Introduction

unnamedIn Mr. Martin’s 11th grade English class, we listened closely to the stories of others, and we explored the ways stories are shaped from an initial act of listening. We investigated interviews and interviewing, and we experimented with the raw materials of questions and answers to craft coherent, meaningful stories. As our skills developed, we conducted, transcribed, and edited our own interviews as a way of peeling back the layers of another person, learning to share stories, and developing empathy alongside some other academic skills, such as inquiry and composition.

To create our portraits, we implemented a décollage art technique by gluing and then peeling back symbolic layers to create meaningful artifactual portraits of our interview subjects. In this way, both our interviews and portraits reveal the layers to be discovered beneath the surface of a person’s outer appearance.

Deon, a City Neighbors High School junior, interviews his classmate, Amber.

Deon: It is Thursday, December 12. It is 10:54. I am here with Amber.​ Amber, today I will be interviewing you and asking a couple of questions so we can get to know each other. Cool?

Amber: Cool!

Deon: What was it like for you growing up in your hometown?

Amber: Umm…I don’t really have a hometown because of moving back and forth with my parents. I’d move around a lot, and I will say every experience was different. So, I’d go from being in Baltimore where there’s always something happening to going to Ocean City where it’s kind of calm, and then to Dallas, Texas, where it was like, “I didn’t know anybody.” I was kind of like by myself and it was always quiet compared to moving back to Baltimore where it was loud.

Deon: What is your view on this society and how do you think the adults view us teenagers?

Amber: ​Umm…so…Society is a difficult one. It depends on the eyes of the beholder, definitely. When looking at it from a teenager’s perspective, you see…you see things in a different way only because we are so young. So…like…when we see people getting locked up, or kids not going to school, it’s a sad but normal thing. But to adults there are other ways of knowing other parents needed to do this or that, or it’s where they live, or how they’re treated….What was the second question?

Deon: How do you think adults view us young teenagers in this city?

Amber: They believe that we all have the potential but don’t want to say it. They always point out the bad, but don’t want to help to make the good. So, if a kid keeps getting suspended or they keep having problems with their teacher, and it’s one specific teacher, instead of just saying, “We need to have a conference between the student and the teacher and the students’ parents,” they say, “Oh, you need to fix this kid’s behavior,” because they believe that adults are always right, when really it’s adults who don’t understand the kids. So, neither of them are right or wrong; it’s just that they see things differently.

Deon: ​What have you gained from experiencing life on this earth? And what are some things you’ve learned growing up that still impact your life today?

Amber: Growing up on this earth I definitely understand diversity, that even if I may meet somebody with the same eye color or the same skin or hair texture, we are two completely different people. Like, we may like the same things, like clothes and shoes, but inside our personalities can be completely different. Umm…. What was the second question?

Deon: What are some things that you’ve learned that still impact your life today?

Amber: ​Soooo…like when I was little…my parents…my mother, definitely, believed that I was…that we were all independent. That we all are different people. My father kind of pushed us into groups. So this helps because my mother kind of still needed me to be my own person, and I do things more independently now. And because of my father, I don’t like being put in a group. Because it’s like…it was…conflicting between, “Oh, your my child, you’re Amber,” and then also “You’re with the rest of your siblings.” I would say it made me who I am because of how I conduct myself in and out of school, and the conversations that I choose to have with people.

Deon: Okay. Last question. Knowing your mother and father, how do you think they view you being an independent person ten years from now? How do you think they’ll see you working, grinding, doing whatever you have to do to survive?

Amber: I’ve told my parents that I wasn’t going to be the type to stay close to home. I just don’t want to do that. I believe in ten years I’ll be actually getting where I want to be in my life and kind of pursuing at least the start of what I want to do. I definitely see that my parents helped me. They shaped me into being independent, based on what I do. Whether it’s being a journalist or designer or a lawyer, they all depend solely on me. I believe my parents will be proud of me no matter what I do, but I think they’ll be more proud to see that I’m using my childhood to kind of see what I can learn growing up.

Deon: ​I want to thank you for your time and answering my questions. I really learned a lot from you. I think you’re a very interesting person. I think you know what you want to do as far as, you know, growing up. You have an interesting view on the city and your mindset is, just, you know… astonishing. But yeah, thank you for your time. It is 11:04. December 12th. Thursday. And this is the end of the interview. Have a good day!

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~Amber and Deon, Students, City Neighbors High School~