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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bead Expo, Part II

Can you spot the troublemaker in this picture?

Some call it bribery, but we called it opportunity. The girls in our project were asked if they would babysit on Saturday in exchange for a trip to the bead expo on Sunday. The answer was..."Yeah. OK." Ah, the teen years and their enthusiasm.

Having rested our feet on Saturday night, Susan, Anna, and I were good to go on Sunday morning (well, me, not so much--the shingles episode isn't over, but it can be tolerated pretty well if there are beads involved). Seven young ladies were waiting for their day at the bead show, and as it turned out, it was a good thing our feet were rested because the girls kept us on our toes.

The girls had a set amount of money to spend, but with a very tough string attached: Nothing could be purchased without group consensus. Getting seven teen girls to agree on anything is a monumental challenge under the best of circumstances, but when it's an issue of personal taste, you can be sure there will be spirited discussion with every purchase. There was.

The three of us who were the chaperones today had our own agenda. We want the girls to acquire the social skills they'll need to be successful, respected young women. We want them to learn to work together, to develop skills related to negotiation, discussion, compromise, and fairness. We also want them to understand what is and isn't worth arguing about, and when it is or isn't important to stand one's ground.

We also wanted them to develop an appreciation for the beads they've been using for their creative endeavors. Until today, they had never even considered where their beads come from or what they cost. It's a lesson in value that all kids learn sooner or later, and today these girls learned that you can't buy everything you see and that not everything you like is worth the price. It was a day of awareness, thinking, deliberation and consideration. And beads. Lots of beads.

The girls, like the women on Saturday, were most drawn to anything faceted, sparkly, crystal, shiny, or bright. Anna helped them to see that such strong qualities must be tempered with more basic attributes if the dominant features are to be appreciated and not overwhelming.

The girls could barely contain themselves as they made their way from booth to booth. They wanted to look at everything, touch everything, buy everything, and touch everything yet again. They talked, laughed, compared, and went in seven different directions, only to be corralled and redirected, brought together and asked to focus (ha!).

At the end of the day, seven young ladies spent a day to remember and as they tumbled out the front door to the parking lot, they were already talking about next year's show and what they hoped to buy. They also saw some gorgeous jewelry they'd like to learn how to make, and we hope they feel inspired by the beauty they encountered today.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Technical note

This blog is now set up for RSS feeds. If you need that information, then you know what to do. The widget gadget thingy is at the bottom of the right column on this page. And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Together, we shop for A Little Something

Slide show loading--read our post while you wait for the pictures to come online!

(To see this slide show LARGER and in a new window, just click on the blue link you see in the lower left corner of the slideshow screen, above. Hover your cursor over the bottom of slideshow screen and click the 'plus' symbol to slow down the speed.)

It was a landmark day. Today was our first field trip, and we didn't start with something easy. Four of the women--Khadiga, Fatuma, Madina, and Mama Moumina went to their first Bead Expo. Susan, Anna, Jaime, and Sharon went, too.

You don't normally see brightly dressed African women meandering through the bead show here, so we were pretty easy to spot. From the moment we walked in the door, we received a very warm reception. First and foremost, the staff of the Rocky Mountain Bead Society helped us set up our field trip, and they kindly found ways to make the whole endeavor more feasible. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Joan Babcock welcomed us into her micro-macrame class and patiently worked with our students throughout the lesson. Although her class was full and it would have been easier for Joan to concentrate on her more experienced students, she made this afternoon a very special experience for our group. You see, the women of A Little Something have never taken a class with Americans before--at least, not side-by-side as peers. This kind of experience is at the heart of our philosophy of empowerment. It is a powerful moment if you are a person who has been marginalized your entire life.

The rest of the day was all about shopping! Beads, beads, beads, everywhere! We had a plan of perusing the entire exhibition hall and then circling back and buying, however, it seemed we could never progress more than a few booths at a time without being sucked into the Bead Expo Vortex that has such astounding gravitational pull that before you know it, you're in a booth with a strand of beads entertaining your hand.

The women had a set amount of cash to spend on beads and supplies for the program. They were supposed to work cooperatively to make their purchasing decisions and budget their money throughout the day. Well, that was the plan, anyway. Anna ended up managing the money because the women were all deeply mesmerized by sparkling Swarovski, Czech fire polish, faceted crystal and quartz, and a bajillion tubes of sparkly, bright seed beads. In other words, their reaction to their first bead show was exactly the same as anyone else's. The word "overwhelming" was uttered more than once.

Many people who encountered us were curious about our ensemble. The women answered those questions that they could, and the rest of us were happy to tell the story of A Little Something. Before we knew it, it was 6:00 and the hall was closing up for the night. We almost had to drag the women away from the sparkly pretties, but once we got outside, everyone realized the same thing: We were ready to sit down an put our feet up!

Today was a wonderful day. As the women climbed into the van and got situated, Mama Moumina told us something in Maay Maay. Then, she pointed to every one of us in turn, gave two thumbs up and said, "All good. Good, good, good!" Fatuma and Khadiga assured us they had fun. We all agreed we were tired, though.

The story doesn't end here. Oh, no. Tomorrow we're going back with the teen girls' group. More fun to come--we'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A sister project reawakens in the spring

If you haven't had the opportunity to read our earliest posts, then you might not know that our project is the spin-off of two other projects. One of those original projects is the Somali Bantu Farming Council, a partnership between the Bantu Community and Denver Urban Gardens. The project has turned some empty city lots in east Denver into bountiful vegetable gardens. The farmers sell their produce at the farmer's market. The garden also becomes a gathering spot for neighbors throughout the warm months.

Spring is here, and that means it's time for the community to come together to start preparing the gardens for another planting season. The Bead Women saw this gathering as an opportunity to tend to their creative garden, as well, with an impromptu jewelry sale. The day looked like this...

Volunteers assisted with the soil preparation.

Community members' work will yield farmer's market produce in a few months.

While the adults worked the soil, young Somali Bantu artists painted a mural for the garden.

The girls worked hard to tag and price jewelry for the sale. What's that behind the couch??

Why am I here selling jewelry? I'm not a girl!

Monday, April 7, 2008

We're still here!

Sharon speaking! As the official keeper of the A Little Something blog, I just wanted to reassure everyone that it hasn't gone away--although I did.

The last few weeks have found me up to my eyeballs in lesson planning that went on throughout spring break, then battling an outbreak of shingles, and then attending a conference in New York City. Truth be told, I probably spent more time in my hotel room trying not to lose my mind from the shingles outbreak than I did actuallly attending conference sessions and meetings.

I only mention this because I know there are some of you out there who check in with our blog on a regular basis. Since I am the designated blogger, I feel it would be remiss not to let you know that this particular activity--and my hands-on participation in the crafts project--are a bit difficult for me to handle at the moment.

I know, I know, you're thinking "Why doesn't someone else take over for now?"
Well, our project is just a little, little bit on the back burner, but only for a week or so. Anna was sick and then had to go out of state to help her mom who fell ill and was hospitalized. Susan had the flu and then laryngitis, and despite her best efforts, has had residual issues with a bug that just won't let go. Even Haiffaa and Khadiga have had some serious health problems in the last month. We're collectively a wreck!! My doctor hinted that perhaps we've all been pushing ourselves too hard, but I, for one, have chosen to ignore the possibility of "busyness" being our shared health hazard.

We may be down, but we're not out. I have to fly to Florida next week to help my mom who is going to have surgery. I hope to be back in the swing of things shortly after that. Stay tuned--our big field trip to the bead show is coming up late in April and that should be an adventure well worth blogging about!