The Letter

Sometimes I get asked how I got these people to volunteer for interviews of this nature. Here’s a letter we sent to explain what we wanted to do. I have the earlier versions included here because I am still traumatized by my doctoral dissertation experiences and learned to never throw anything away. And Go Huskies.

 

FINAL VERSION:

“Competence is quiet.  The trick is to listen carefully for it.”

– Madsen (2007), p. 32

You may have heard that Dr B and I fancy ourselves as a couple of film makers. On the surface, this is a crazy proposition, since neither he nor I have any knowledge of how to do such things. But luckily we know some people who do, and we’ve shared our film idea with them, and they are very eager to make it happen. So the next step is to find people, just like you, who might want to be a part of this project.

This film is not a story about oppression. Rather it is a story of Liberation. It is a film we hope stands in opposition to oppression, to show that ordinary people can take a stand and make a difference. It is an attempt to vocalize our anti-oppression stories, to make them loud through a collective voice.

You may be thinking, “I am not Ghandi or Mother Teresa, so I don’t have a story.” Wrong! We see these figures as experts, but we also see them as exceptions. That to be a Ghandi, one must be an unusual human. I think this is also a trick of Oppression, to make us think that only people who stand outside the margins can do this. But I see you do these things all the time, such as when you recognize a racist joke, when you challenge a sexist thought, when you speak up on behalf of a friend or family member…all steps that eventually lead to sharing information, challenging your own biases, and defining your practices in terms of justice rather than dominance. I want to tell the stories of how you took those steps, of how you decided you wanted to stand against Oppression, because I think therein lies the truth of how we can all stand against and eventually dismantle Oppression.

You are Students, and as a teacher I frequently see Students told they need to be quiet and listen. Well here I think the students are the real masters, because you hold the voice of people who are trying to learn, people who admit they don’t have all the answers, people who want to seek to do better. And as such I think you are much more interesting to talk to than Experts. Because others will be inspired by your struggles, your questions, your humility, your vulnerability.

I am.

Because I constantly teach lessons about Oppression, and therefore I stare at It on a regular basis, I often grow tired and feel like giving up. Your stories give me the strength to keep going. That has been your gift to me, whether you knew that or not. Now I want to share that with everyone else, so they might catch a glimpse of what Hope really looks like.

Now you may be asking what your involvement in this film would really look like. As we’re learning, putting a film together takes many steps. So before we film the major piece, we want to talk with those interested in sharing their stories. This first conversation would last about 30 minutes to an hour. Initially we would ask questions about your understandings of oppression and experiences with it. We also want to record this conversation to help you get a sense of how you might feel being recorded. We’ll also take these initial conversations to create a “pilot” of the major project to help us get an idea of what this could look like. You might find during this process that you don’t want to be on film; that’s ok, because we can just stop and erase the recording.

If after the first conversation it seems like it would work out for you to be in the major project, either Dr. B or myself would then conduct another interview later (likely spring semester) about these experiences. These interviews would be filmed by a crew and put together to form the basis for the film. Interviews would likely last up to three hours, and clearly the entire interview would not be used. However these are stories that take time to tell, which is why the interview could take that much time. It is also possible we may film you in other small ways for the purpose of bringing stories to life in film. You’ve got a say in what we can film and what we can’t. We in no way want this to be an intrusive process. You would also be the first to see the film as it gets put together, so you can tell us if what is shown accurately reflects you. We want to make sure it really is your story, as you want it told, and not a misrepresentation.

We have a few open questions put together for the major project to help explore the steps you’ve taken to interfere with Oppression. At this moment, you might not be totally clear regarding what these steps were/are.  That’s ok, because these questions are designed to help you figure that out.   We would use a narrative style of interviewing which is meant to generate knowledge and awareness for the interviewee rather than just uncover facts. Thus we are also hoping you’ll benefit personally from being involved in the final film.

It’s a lot to ask. And I realize you would be putting tremendous trust into Dr. B and myself if you participate. We honor and respect that trust, and will do everything possible to care for it during this process. Truthfully, we can’t do the film without you. We humbly hope you join us in this endeavor to show Oppression that we will no longer keep our stories hidden.

If you have questions or want to set up an initial meeting or interview, contact either of us at:

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Draft one:

You may have heard that Dr B and I fancy ourselves as a couple of film makers. On the surface, this is a crazy proposition, since neither he nor I have any knowledge of how to do such things. But luckily we know some people who do, and we’ve shared our film idea with them, and they are very eager to make it happen. So the next step is to find people, just like you, who might want to be a part of this project.

What is this film and how did it come about, you might ask? Basically, the idea was inspired by, well, you. I’ve had the privilege of hearing and reading your stories in COUN 5316 for many years. Before I came to this university I taught the same course at other institutions; altogether I’ve taught this course since 1999 and have met hundreds of people like yourself in the process. I’ve noticed two important things:
1) I am regularly inspired and personally affected by your stories
2) You tend to think your stories are uninspiring and ineffective.

