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Changing the Narrative-Pacoima

People tell you who you are all the time. Who do YOU say your are?

Powered again by a generous grant from the California Arts Council, Connectopod is working with youth from underrepresented neighborhoods to reimagine their own story. Growing from our experience with Changing the Narrative - Inglewood last year, we have expanded our program from 10 kids to 28, 5 weeks to 18 weeks.

This year we are centered at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima with a group of eighth graders. With the luxury of more time, we are using the first nine weeks to explore the dominant narrative that exists in the media and reputation. We dig deeper examining that story with discussion, exercises, games, research and team building.

A Few Lesson Highlights

Daniel P. Castillo, filmmaker (and recent graduate of Fuller Theological Graduate MA in global leadership- Congrats Daniel!) started us off with a reprisal of his critical media literacy workshop from last year.

In his entertaining and engaging style, he got the kids to start examining how Pacoima is portrayed in media and what is missing from that story.

He provided three actionable steps to challenge the dominant narrative:

1.Question the status quo

2. Reimagine new possibilities

3.Rediscover past and present connections.

Andrea focused on research prep for the interviews. Drawing from a decade in non profit administration, she also taught the importance of thanking those who take time for you, and the importance of cultivating community connections.

I taught the skills I have garnered from a 20 year career in voice over and production. Technical skills, yes, but most importantly , I want to get across how your voice defines you. From your very first sentence, people perceive things about you like where you come from, your age, your intelligence, your education, whether or not they want to listen to what you have to say.

By learning how to use our voices, how to speak out with confidence, we can impact the perception we create. How we represent ourselves effects:

-opportunities you get

connection you experience with others

-your agency to advocate for yourself and people/things you care about

-ability to report a story

The first step to owning your own narrative is to introduce yourself, which sets your intention to be heard.

Vaughn teacher Joe Harmon prepped our arrival with varied podcasts to familiarize our podcasters with different styles and the concept of the medium, and taught a lesson on water/environment to compliment our environmental lessons.

We also mapped the heart of Pacoima! What makes a place home? You make recognize that porkchop shaped literal map of Pacoima, but now you can find the favorite parks, the houses of friends, grandma's and grandpa's, uncles and aunts, favorite restaurants, schools, churches, places where sports are played and bikes are ridden. Places of secrets and celebrations, hanging with friends, discovering new ideas on your own in safe cozy corner of a library.

And games! To build report, free our perceptions, practice story brainstorming, and reimagine the ordinary. In this playful way, we learned who our podcasters are and what kind of stories they might tell and what their style might be. We built trust in each other and learned to cooperate for a goal. And got a monkey across a finish line.

One of our strongest lessons is that you can life by default or by choice.

We often don't realize our own agency to live up to our potential. We chose our guests, all active in Pacoima, to highlight art, leadership, and advocacy. What we also found was the power of personal narrative to make a connection with our podcasters, seeing in them a bit of themselves. We practices equipment skills, interview techniques, active listening, and public speaking while interviewing our guest speakers and artists.

Our first three Changing the Narrative Pacoima episodes.

You can listen to those interviews via the links below!

LEAD! with Assembly Member Luz Rivas. She grew up in Pacoima with a single mom who cleaned houses and took any job she could to provide for Luz and her sister. Luz went on to MIT, and Harvard and founded the nonprofit DIY Girls. Last year she was voted in as Assembly Member, 49th District.

CREATE! with muralist Levi Ponce. Also a Pacoima native, Levi using the only blue, green, black, and white, the paints he had, he picked up his brushes and painted the Danny Trejo mural on Van Nuys Boulevard. He never looked back. Now an international muralist and former Disney artist, he illustrates how to choose to be happy (his definition of success)

ADVOCATE! with Yesenia Cruz of Pacoima Beautiful, an organization fighting for environmental justice in Pacoima since 1996. She shared many of the issues facing the neighborhoods of our podcasters which is hemmed in by the 5, 210, and 118 freeways. We learned about environmental racism and frontline communities. We learned how to step up and hold our government and corporations accountable.

What's next with "Changing the Narrative-Pacoima," you ask?

We are currently on a one week break. When we return, the podcasters will be assigned to production teams to create their own episodes. The first two weeks back will center on brainstorming their stories, incorporating all they have experienced during the research weeks.

To kick off production in November, we'll shake it all up with some hip hop moves and a party launch lunch with a, field trip to the Gr818ers new community art center UNITE!, for dia de los Muertos celebration. Originally from Pacoima, the founders of the Gr818ers, and the Awoke Foundation teach their message that your challenges are your power through Hip Hop dance workshops and art.

Many thanks again to The California Arts Council (a California State Agency) for making this program possible. To find out more about them visit Arts.Ca.Gov

Stay tuned for the action packed production portion of Changing the Narrative Pacoima!

My things come and go so quickly here! Keep up with us this on Instagram

And if you are feeling flush, please consider donating. Connectopod is a nonprofit organization.

Changing the Narrative Pacoima is made possible by a generous grant by The California Arts Council a California state agency. To learn more go to Thanks!

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