Podcast: Young adults expand their world views in a Parent Child Center class
MIDDLEBURY — “To look at Farhad, if you would know this Vermont Muslim, you must look at him long.” So begins a poem by Morgan Edgerly, an 18-year-old Addison County resident, about Middlebury Selectman and business owner Farhad Khan.
Edgerly is a participant at Middlebury’s Parent-Child Center, where young adult parents earn high school credit while working jobs and receiving onsite childcare. Last fall, she was part of a class there led by Deirdre Kelly and Marianne Doe called “The Ghosts of Our History.” The interdisciplinary class explored big questions of injustice throughout American history, but also encouraged participants to look inward at their own experiences with inequality, racism and identity.
They visited the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh to learn about Vermont’s connection to the underground railroad. They attended a performance at Burlington’s Flynn Center called “Beyond Sacred, Voices of Muslim Identity.” They read about Matthew Shepard and Emmett Till, both victims of intolerance. All the while these “Ghosts of Our History” participants wrote their reflections on the things they were learning about, and reflected on their own lives.
“You can’t honestly look at American history and not wrestle with questions of justice and inequality,” says Kelly.
As part of the class, they invited Khan to speak about his experience as a Muslim man in Vermont. Khan has done plenty of interfaith work. He has served as vice president for the nonprofit Kids for Peace Vermont, which hosts a summer camp every year for Muslim, Jewish and Christian kids from Israel, Palestine and Vermont. He used to be president of the Islamic Society of Vermont. He has done workshops with Vermont’s border patrol, teaching them how to handle cultural differences they might encounter on the job.
He told me that he isn’t a great public speaker. So he was nervous. But, he says, “the moment I walked in, I saw their faces and I felt so comfortable.” The participants seemed to connect to him immediately.
“I liked how he talked about his family and his whole face lit up,” Edgerly told me. “It was so easy for him to talk about his emotions.”
“It was such an honor to see him and participants really present,” says Kelly, “doing something that I think our country needs desperately, which is both to listen to each other and to tell these vulnerable stories.”
The class culminated with a book of participants’ writing. But two of the writers, Edgerly and Ylexeus Palacio, wanted to take the project one step further.
Over the winter they worked with me on creating a podcast about the class. We were all new to the medium. We sought a quiet recording space in the basement but forgot to account for the scampering of toddler feet. We built a blanket fort in their classroom and laid in it on the floor to try and get good sound. We read their words over and over again.
In the finished podcast, they each read their work, which is raw and personal and moving.
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