I’ve come to the conclusion that #2 occurs so often because this is another act of Oppression and Privilege, to convince us that our own stories of anti-oppression don’t matter. To make us ignore or downplay the power of our own experience and voice. To keep us quiet so that Oppression can continue to exist. But #1 speaks in contrast to #2; the presence of #1 shows me that #2 is false, because I am constantly reminded about the importance of social justice work because your stories inspire me and remind me that people do care and want to make a difference.

So this film is an attempt to vocalize our anti-oppression stories, to make them loud through a collective voice. It is a film that I hope stands in opposition to Oppression, to tell it that regular, ordinary people can take a stand and make a difference.

You may be thinking, “I am not Ghandi or Mother Teresa, so I don’t have a story.” Wrong! We see these figures as experts, but we also see them as exceptions. That to be a Ghandi, one must be an unusual human. I think this is also a trick of Oppression, to make us think that only people who stand outside the margins can do this. But I see you do these things all the time, such as when you recognize a racist joke, when you challenge a sexist thought, when you speak up on behalf of a friend or family member…all steps that eventually lead to sharing information, challenging your own biases, and defining your practices in terms of justice rather than dominance. I want to tell the stories of how you took those steps, of how you decided you wanted to stand against Oppression, because I think therein lies the truth of how we can all stand against and eventually dismantle Oppression.

You are Students, and as a teacher I frequently see Students told that they need to be quiet and listen. Well here I think the Students are the real Masters, because you hold the voice of people who are trying to learn, people who admit they don’t have all the answers, people who want to seek to do better. And as such I think you are much more interesting to talk to than Experts. Because others will be inspired by your struggles, your questions, your humility, your vulnerability.

I am.

Because I constantly teach lessons about Oppression, and therefore I stare at It on a regular basis, I often grow tired and feel like giving up. Your stories give me the strength to keep going. That has been your gift to me, whether you knew that or not. Now I want to share that with everyone else, so they might catch a glimpse of what Hope really looks like.

Draft 2:

You may have heard that Dr B and I fancy ourselves as a couple of film makers. On the surface, this is a crazy proposition, since neither he nor I have any knowledge of how to do such things. But luckily we know some people who do, and we’ve shared our film idea with them, and they are very eager to make it happen. So the next step is to find people, just like you, who might want to be a part of this project.

This film is not a story about oppression. Rather it is a story of Liberation. It is a film we hope stands in opposition to Oppression, to show that ordinary people can take a stand and make a difference. It is an attempt to vocalize our anti-oppression stories, to make them loud through a collective voice.

You may be thinking, “I am not Ghandi or Mother Teresa, so I don’t have a story.” Wrong! We see these figures as experts, but we also see them as exceptions. That to be a Ghandi, one must be an unusual human. I think this is also a trick of Oppression, to make us think that only people who stand outside the margins can do this. But I see you do these things all the time, such as when you recognize a racist joke, when you challenge a sexist thought, when you speak up on behalf of a friend or family member…all steps that eventually lead to sharing information, challenging your own biases, and defining your practices in terms of justice rather than dominance. I want to tell the stories of how you took those steps, of how you decided you wanted to stand against Oppression, because I think therein lies the truth of how we can all stand against and eventually dismantle Oppression.

You are Students, and as a teacher I frequently see Students told that they need to be quiet and listen. Well here I think the Students are the real Masters, because you hold the voice of people who are trying to learn, people who admit they don’t have all the answers, people who want to seek to do better. And as such I think you are much more interesting to talk to than Experts. Because others will be inspired by your struggles, your questions, your humility, your vulnerability.

I am.

Because I constantly teach lessons about Oppression, and therefore I stare at It on a regular basis, I often grow tired and feel like giving up. Your stories give me the strength to keep going. That has been your gift to me, whether you knew that or not. Now I want to share that with everyone else, so they might catch a glimpse of what Hope really looks like.

Now you may be asking what your involvement in this film would really look like. As we’re learning, putting a film together takes many steps. So before we film the major piece, we are wanting to talk with those who may be interested in sharing their stories. This first conversation would last about 30 minutes to an hour maximum. Initially we would ask questions about your understandings of oppression and experiences with it. We also want to record this conversation to help you get a sense of how you might feel being recorded. We’ll also take these initial conversations to create a “pilot” of the major project to help us get an idea of what this could look like. You might find during this process that you don’t want to be on film; that’s ok, because we can just stop and erase the recording.

If after the first conversation it seems like it would work out for you to be in the major project, either, dr. B or myself would then conduct another interview later (likely spring semester) about these experiences. These interviews would be filmed by a crew and put together to form the basis for the film. Interviews would likely last up to three hours, and clearly the entire interview would not be used. However these are stories that take time to tell, which is why the interview could take that much time. It is also possible we may film you in other small ways for the purpose of bringing stories to life in film. You’ve got a say in what we can film and what we can’t. We in no way want this to be an intrusive process. You would also be the first to see the film as it gets put together, so you can tell us if what is shown is accurate and satisfying to you. We want to make sure it really is your story, as you want it told, and not a misrepresentation.

