Why “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes”
Reflection by Global Kids Alumna and AYLP Bosnia 2014 Adult Participant, Yassi Jessica Tamdji*
Tomorrow will mark a week since we all returned safe and sound from the beautiful and hospitable country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a bittersweet departure for all with many tears shed. Despite the sense of sadness that youth participants may feel after concluding such a powerful experience, they should also feel a sense of pride for what they were able to create and accomplish over the course of the 2 weeks in home stays in the town of Sanski Most and beyond in Sarajevo.
There were many lessons learned on this exchange, some that will take weeks, months, and possibly years to fully digest. But one concept that continues to resonate deeply with me after this trip is in the words of the late and great poet, Maya Angelou, when she said “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes.” This was the title of her fifth book in her seven book autobiography series; the title of the book comes from an African-American spiritual. In this autobiography, she recounts of her time abroad in Ghana, West Africa and the transformative impact those years had on her life.
Similarly, our time in Bosnia has had a transformative impact on us as well. It has reminded me of the necessity of why “all God’s children need traveling shoes” through the interactions I’ve witnessed between the American and Bosnian youth leaders.
Traveling and experiencing different cultures expands your horizons and enlarges your perspective. It enables you to unravel and begin to dismantle stereotypes and misconceptions about different cultures because you are able to interact with people first hand. Travel is very important, especially for youth, as the demands of changing times requires youth to have global competency and to be critical consumers of the media that they are receiving about global events. With “traveling shoes,” youth can come to their own informed conclusions based on personal experience and not hearsay. They can form deep bonds with youth of different cultures for the ties of friendship cannot be constrained by cultural or even geographical boundaries in this day and age. With “traveling shoes,” youth can foster a world where we can get closer to knowing a more peaceful world. Steven Pinker said, “We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one.”
GK AYLP Bosnia 2014 took place during a tumultuous time in world events: the conflict between Ukraine and Russia worsening “dramatically after the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 over rebel-held territory on July 17 by what Western countries say was a Russian-supplied missile,” the rising casualties in the conflict between Israel and Palestine in the Gaza Strip and the plane that went missing in a sandstorm after leaving Burkina Faso for Mali, to name but a few.
These events may frighten some and make others wary of travel. But in spite of these world events that may make us want to curl up and stay put where we are in our respective neighborhoods, in my opinion, they make international travel and dialogue all the more important and necessary. The more we communicate and “go forth” into the world, perhaps, the less misunderstanding there will be. And with less misunderstanding, perhaps we can get closer to a utopian society. Yes, it is certainly an idealistic way of looking at the world, but the power of youth has always been in their idealism. Meeting with representatives from the US Embassy in Sanski Most before a community iftar, the youth were reminded not to let go of their idealism and hope for a better world.
The ability of youth to stand boldly in the face of power and not flinch, but to demand peace, justice and understanding has been witnessed throughout the course of history. We’ve seen it in the youth of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the youth of the 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa and more recently in the boldness of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan to cite a few examples.
We are thankful to the US State Department for giving us “traveling shoes” and we hope that more youth will be able to travel throughout the world, for it is a tremendous privilege that ought to be afforded to all of God’s children.
Thank you, Bosnia, for all that you have taught us about love, hospitality, finding common ground and peacebuilding. Our prayers and thoughts are with our fellow brothers and sisters all over the world laboring for peace, justice and reconciliation. May the goodness we saw in each other have ripple effects across the globe.
*Yassi Jessica Tamdji is a proud alumna of Global Kids. Her involvement in GK’s Leadership program during high school influenced her to study International Politics and African Studies at Georgetown University. After graduating from Georgetown, she worked in Johannesburg, South Africa through the Princeton in Africa Fellowship. Her “traveling shoes” have also led her to Mexico, France, England, Chad, the Central African Republic, Kenya and most recently Bosnia.
GK AYLP Bosnia 2014 Media Projects: We Came, We Saw, We Created
The overarching theme of GK AYLP Bosnia 2014 was to explore the role of the media in society and produce youth-led media products on a range of global and local issues.
After undergoing interactive workshops led by Global Kids and the Center for Peacebuilding on a range of topics such as leadership, global citizenship & human rights, media literacy and stereotypes, the 42 Bosnian and American youth leaders developed six unique media projects.
In the six different groups, they all decided as a group on a topic that they would focus their media project on. They had to come up with a research question, a hypothesis on the role of the media and used media software such as iMovie to edit videos they filmed while in Sanski Most that were later uploaded to Youtube. The six different topics were Ethnic and Religious Conflict; Stereotypes and Body Image; World Hunger; Racism; Child Abuse and Human Trafficking.
Each youth leader had to present with their group at the US Embassy in Sarajevo using the presentation software, Prezi. (Scroll to the end of this blog post to find links to each group’s Prezi). The group presentations were all great and the participants were excited to receive a certificate of completion of the American Youth Leadership Program from the US Embassy in Sarajevo (see photo below).
*Click on the links below to the Prezis that also include the Youtube video for each group that was filmed and edited by the youth leaders.
Remembering the Lives Lost in 1992 War
On July 19th, American and Bosnian youth leaders met on the Sanski Most Bridge along with hundreds of members of the Sanski Most community. Trucks and vans filled with coffins were transporting bodies from an uncovered mass grave to another city, Prijedor.
