Libraries, Life, MAKE ART FOR THE LIBRARY, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Portland, ME, Teens

Be Kind. Be Positive. Make a Difference.

Over the past week I have been thinking about how every weekday at around 2:20pm EST between 2010-2013 that the Portland Public Library would fill up with anywhere between 30-70 teens. I recall the dramatic change in the library, and no I’m not talking about how the sound level would increase. What I’m talking about is the energy, the passion, and the kindness that came into the library every day with these teens. These teens needed the library to connect, to share, to socialize, and to learn. The library gave them a safe and welcoming space to do all of that, and that space continues to thrive and offer the same wonderful and excellent services to many new teens today. It is a beautiful thing.

Around 75% of the teen population that came into the library back in those days were not born in the USA. They came from countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Sudan to name a few. They came from countries where their lives were torn apart, their families were displaced, and in the words of a former co-worker “they came from places where one of the first things they learned to say was “please don’t kill my family.”” The people that came to us needed the library but more importantly they needed the United States of America, a place where they had the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their dreams.

I have been thinking about about the teens I worked with at the Portland Public Library today all this weekend and today as I take in all of the news about the travel bans enacted by our government here in the USA. I think about those teens and their families and hope they are safe and well. I worry about them a lot these days. I also think about the future teens and their families from other countries that might come to the USA someday seeking a place to live their lives and pursue their dreams. I want to help them, but how?

It is a time of great unease and there is a lot going on is very troubling. Sometimes it gets to a point where it wears me down, but then I realize that I can’t let it defeat me. I have to stay strong….we have to stay strong. The way we can do that is to continue to promote kindness and positivity in all of our actions.  Kindness and positivity go a long way. This is one way we can help those that we care about.

Andromeda Yelton’s latest post (quoting the ALA Code of Ethics) reminds me of what I need to do every day as a librarian….I need to “provide the highest level of service to all library users.” I need to be there for everyone in my community. And I need to continue to be there for those that I worked with in the past and those that I will work with in the future. This is another way that we can help those that we care about.

We each have our own way of making a positive and kind impact on our own world. I urge everyone reading this to think about what they can do to make someone else’s life better these days. You can have an impact!

(title from Andromeda Yelton’s post, read it here: We provide the highest level of service to all library users. Thank you Andromeda for this post)

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Libraries, Portland, ME, Teens

THE WHOLE WORLD WAITING

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While I still have almost two months left here at the Portland Public Library, tonight feels like the closing of a chapter.  At 6pm, we will host a viewing of THE WHOLE WORLD WAITING, a film about  15 immigrant teenagers from Portland, Maine.  I’ve seen all of these teens in the library at some point.  Some stop by to say hello every once in awhile while others are in here every day.

I want to take the opportunity to thank not only these teens for sharing their stories but to Sonya Tomlinson, David Meiklejohn, and everyone at the Telling Room for putting this film together.  This project is beautiful and these stories are so great to hear.  Also, thank you for your kindness and support during my time in Portland, ME.

For more information on the film, the filmmakers, and more:

Budget Fabulous Films by David Meiklejohn

Young Immigrants Share Their Stories for the Camera via Portland Press Herald

The Whole World Waiting and The Young Writers and Leaders Kickstarter

Libraries, Portland, ME, Teens

The Whole World Waiting

Eight months ago I told you all about THE WHOLE WORLD WAITING, which is a film by David Meikeljohn, Sonya Tomlinson, and The Telling Room featuring fifteen teenagers from the Portland, ME area.  Today, I’m here to share the finished film with you…and isn’t it great!  It’s so wonderful to see so many of the teens that come through the library every day sharing their story.

Thanks to everyone who supported the filmakers, the teens, and The Telling Room via their Kickstarter page

Information about the project:

Young Writers & Leaders (YWL) is a free, afterschool literary arts program for teenaged refugee and immigrant English Language Learners. The program runs for nine months each year, engaging each student in weekly afterschool sessions that provide unparalleled opportunities to work directly with some of Maine’s best writers and artists, creative writing and arts programming and job skills and leadership training.

YWL is offered in partnership with Portland, Deering, and Casco Bay High Schools, and has served teens from Haiti, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Sudan and Kenya, improving their writing skills, academic performance, social and emotional wellbeing, and their chances of future success.

Teaching artist Sonya Tomlinson and filmmaker David Meiklejohn created The Whole World Waiting to showcase all fifteen students from The Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program (2011-2012) in three-minute segments. Each story tackles the myths of America told from the perspective of immigrant and refugee youth.

Libraries, Music, Portland, ME

Young Writers & Leaders Film

I know you probably see/hear about 10 different Kickstarter pages every day (I do too).  However, every once in awhile a great project comes along that’s TOTALLY worthy of support.  To me, this is that project.

The Young Writers and Leaders film is part of a Telling Room program (who I’ve worked with at the library here), Sonya Tomlinson (who I’ve worked with at the library here), David Meiklejohn, and 15 Portland, Maine area teens (all of which who use the library almost every day!).  Simply stated, the film tells the stories of the teens and their involvement in the program and their lives in Portland, ME.  

This is the real deal, folks.
Please consider supporting this project by visiting their Kickstarter page here.

The Young Writer’s and Leaders is a program of the Telling Room, a non-profit writing center in Portland Maine. The program is home to 15 high school students from Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti, Uganda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo and Kenya. In addition to one-­on-­one literacy tutoring, college prep assistance, creative writing, job skills and leadership training, the students also participate in arts programming. This year’s concentration is the film project featured in the above video led by teaching artists, David Meiklejohn (filmmaker and director ofMy Heart is An Idiot) and hip-hop recording artist, Sontiago (Endemik Music).

On May 24th, the students will premiere their short films in their hometown of Portland, Maine at Space GalleryOver half of the students in the program have not spent time in another city outside of Portland. Over half of the students have not spent time in Boston, though it is a mere two hours away. Over half of the students have not traveled by train.

If funded, our plan is to travel to Boston via the Downeaster train and spend the day in the city visiting a sister writing center and pairing up with Boston-area young writers. In the evening we will rent a film house that holds 250 people and screen the 15 original short films featuring each YWL student performing their individual stories based on myths about America and life as new Americans. The screening will also offer a Q&A with the Young Writers and Leaders students.