We have some questions put together for the major project, and basically we are interested in learning about how you started to work against oppression. However we aren’t giving the equations ahead of time, because we want the interviews to also be a useful experience for yourself. We would use a narrative style of interviewing which is meant to generate knowledge and awareness for the interviewee rather than just uncover facts. Thus we are also hoping you’ll benefit personally from being involved in the final film.

It’s a lot to ask. And I realize you would be putting tremendous trust into dr b and myself if you participate. We honor and respect that trust, and will do everything possible to care for it during this process. The truth is though, we can’t do the film without you. We humbly hope you join us in this endeavor to show oppression that we will no longer keep our stories hidden.

Draft 3 (Getting closer!)

You may have heard that Dr B and I fancy ourselves as a couple of film makers. On the surface, this is a crazy proposition, since neither he nor I have any knowledge of how to do such things. But luckily we know some people who do, and we’ve shared our film idea with them, and they are very eager to make it happen. So the next step is to find people, just like you, who might want to be a part of this project.

This film is not a story about oppression. Rather it is a story of Liberation. It is a film we hope stands in opposition to Oppression, to show that ordinary people can take a stand and make a difference. It is an attempt to vocalize our anti-oppression stories, to make them loud through a collective voice.

You may be thinking, “I am not Ghandi or Mother Teresa, so I don’t have a story.” Wrong! We see these figures as experts, but we also see them as exceptions. That to be a Ghandi, one must be an unusual human. I think this is also a trick of Oppression, to make us think that only people who stand outside the margins can do this. But I see you do these things all the time, such as when you recognize a racist joke, when you challenge a sexist thought, when you speak up on behalf of a friend or family member…all steps that eventually lead to sharing information, challenging your own biases, and defining your practices in terms of justice rather than dominance. I want to tell the stories of how you took those steps, of how you decided you wanted to stand against Oppression, because I think therein lies the truth of how we can all stand against and eventually dismantle Oppression.

You are Students, and as a teacher I frequently see Students told that they need to be quiet and listen. Well here I think the Students are the real Masters, because you hold the voice of people who are trying to learn, people who admit they don’t have all the answers, people who want to seek to do better. And as such I think you are much more interesting to talk to than Experts. Because others will be inspired by your struggles, your questions, your humility, your vulnerability.

I am.

Because I constantly teach lessons about Oppression, and therefore I stare at It on a regular basis, I often grow tired and feel like giving up. Your stories give me the strength to keep going. That has been your gift to me, whether you knew that or not. Now I want to share that with everyone else, so they might catch a glimpse of what Hope really looks like.

Now you may be asking what your involvement in this film would really look like. As we’re learning, putting a film together takes many steps. So before we film the major piece, we want to talk with those who may be interested in sharing their stories. This first conversation would last about 30 minutes to an hour maximum. Initially we would ask questions about your understandings of oppression and experiences with it. We also want to record this conversation to help you get a sense of how you might feel being recorded. We’ll also take these initial conversations to create a “pilot” of the major project to help us get an idea of what this could look like. You might find during this process that you don’t want to be on film; that’s ok, because we can just stop and erase the recording.

If after the first conversation it seems like it would work out for you to be in the major project, either Dr. B or myself would then conduct another interview later (likely spring semester) about these experiences. These interviews would be filmed by a crew and put together to form the basis for the film. Interviews would likely last up to three hours, and clearly the entire interview would not be used. However these are stories that take time to tell, which is why the interview could take that much time. It is also possible we may film you in other small ways for the purpose of bringing stories to life in film. You’ve got a say in what we can film and what we can’t. We in no way want this to be an intrusive process. You would also be the first to see the film as it gets put together, so you can tell us if what is shown accurately reflects you. We want to make sure it really is your story, as you want it told, and not a misrepresentation.

We have a few open questions put together for the major project to help explore the steps you’ve taken to interfere with Oppression. At this moment, you might not be totally clear regarding what these steps were/are.  That’s ok, because these questions are designed to help you figure that out.   We would use a narrative style of interviewing which is meant to generate knowledge and awareness for the interviewee rather than just uncover facts. Thus we are also hoping you’ll benefit personally from being involved in the final film.

It’s a lot to ask. And I realize you would be putting tremendous trust into Dr B and myself if you participate. We honor and respect that trust, and will do everything possible to care for it during this process. Truthfully, we can’t do the film without you. We humbly hope you join us in this endeavor to show oppression that we will no longer keep our stories hidden.

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3 thoughts on “The Letter

  1. I think it reads well. Not necessary, but you could add simple comments with ‘may film you in other small ways’ to include requests for photos, etc… Small points, but ready to go. Nice work. You are a sparkle.

    Like

  2. “Competence is quiet. The trick is to listen carefully for it. (p.32)”

    You could use this as a header, lean in into the letter. It would be a nice touch, communicating our faith in them, engendering their trust in us, and our want to listen.

    It can serve as our montra as we center ourselves to hold these conversations.

    Like

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