Banksy & Hope

Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.

- John le Carre

It is part of my Bookpeople visit tradition to stop in the art section and browse the graffiti artist compilation books, and it was on one of these visits that Lennon pointed out the graffiti artist that everyone else in the world is apparently familiar with but me - Banksy. I've never really been interested in graffiti art until my friend from high school, Lee, began doing stencil art pieces that I liked because they looked both beautiful and complicated, which I had never noticed before in my prior dismissals of graffiti art. I wish I could unwire the part of my brain that immediately dismisses everything at first glance, I miss a lot of things because of this.

I've gained a renewed interest in graffiti art since bringing in a program vendor to the after school program I am a co-director of - a vendor called S.O.U.L. Sessions (Strengthen Our Urban Legacy), who, in addition to bringing in break dancers, beat boxers, and free style hip-hop artists (all foreign to me), works with the students on graffiti art. And not tips on tagging, but large, beautiful pieces.

The frustrating fact of my job is that very few of the remaining students at the school (it's AYP 5 - "academically unacceptable"), are not interested in very many things, at least not that I have been able to tell or tap into. Like teaching, my afternoons out of the office and in the club with the kids are very rollercoastery - yesterday was terrible, with disrespect, talk-back, rule disregarding, poor program attendance, etc, while today was much better, with our girls-only group that discusses relationships and abuse having a large turn out of eight, and two boys challenging me to games of pool - which in my job, is a huge deal. Nonetheless, it has been the academic equivalent of Sisyphus to encourage kids to participate in enrichment programming like S.O.U.L. Sessions and the other really amazing (and I mean amazing) vendors we have contracted to come into the school to teach kids (fun things - like film making, slam poetry, Capoeira... etc).

Yesterday a student started snapping and cussing at me for asking to see his attendance wrist band, and it shook me the same way confrontation did in my classroom my first year of teaching. It is very different to interact with students I do not see for an hour every day in a studious environment. I still don't know most of their names, and my authority reaches no further than telling a behavior case that they need to leave and can't come back for X number of days. My co-worker has promised to bring me a short book to read about the psychology of children who grow up in poverty - about the survival mechanisms employed by some kids, a subject utterly foreign to me, and thus renders me unsure of how to react or handle some situations. I'm not new to urban schools, but this stint is completely different from anything I've tried before, and it's certainly trying my resolve some days.

After yesterday's encounter with the one belligerent boy and the other issues we had, it made me very happy to see this tattoo posted on Contrariwise with the tagline "there is always hope."

This, of course, led me on a scavenger hunt across the internet looking at Banksy pieces and stories, realizing that I've been, perhaps, the only person out of the loop until now, (which is not that unusual). I find it odd that people "buy" his pieces, since he's quoted as saying: “Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours, it belongs to you. It’s yours to take, rearrange and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”

This quote resonated in my head and I thought of all of the images and information that I'm confronted with everyday, whether or not it is by choice - even the check-out belt at the grocery store register has advertisements printed on it that scroll as I set my groceries on top of them. It's tiresome to recollect all of the colors and text that are thrown at my eyes all day. It's even more tiresome to try and get some students to realize this - I taught propaganda when we read Night in my sophomore English classes, and it always reminded me of the anonymous quote: the fish is the last one to see the water. This in turn reminds me of that meditation practice I've been putting off...

When I got home I attempted to insist on vacuuming, but was informed I needed to stop moving and lay down to rest for thirty minutes. Thirty turned into two and a half, and it's time I should return, since I only got up to eat a dinner of cheerios, about an hour ago.

The Jealous Girlfriends: Secret Identity. This seems appropriate after writing a few lines about Bansky. Plus, I just love them.