Not Staying in Place

This is the first of a series of blog posts from my recent work in Haiti. The real date of this posting is April 21, but I am backdating it to April 4 when it was written and experienced. –Jeffrey Harlan


The opportunity we have before us–in Haiti and around the world– is how to support the translation of that thinking into actions that help all of us get “out of place” in relentless pursuit of our collective dreams.

April 4, 2018

Today marks the day when, 50 years ago, a bullet stopped the life of an individual who would not stay in place. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. moved people, both literally and figuratively. His movement has moved our world and still does. His legacy does not stop moving.
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And today I am on a flight to Haiti where I will work with 5th and 9th grade teachers and students at Ecole Nouvelle Zorange to bring them our Dreamline program. By next Thursday I expect the students will have created moving expressions of their dreams and aspirations in words and art through Dreamline Flags , and they will have connected and shared those dreams with each other by displaying and celebrating the work in their school community, and far beyond by sharing and celebrating them through the Dreamline app and website.

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I am already very moved by the generosity and vision that has brought me to this place from so many individuals–by Maryse Pennette-Kedar who not only extended the invitation to work at the school she founded but also is hosting me and providing translation for me over these next nine days–by Gregory Mevs, Co chair of the West Indies Group, who is also supporting this trip–by the two friends who, over the past weeks, designed and built from scratch a “talking Dreamline” so when you touch a button next to the flag you hear it from a speaker in Hatian Creole–and by the parent volunteer who readily, and on short notice, made audio translations of flags into Hatian Creole, so the voices of students from Alaska, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Shanghai, Zambia, and Macedonia will talk directly to their counterparts in Haiti. We are moving together. We are not staying in place.

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“Talking Dreamline” wiring, circuitry, fabric, and all,–battery powered and portable–packed in my bag along with everything else we will need.

I think that for so many students, the harshest reality of their world are the voices that say:
“Sit down.”
“Stay in place.”
“Not you.”
“You can’t do that.”
“No one can do that.”

They are the voices that cause students and their dreams to shut down, to stay quiet, to stay in place.

Dreamline disrupts that, creates a safe place to disrupt that.

And why does that matter? Why does it matter now?

While on the one hand, our schools may tell students, “Study hard and you can achieve what you want.” or “You can do anything, just try hard.” — there are so many other messages that say, “Stay put, stay in your place, do your job, follow the directions.” When we look at the daily experience of students’ lives in school, how many messages say “Go for it,” and how many messages say “Stay in place?”

It is my experience that we lean very heavily on the “stay in place” side. I think it’s one of the key things young children have to learn–literally first–to actually sit in one place as part of being in school, and then they learn it in other ways as they get older.

In the common culture that most of us live in, in the complex structures that make cities work, and so much that stems out from them, it’s actually really important that things, to a certain extent, stay in place.

For better or worse, equitably or inequitibly, our common culture provides food for billions, housing for billions, and some kind of communal life. It functions because, in an overall scheme of things, people stay in place, fulfill roles that make it work.  Like any machine, the pieces need to stay in place or they don’t interact with each other–they don’t work. Parts out of place is one of the ways we define “broken” on a mechanical level.

I imagine you can see where I’m going with this by now. The “machine” that’s our common culture has a few serious problems that we’re starting to notice when we see things like the rising numbers of very poor, of food insecure individuals, of what we hear weekly on the news about climate disasters we seem to be causing.  Or we see it’s not working when people get “out of place,” taking guns to their workplace–or schools–and using them.

This is a large target to hit, so I don’t need to go on much about it–but it is why I think Dreamline matters.

Dreamline provides a place for students to get “out of place” and safely experiment with their thinking. The opportunity we have before us–in Haiti and around the world– is how to support the translation of that thinking into actions that help all of us get “out of place” in relentless pursuit of our collective dreams.

Dr. King did not stay in place for one second. His life was ended by a bullet, but the dreams are moving –now.
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