In a world where we are constantly bombarded by an ever-changing, impermanent parade of sound bites, memes, video clips, and “breaking news” ticker tape, taking sixty minutes to listen to an interview can feel like a major time commitment.  For those of us who remember when the world was a little slower, it means rediscovering how to sit quietly and focus on something that does not scroll, beep, refresh, or show videos of really cute baby animals.  And for those of us who don’t remember that world, it may mean learning a new way of hearing and processing information.  Not an easy task.

And yet, as we’ve mentioned before on this blog, we are strongly committed to introducing Studs’s work to a new, young audience.  Sure, there are some things that feel pretty old-fashioned about these interviews – he says “Negro” and he smokes in the studio!! – but the content is as relevant today as it was twenty, forty, or sixty years ago.  Studs never shied away from asking people about their dreams, convictions, and fears, and one of his great gifts is his ability to engage in genuine, non-judgmental interactions.  We want to give students the opportunity to hear Sidney Poitier talk about his hopes for a discrimination-free Hollywood, or Shel Silverstein’s thoughts about children seeing violence on TV, or POW survivor George Smith discuss his relationships with his captors.  But we also hope that students learn something from Studs’s deep sense of shared humanity and his respect for people from all walks of life.

With this in mind, we have begun a partnership with YOUMedia, the “21st century teen learning space at Chicago Public Library.”  We will help students select interviews that might interest them, and in turn, the students will make them their own.  This might mean interviewing friends and family members, and creating a podcast remix of their interviews and Studs’s.  Or maybe an interview will inspire a comic book or painting.  Or perhaps a group of students can act out and film one of the live episodes, such as the 1969 Fiesta or the Lincoln Park “be-in.”  Those of us at the meeting last week are all self-described “big dreamers,” and we’d love to see this project culminate in an exhibit of student work.  We’ll keep you posted!

Are you a student or teacher and want to get involved?  Please email us at studsterkelarchive@wfmt.com.

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