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Understanding Community

Ms. Thomas asked her students to interview a person of their choice (their narrator), create artivism that reflected their narrator's responses, and write a brief process paper about their artivism. 

Below you will find five examples of these projects. The narrator's name is listed first and is followed by an excerpt of their oral history. Lastly, you'll find an excerpt of the student's process paper about their artivism.

All student work and oral histories are shared with permission. Oral histories and student writing have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 


I use English and Tagalog equally, but I prefer to use English because of school, and I work with patients who speak English. I identify most with the Filipino culture because I came here when I was 8 years old, so by that time I already [was] aware of my culture and I live in a household that focuses on our culture, so the only time I get to experience American culture is if I go to school and hang out with my non-Filipino friends.

The most stressful experience I have lived through was applying to only one nursing school and finding out I didn't get in and only had two months to look for another school, app, get into that nursing school, and find a way to pay for it. 

I would say I don't know much about [my community] because I am such a homebody, but I do have really nice neighbors. It is loud during the summertime because of all the motorcycles, but beautiful during the summer tie because it's nice and green--and cool with nice, fresh air....That's all appearance, though, which isn't what is important, but it is what makes me happy to see the day pass. 

About Alecs' artwork (pictured below): Angel, my interviewee, mainly focused on the beautiful parts of the area we live in. She mentioned how she feels the air during different seasons, the sunsets, and the noises she hears. Angel focuses on the appealing to the eyes aspects of the community we live in....Choosing the idea for the art project was pretty difficult, because i couldn’t find something that would represent my interviewees view of the community. I finally had the idea of making a photo book of all the things she finds beautiful or appealing to look at. Throughout the past few weeks whenever I was out with her I took pictures of the sunsets, and everything she found beautiful. Besides just taking pictures and putting it into a book I decided to make it aesthetically pleasing for my own touch of my specialty. The photos in the book represent beauty, but when you look at the bigger picture the underlined and highlighted words i ripped out of a book are sentences of what Angel views the community we live in as.

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My mother had the most positive impact on my life because she was a positive reinforcement and she gave me unconditional love.

The most important event that I remember that has happened in history is the Berlin Wall being taken down and the Gulf War.

I would describe the community that I live in as a fast-going city. Our community is the second-largest city in Riverside County with a population of over 212,000 people. If I could change anything in my community, it would be to lower the crime rate because I want to make the neighborhood safer for the children [who] live in my community.

About Christian's musical piece (listen to it here): "The theme question for the Oral History project 'Who are we as a community?' is represented... by my music sounding and representing change because, without change, our community wouldn’t be where it is today. My interviewee describes the community they live in as a fast-growing community/city. My interviewee means fast-growing as socially and publicly fast-growing but also as in crime rate and economic rate. If my interviewee could change anything about the community that she lives in it would mainly be the crime rate because she wants the community to be safer for the kids and everyone else that has to live in it.  The interviewee gave me a quote to represent our community, the quote is 'The growth of a community says a lot but the growth of the people within the community says more.'"

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Perris, California

I went to UCR and my favorite subject was utopian and dystopian society because it was a political theory class. We had a lot of discussion and debates of what an ideal society would be. A lot of peoples utopias were some people's dystopias, so everyone's was kinda different, which was pretty cool.

My primary language is English. I am not that good at Spanish. I would say I identify more with American culture because I feel that I am not Mexican enough for the Mexicans, but I do identify with Mexican culture, too, but it is not entirely me. I was raised Baptist but I would say I believe in God, but I am just not practicing. 

I would [describe my community as] distant. We are trying to bring more jobs into this area.... People are getting upset with the factories--they did not want them to become city industries. They wanted it to be something different, but I feel very distant from it now. It is not the city I was raised up or what I grew up in, but also it's growing. I feel like Perris is going to be something big like eventually. I mean it's Cali--you know people come to Cali all the time. 

About Leilany's artivism (pictured): I represent my interviewee through a painting. He has said that he wanted to move all the factories away from Perris  and bring things that would benefit the community. I depicted this though having the majority of the canvas with a blurry version of factories and the rest the night sky with trees through it. There is also a flap that will switch sides to show him moving it there is also a quote about nature from Albert Einstein to represent his feelings. He in all sum up does not like it anymore he said it is not like the place he grew up in. He would change the factories for things that would benefit the community to help lower income people. He wants to help all the poverty in Perris and hopes to make things better. Change could help Perris become better for and more helpful with the community.


My primary language is English but I was raised speaking Spanish. [I identify as] Mexican [and am Catholic].

I think the best job I ever had--well, the job I loved the most is when I worked as a secretary in an attorney’s office and as an interpreter because I really enjoyed helping people, and the attorneys I worked for were really focused on helping people and helping them get their settlements for their injuries. I thought that was very admirable, so I enjoyed working with them. The worst job I ever had was probably when I was working in a warehouse putting together medical files because you didn’t really have to use your brain, it was just routine, tedious work.

I wish our community and the world as a whole really, could be more united and more kind towards each other instead of being so hateful and violent towards one another, and y’know, keep it peaceful.

About Liliana's artivism (pictured): In [my grandma's] neighborhood and community specifically, there tends to be more negative behavior and things my grandma had stated that she didn’t appreciate. She described the community she lives in as diverse (being one of the only good things), however, also as disrespectful of other people’s property, disrespectful of human life.... She said that if she could change anything, she would want there to be something done about the crime, and have our community be more united, as well as more peaceful and less violent towards each other. I represented these things that she had to say in my artivism assignment by expressing the way she feels about our society through a painting. 

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My primary language is English.  The culture I most identify with would be African American.  My preferred religion is a born again Christian.

The best job I have had would be teaching.  I have been a teacher since I was 21 years old and I have taught in public schools for [over 30] years.  Teaching was considered my favorite job because I enjoyed being able to influence young people as well as watch them grow as young readers and mathematicians, and I loved watching them become scholars.  Also, the pay was very good.

The most important event I remember that has happened in history would be the Civil Rights movement.  I appreciated the changes that came about with Dr. King and with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Laws changed, but people's hearts did not and I find that very important because the next thing I am looking for are changes in people's hearts. 

[F]or Riverside overall, I would advocate more for children who have challenging family lives.  I would invest in mentorships for those who don’t have a good or healthy home life. I want to include a place in my community where kids would be able to experience that healthy home life because many kids have parents that are incarcerated or parents that are on drugs and that limits them from that connection.  That eventually causes them to live with their grandparents, etc., and that makes me want to give them the opportunity to develop a relationship with a grandma/role model figure.

About Seniah's artivism (pictured): I created a 3D model of what my interviewee wanted to see different in her community.  For example, she stated that she would like to advocate more for children who have a challenging home life and that she wanted to create a home or place for them to experience that healthy home life.  Therefore, I created a 3D model to represent that.

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