Listening is a Revolutionary Act: Part 1

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In 2002, about six years into my reporting career, I was hired to teach journalism to high school students as part of a public radio diversity initiative. For two years I went a couple of Fridays a month to Queen of Peace, a Catholic girls school on the outer reaches of Chicago’s Western side that was a mixture of students from working class black, hispanic, and white neighborhoods. My project was inserted into their regular Biology class, and my job was to get them to document environmental issues in their neighborhoods. I sent them off with microphones, and questions, expecting to hear about things like water pollution, greenspace, and bird migration. What came back at me was an insightful window into their communities and a much broader interpretation of environment than I think the project creators had intended. Gang violence, noise pollution (from nearby Midway airport), step-parents, and public transit all came back at me under the “environment” umbrella.

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