Perry House, Perry House, Perry House, Perry House Couch!

Making the Perry House Couch has been one of the most interesting and fulfilling projects I’ve been involved in. We worked very well together, which I think is definitely because of the dynamics of the 360 and taking all our courses together. I think we made really conscious efforts throughout the classes to create an open and safe environment that assumed good intentions. This carried over into our group projects, and I felt like we were able to have honest, productive discussions about how we wanted this project to go, what we wanted out of it and what we wanted to see in the final videos. We also had a lot of fun while doing it! Our courses this semester really pushed me to be critical about this project in ways that I do not think I otherwise would have been critical. I found that we were asking ourselves questions and making decisions with our learning in mind. I was especially fascinated by the way in which our project was geared to filling in some of the silences we felt in our historical research. We were not only attempting to further conversation on the present campus, but to preserve these conversations and represent a fuller history of Bryn Mawr’s campus. I think in our project we were attempting to do some really important archival work, just as I believe our 360 on a whole has been doing throughout our semester.

I do wish some of the videos had felt a little less informal/discussion-based. I think in my head I was picturing something a little bit more uncensored. I think part of this was our own nervousness and inexperience with filming. It was so easy to discuss what we wanted to talk about amongst one another, but when the camera recorder turned on and suddenly there was pressure to sound good and look good, I think it became harder to communicate (I think there is an interesting comment about “walls” somewhere in there but I haven’t quite articulated it yet). As the filming went on we became more comfortable and we were able to have looser discussion. I really appreciated that being comfortable with one another also gave us room to be flexible, to be constantly updating as we were working. I never felt like we were too tied down or constricted. There was always room for change. I also wished we had reached out to the broader community earlier to address more on-campus issues rather than mostly alumna questions. However, I turned out to be happy with our focus on alum during our final 360 presentation- I think the groups on a whole represented a diverse range of ideas while still remaining connected in the underlying themes; social justice, race, privilege, silence, voice and vision.

I think something that we did well is our framing of these questions. We spent a lot of time thinking about our framing questions/titles because we wanted to be well represented. The format of our videos also has a lot of potential in the kind of dialogue it could open up. I think there is a lot of pressure on this campus to be politically correct, as well as seeming knowledgeable and aware. There are ways that I value the “PC-ness” of Bryn Mawr’s campus, but I also think it can be restrictive to the kinds of conversations we allow ourselves to have with one another. I think there are students who do have questions they’d like to ask about Perry House but feel to ask would be racially taboo. However, I think that being unable to have a space in which people feel comfortable enough to ask the uncomfortable questions is preventing Bryn Mawr students from having the meaningful encounters on this issue that need to happen in order to get more of the campus involved. I think the “risk” that seems involved with these questions is also the reason that some students seem to steer clear of participating in the Perry House movement. I’m really hoping that the Perry House Couch can continue into the next semester and take a more active role in campus discussion. I see many ways in which being able to ask anonymous questions can really open up the discussion in a more confrontational way that I think people have been hesitant to engage in on campus.

The final reason why I want to continue making PHC videos, which is very personal to me, is how being involved in making these videos made me feel. I have never been so attached to a project before, to the point where I am passionate. I was surprised when I first started to see the videos come up online. I was mostly amazed at seeing myself produce something meaningful, and be a part of something I cared about. I feel good when I walked away from meetings with my group, and I felt genuinely happy to see something I helped create become visible for others to watch. I really hope that we can continue to do these videos in some way. 

couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

Perry House Couch Reflection

Perry House Couch: Sittin’ Down to take a Stand was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t know that a skill (iMovie editing) that I had learned for the first time only a week prior would be so transferable and relevant to the series of FAQ videos created. When I imagine activism; better yet, when I imagine myself and activism, my default is what I am use to: rallying, petitioning, drafting policies, etc. I love how this project allowed me to re-imagine, literally, what activism can look like and I am so glad that I wasn’t so accustomed to my old ways that I couldn’t learn something new. I have a newfound appreciation for media and the impact it can produce. Given the time crunch of our 360, and our society as a whole, I think media is the quickest, perhaps most effective, way of reaching audiences and creating the foundation for action.

The process leading up to the final products was not easy. I think a lot of us were expressed concerns about the completion of the project because the only way we could actually address concerns about the end product was by going through the filming/editing process. Honestly, I did not think using time in class to “workshop” was a good use of time because my group had done a great job of communicating through google doc and setting the dates for filming prior to the last two classes. Although we did end up getting the project done the weekend before the final project, I just remember feeling so anxious for those two hour and a half blocks. Of course, nothing could have been done about it but I know it added unnecessary stress to my already deteriorating  wellness at the time. Despite the pressure of time and the heaviness of our project (it is a huge responsibility to take on being the public faces of communication about  Perry), I appreciate my group for making time to play (a theme that seems to be popping up more and more). We were nervous, I know I was, and yet, somehow we manage to work with our nervousness, even show them in some videos, and have fun. This can definitely be seen in our semi-serious intro video. In working this way, I think we showed exactly who we, and all that care for Perry, are: college students who don't  have their shit together (excuse my French) in appearance, through language, and behavior to know that Perry, and all it embodies, is significant for the well-being of BMC.

It exactly clear to me how the three courses tie into our project but I am willing to take a shot at it. For one, Jody's class  project on exploring the wall community of Bryn Mawr really set the foundation for our work. The more I learned, through guided and independent readings, about Bryn Mawr's history with institutionalized racism the more important the fight for Perry House became. The only way I know how to best describe it is by using the saying, “Don't judge a cover by it's book.” Well, I had never judged or question the importance of Perry House but I certainly did not know enough of its history, its “content,”  to feel personally, not just racially, invested in Perry House.  So, Jody's class did set the foundation for the final Perry House project by allowing me to explore the historical aspect of Perry House and giving me the space to “play” with new tools (media!) that helped me capture our walled community.

