The Contrast Project : read more

“WHAT IS THE CONTRAST PROJECT?

The goal of the Contrast Project is to use digital media as a tool for expression, empowerment, nonviolent activism, and advocacy.

The expression/empowerment component of the project consists of:

* Training youth groups in documentary photography and video. * Youth production of quality digitmal media projects on themes of their choosing. * Using media to discuss human rights issues in the context of the conflict. * Supporting local staff in developing project sustainability.

The activism/advocacy component of the project consists of:

* Exhibits of photographs and screenings of films locally, regionally, and internationally, as decided by youth groups. * Development of partner-projects with youth in the US and online communication between groups. * Submissions of photos and films to contests and fesitvals. * Development of project website.

FOCUS ON PALESTINE

While the Contrast Project is currently expanding to involve youth groups in Washington, DC, and other locations, the project focuses on primarily on youth in the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories.

The continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affects the daily life of nearly all individuals in the region, especially young people, who make up the largest and fastest growing segment of the Palestinian population.

This project adopts a two-fold approach to address the needs of this specific demographic. First, the expression/empowerment component aims to develop trainings that are both educational and therapeutic for young people at the individual and group level. The trainings give young people practical skills that they can use in the future, while also encouraging youth to reflect on their past and present situations through creative means. The trainings also provide participants with a sense of personal agency and collective solidarity.

At the same time, the activism/advocacy component allows young people to share their stories with broader local, regional, and international communities. In this way, youth learn how to use art/media as a form of advocacy and active nonviolent resistance.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The goals of the Contrast Project are to provide Palestinian youth with technical and artistic skills; offer youth a therapeutic means of creative expression; empower youth through educational trainings; provide youth with viable alternatives to violence; and advocate for the needs and rights of Palestinian youth at the local, regional, and international levels.

The project began with a pilot project in summer 2006, consisting of 20+ hours of photography training for youth groups in Bethlehem and the village of Battir. Students received a certificate after completing the training, and a presentation and exhibit was held at each of the community centers.

In the summer of 2007, youth who had participated in the pilot program the previous summer participated in a Training of Trainers (TOT), after which they took the initiative to train other young people in their communities in photography.

In the summer of 2007, the Contrast Project also supported Voices Beyond Walls (VBW), a project that coordinates digital photography and video workshops with youth in refugee camps throughout the West Bank. Trainings were conducted in Aida Camp near Bethlehem, Qalandiya Camp and Al-Amari Camp near Ramallah, Balata Camp in Nablus, and Jenin Camp in Jenin.

In 2008, the Contrast Project and VBW, in cooperation with the Intel Computer Clubhouse in Ramallah, are partnering to sponsor a 10-week Training of Trainers (TOT) in the spring for older youth in digital video and photography. These youth leaders will be the primary coordinators and trainers for the summer 2008 workshops.

The 2006 and 2007 photography trainings were funded by the generous donations of numerous individuals and private organizations, including the Jessica Jennifer Cohen Foundation (JJCF) and the SNAP Foundation. The 2007 VBW workshops were made possible by the generous support of the Hoping Foundation. The 2008 TOT is made possible by a MNA Youth Innovation Fund grant from the World Bank's Youth2Youth Community.

FURTHER OUTREACH

Part of the Contrast Project's mission is to raise awareness about issues affecting youth in Israel-Palestine by sharing their photographs, videos, and stories with communities around the world. Photo exhibitions and film screenings have been held at a range of venues, including: *The Wi'am Center, Bethlehem *The Battir Community Center, Battir *Aida Camp, Bethlehem *Al-Amari Camp, Ramallah *Balata Camp, Nablus *Jenin Camp, Jenin *Israeli-Palestinian Center for Research and Information, Jerusalem *World Council of Churches Middle East Conference, Amman, Jordan

*Boston Palestine Film Festival, Boston, MA *Toronto Palestine Film Festival, Canada (upcoming 2008)

*American University, Washington, DC *Duke University, Durham, NC *Georgetown University, Washington, DC *Harvard University, Cambridge, MA *University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA *Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA *University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA *Princeton University, Princeton, NJ *Rutgers University, NJ

*DC Public Schools, Washington, DC *Howard County Public Schools, MD *Lucy Parsons Center, Boston, MA *Peace x Peace, Washington, DC

The Contrast Project has recently launched a new initiative to link youth in Palestine, the US, and hopefully other locations around the world through their respective digital media projects. The first partner project was conducted with students at Watkins Elementary School in Washington, DC, in fall 2007, in cooperation with Creative Peace Initiatives (CPI) at American University. The DC students participated in a workshop about Palestine in which they viewed photos and selected films from the Palestinian youth. They then participated in a similar photography training and took pictures of topics of their choosing in their community. A joint exhibition of the DC and Palestinian youth photos and films was held at American University, and a calendar including photos from both groups was published and distributed. Similar workshops with other schools are currently in development.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

*SUPPORT the Contrast Project directly. We are currently raising funds to support the summer 2008 photography/video workshops. Please make checks payable to CPBI and write Contrast Project in the memo line. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to:

Center for Peace Building International (CPBI) 3754 McKinley St, NW, Washington D.C. 20015 USA

You can also support the Contrast Project through in-kind donations such as new or used digital cameras, video cameras, lenses, camera cases, camera straps, latptop computers, and external drives. You can also volunteer your skills to help us with our website, publication design and printing, or fundraising.

*HOST a film screening and/or photo exhibit/presentation at your school, university, office, community center, or home. If you work with a school or youth group, you can also arrange for a Contrast Project workshop to be held with your students to engage them in digital media production and sharing.

*VOLUNTEER with the Contrast Project. Volunteers are needed in the US to conduct school trainings, coordinate screenings and exhibits, research venues for further publicity, and apply for grants. You can also volunteer to assist with the summer workshops in the West Bank. Finally, you can volunteer to initiate your own Contrast Project workshop with a youth group in your community.

*SHARE the work of the Contrast Project with your family, friends, and colleagues. Forward our website link to others, or link our URL to your own website or Facebook page. Also, talk about the youths' projects to engage others in your own community in dialogue on this issue.

*LEARN more about the situation in Palestine by seeking out balanced news sources, attending lectures or conferences on the topic, or if possible, planning a trip to the region.

*ACT for peace with justice in whatever way is most comfortable for you to do so. Write letters to your congressional representatives, sign petitions, attend marches and demonstrations, or be creative!

For more information on HOW YOU CAN HELP, please email contrastproject@gmail.com.

RELATED LINKS www.picturebalata.net www.birthrightunplugged.org www.activestills.org www.btselem.org/english/Video/Shooting_Back_Background.asp www.kids-with-cameras.org www.ajaproject.org www.global-action.org www.criticalexposure.org

The Contrast Project was developed by Julie Norman, a doctoral candidate at American University’s School of International Service, in coordination with the Wi’am Center in Bethlehem and the Battir Community Center. The 2007 and 2008 projects with VBW are coordinated with the Lajee Center in Aida, the Intel Computer Clubhouse in Ramallah, the Yafa Center in Balata, and the Freedom Theatre in Jenin” (source : http://www.contrastproject.org/about.php)

Author : Julie Norman Founder and coordinator of the Contrast Project, is a doctoral candidate in International Relations at American University's School of International Service in Washington, DC. After earning a BA at Duke University in “Media, Education, and Activism” in 2002, Julie spent a year on a documentary media fellowship in Cairo, Egypt, before beginning her graduate studies. She has worked with human rights, development, and youth organizations in Jerusalem the past three summers, and will be returning to the region in the spring to continue to develop the Contrast Project.

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