The GK Leaders from New York were emotionally affected by this atrocity as their Bosnian peers. We collectively grieved and processed the devasation of lost lives. We also spoke on the importance of love and how that will triumph over hate and evil in this world.
Here are some words from Global Kids Leader Samson Balogun:*
When you think of the cruel harsh things that people do you lose hope and you wonder why these things happen and you also lose faith. Your body may shut down and you may have mental and physical break downs. You start to question your faith and ask yourself is what I believe right; is this what I’m supposed to keep believing in? You start to question yourself but everything happens for a reason and for each situation it should strengthen your faith, your hope and keep all your beliefs and motivate you to keep on going and to fight for those who can no longer fight. Bosnia, we sympathize and empathize with your loss. We will never forgot what we witnessed today.
*Samson Balogun is an African/American and both of his parents come from the beautiful country Nigeria. He loves his Nigerian culture and wouldn’t change a thing about the music, the food, and especially the clothing. He attends Curtis High schools and is in the AVID and Computer Business program. Samson’s family pushes him to his limites and is his biggest supporters. He is the youngest of four children in his family. He loves playing basketball and his brother Michael inspires him to be the best basketball player that he can be. His is supported by his other siblings as well and his parents. When Samson grows up, he wants to become a computer analyst/professional basketball player. He wants to attend Syracuse University or Texas State.
Building Trust and Showcasing Talent
Reflection by Global Kids Leader Kazi Ateea*
July 17th was an eventful day. The day started with a series of trust building exercises in the park. Each team leader was entrusted to guide their blind folded group through a series of different obstacles. The six groups encountered five different obstacle courses that had to be completed in a specific time period. After every group had gone, we all returned to the Stari Hotel to continue on with our media group projects to be presented at the US Embassy on July 22nd.The six different media groups are focusing on a range of issues from body image to world hunger to racism to ethnic and religious conflict to child abuse and human trafficking (Check back later for links to our final presentations).
We continued to progress with an energizer called “Baby, I Love You” where you had to walk up to a peer and say “Baby, I love you, won’t you please smile for me today?” The peer had to reply without smiling, “Baby, I love you too, but I won’t smile for you today.” If they smiled, they had to repeat the saying to someone else in the circle. This icebreaker/energizer was definitely a hit and humorous.
After being done for the day on working on our media projects, many of us went into the CIM/Center for Peacebuilding office to practice our acts for the talent show later that evening.
Later that night we held the talent show at Club Palazzo and it was a success. Many members of our group participated multiple times. I even sang in the talent show with a group and it was an amazing experience. The first song performed that night was “Stay” by Rihanna sung by Lejla and Jasmina who want the Americans to stay. Aren’t they the sweetest?
We want to stay, too!
*Kazi Ateea is 15 years old at the High School for Medical Professions. She was born and raised in Brooklyn to a Bangladeshi family in a primarily Jewish neighborhood. She is able to speak English and Bengali and is developing her skills in Arabic and Spanish. She has been active in Global Kids for two years, participating in many of their programs, as well as facilitating workshops. Aside from GK, Kazi is active in her school’s Robotics Club, Student Council and attends programs by the Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA). Issues that Kazi takes very seriously are the violation of human rights as well as poverty. In the future, Kazi would like to beome a doctor and work for Health Right International in order to help those living in poverty and poo
Visit to Banja Luka
Reflection by Luis J. Fernandez*
My experience in Banja Luka was very interesting. Banja Luka is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the capital Sarajevo and is the largest city of Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb Republic) entity. Banja Luka has a deep meaning in Bosnian history. The many buildings that were built there were mainly from the Ottoman Empire.
As we went there we visited the city and that was great but I could have gone without the amazingly hot weather. In the city I visited many stores and saw a McDonald’s which is an example of globalization. I learned that here in Bosnia it is more expensive to buy junk food than it is to buy healthy food which would be great for America too. We also learned about Banja Luka’s version of Romeo and Juliet and visited the site of Safikada’s tomb where people go to light candles in order to celebrate their love. Read here to learn more about Safikada’s story.
Even before I went on the trip to Banja Luka, I went with my host family to see a giant waterfall, which was beautiful. That was one experience I will never forget. I took many pictures of the many places I have been to here in Sanski Most and it has been a lot of fun. I have also gone to visit the U.S Embassy and spoke with US Foreign Service officers there and a Bosnian press officer, which was really interesting. I have learned that it is not easy being involved in politics as it requires hard work and dedication. I have met so many people here and this is such a great place to be in as I can finally relax and get used to the quiet life. Although I do miss home, I wish I could stay here forever.
*Luis Fernandez attends Long Island City High School. He entered LIC though its Culinary Arts Program and enjoys cooking and eating the dishes he creates. He also likes playing video games and reading books. He is also very athletic and enjoys playing various types of sports. Luis has been with Global Kids for more than two years. As a GK Leader, he is more aware of what’s happening around the world and is involved in Greening Western Queens, where he, alongside his peers, campaigned to have green roofs on top of schools all over New York City. As a Global Kids leader, Luis is learning a lot about many political and environmental issues and believes that youth should use their knowledge and willpower to make a difference in the world.