Tabadul in Action at Northeast High School

Posted On:
15 December, 2016
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Al-Bustan’s year-long Tabadul: Cross-Cultural Exchange through the Arts project at Northeast High School took off in Fall 2016 with many exciting connections developing among students, faculty, and teaching artists, with several partnering schools and community organizations. It’s a multi-prong and multi-scalar effort, so it is not easy to explain it all, but here are some highlights we would like to share with you!

Tabadul: In-class

Starting in September 2016, Al-Bustan teaching artists Dave Tavani (photography), Jacob Winterstein (poetry/spoken word), and Hafez Kotain (percussion) joined Dr. Jay Fluellen nearly each week in his class at Northeast High School, exploring culture as it relates to identity, self, place, and food. The project is managed by Director of Education Nora Elmarzouky with Project Assistant Josh Graupera.

As students learned to use figurative language in poetry, they wrote about a place important to them by thinking of their daily activities, how place affects their mood, the sounds they hear, the things they see, and the people they interact with.  Students recalled memories about their favorite foods, the ingredients, and the first time eating the food, while learning how to interview someone they associate with making it.

In photography, students began critically reading photographs – analyzing the composition, the intentions of the photographer, and the multiple interpretations of the viewer.  They produced their own photographs in response to prompts like “capture the mood of your partner”, and delved into composing self-portraits, exploring the themes of “Where I’m From,” favorite foods, and cafeteria dining.

Percussion brings the class together to work as a team learning Arab and Latin rhythms by playing the tableh, also known as darbuka, and other hand percussion instruments.  They learned to read rhythm notes, and gained an understanding of the influence of Arab and Latin drum rhythms in the music of other cultures. With Dr. Fluellen’s musical expertise, students have also begun composing their own beats using Fluellen’s rhythm alphabet created for percussion.

While some students preferred one arts discipline over another, many expressed how they learned more about themselves:

I learned how to identify myself without talking about race.

I realized I can share things with people I don’t know.

I recognize now how every time I get in touch with my feelings, it is a hard time.

Photos by Emily Ganser

Tabadul: Community Workshops

Recently celebrated by The Notebook for its cultural acceptance, NEHS is the largest and  most diverse public school in Philadelphia. With 60 languages spoken among approximately 3,400 students who can choose from 8 small academic learning communities taught by 200+ teachers, great opportunities exist to connect people within such a large environment. The after-school community workshops aim to engage this diversity by bringing together parents, teachers, administrators, and students in arts-based activities, engaging with each others cultures, and sharing students work from class.

For the first after-school workshop, students and teachers participated in a lively percussion demonstration led by Hafez Kotain. It was followed by responding to prompts about the role of music, instruments, and significance of specific songs from each attendees culture. Activities concluded with making new rhythms based on a place of importance using a percussion rhythm alphabet created by Dr. Fluellen.  The afternoon ended with everyone enjoying a sampling of delicious Arab food: tabouleh, fatoush, falafel, and cheese borek.

The second workshop had returning and new participants, starting with a bang as NEHS student Kayla Hunt performed her poem “Mirror Facing the Mirror”reflecting on NEHS culture, and Jacob Winterstein performed his poem “Or.”  He then led participants in creating a communal poem reflective of what NEHS is and what they want it to be.  The Jamaican food served at the end of the gathering was delicious and still has students talking about how much they enjoyed the curry chicken, rice, beans, and steamed cabbage – thanks to the generous donation by Flavor Spot — if you are in the Northeast, check them out and tell them you tasted or heard of them from Al-Bustan’s Tabadul Project!  #TabadulPHL

Northeast High School is
“Hello” spoken in 60 different languages
Northeast High School will be
The face of Philadelphia
Northeast High School is
the hallways full of people
– excerpts from A Tabadul Communal Poem

Tabadul: Youth Planning Club
The after-school Tabadul Planning Club is comprised of two groups of students who meet once a week after-school. One group works on planning/evaluating the workshops – everything from discussing issues around cultural competency, designing flyers, student engagement strategies and evaluations, to participating in leadership skills development and supporting implementation of the community workshops.

A second group of students is engaged in participatory action research. They are delving deeper into understanding student experiences at school questioning the degree of cultural acceptance that students feel and what makes them feel they belong or not. The data collected informs the workshops, themes, and food choices as well as the students’ creation of an infographic demonstrating the diversity at NEHS.