I think the impact of Anne's class, aside from her guidance for our project, was more so on us as individuals than the actual project itself. Again, when filming we were so nervous but to add on we were also awkward, silent, comfortable, excited and curious all at once and to varying degrees on and off camera! I can't really name how the emphasis of silence in our 360 has influenced our relationships with one another because it is more of a feeling. But there is no doubt in my mind that my group and I were able to work so well and to create space for personal concerns as a result of our silence class.

As the impact vision had on our project, I think it is self-explanatory: it was visual! What we offered in our FAQ videos were more than words, like the JB email, we were faces! Therefore, I think our message had more of impact by being able to connect the words to faces...racially diverse and, perhaps, unexpected faces too! Without being fully aware of it, I think we kept in mind the presentation from Howard Zehr on how people are photographed and how the environment and the angle of the photo can say “1,000 words.” Our project was not a snapshot, but we did try to convey a lot with how we filmed the video. We had soft lighting, we were chillin' on a couch in Sharaai's apartment and we allowed ourselves to talk freely and openly-- “um's” and all.

To close, what I find so interesting is that in our 360 experience, we indirectly and directly explored “what does it mean to be human?” in relation to the prison experience and the  justice system. But it just dawned on me that in doing that exploration it paralleled with our work with Perry House. Of course everyone is human, but I think the underlying question(s) is “what does it mean/take to care...and do something?” I think this was the nature of not only the Perry House Couch series but all of our work. And it is a question that should be applied to any issue no matter how big, small or complex it is!

Sharaai's picture

Project Reflection!

This final project was a completely new and exciting experience for me. When I knew that we were going to have to do a final teach-in or workshop, I had absolutely no idea what my role was going to evolve into. The one thing I did know was that it was going to be like no other final I have done in my Bryn Mawr career. I have never had a final project that involved other classmates or involved the attendance of members of the Bryn Mawr community.

It was exciting to see this final project evolve as the semester went on. I do think that it ended up being something completely different than what was imagined in the first weeks of classes, but this was a good evolution. With the group of people involved in this 360 course, I felt like this evolution was inevitable. We are all tangible people with different perspectives and unique opinions. Throwing this many intelligent and active minded women would lead to an ever-changing final product. When activism became a large part of our conversation in class, it was exciting to know that we were going to be able to keep it integrated. Not only with further discussions in class, but with our final projects as well.

Through ideas of activism, I felt that our class was able to easily integrate all of our courses.  Through Voice class, we were able to discuss who has and doesn’t have a voice when it comes to acts of activism. We got relate our readings, such as The Right To Be hostile, to reasoning behind protesting but more importantly, who gets to participate in activism. Through this text, I was able to see why some voices are heard more than others and what that would mean for my own voice in activism. Being a woman of color, your voice is not always heard but being an educated woman can change that. Through the 360, I am being given the agency to use my voice. Through a final project connected with activism, I am, in a sense, automatically given a voice.

For me, silence meant a lot of things for this course, but it made me realize that some sense of silence is alright. It took some fear out of the concept and also made me more aware. When it came to the activism that many of were doing throughout the semester Silence class was a place that allowed me to interpret silence for more than it is initially taken as. When we felt our voices weren’t being heard by administration, I couldn’t help but feel like my voice was being ignored. I was being silenced, even though I felt like I was making an effort to put my voice on the floor. This feeling of silence forced me to rethink my methods of communication on the topic of Perry House.  

Through the Perry House Couch, I feel like my group was able to put down something concrete behind the Perry House movement that would be easy to access in a number of ways.  First off, it was online, making it accessible to anybody with internet access! I like to think that the internet as common ground between current student, alum, concerned community members and those outside of the Bryn Mawr walls as well. It is also something that can be looked at repeatedly and updated as necessary. We wanted to make it a blog so that we could keep on updating it as we stayed involved with Perry House. The blog also allows for viewers to submit their questions to us, making it possible for silenced voices and opinions to be heard.  We liked the idea of anonymous submissions because that would allow for nervous followers to submit their questions to us.

Completing this project forced us to think about how others were going to see us and how we would like to be seen. We questioned whether or not we should clearly state our Pro-Perry House opinions and in the end decided it was a good idea. I didn’t see why we should cover up our own voices for the sake of making our blog “politically correct” and I am glad that my group felt the same way. We were able to give people our personal visions for the Perry House movement and those of the many students involved.

We also thought about our audience and how we would structure our videos around them. In the beginning of our project, we were hoping to work directly with the alumni association and help them with a webinar idea that was floating between conversations with current students, alum and administration. We also contemplated doing a visual representation, on campus, in correlation with Perry House’s history. Deciding to go with the video answers stemmed from some of the questions we had with the previously mentioned projects. How do we do a webinar? Can we work with the Alumni Association in such a small time span? Are we only targeting alum with our answers? How can we make our project accessible to the greater community?

By deciding on the Perry House Couch, I felt like we had a happy medium established. We were planning on answering the questions that many had about Perry House, but on our own terms. We were going to freely insert our personal opinions when we found necessary and I do think this came across We were able to do it on our own terms since we were not directly working with any administration. This aspect had to have been my favorite because we were able to have fun with it. We were able to put some faces on the movement for those that are watching the videos from outside the immediate Bryn Mawr community. We were able to get questions from alum but we were also able to put in questions that we had been answering on campus. With our intro video, we were able to give viewers a sense of where we were coming from. We wanted to let viewers know why we were there and what lens we were looking at Perry House through. I really enjoyed the Perry House Couch and am extremely happen with how it came out!

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