16 Using the Arts and New Mediain Community Organizing and Community Building: An Overview and Case Study from Post-Katrina New Orleans
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288 16 Using the Arts and New Media in Community Organizing and Community Building An Overview and Case Study from Post-Katrina New Orleans MARIAN MCDONALD CARICIA CATALANI MEREDITH MINKLER Community organizing allows people who share a particular geographic space or identity to find shared issues and goals, as well as the resources they can use collectively to achieve those goals (see chapter 1). This definition is intentionally broad, as the processes, efforts, communities, and goals that constitute organizing techniques are diverse. The arts, including literature, music, video, painting, photography, and other forms of artistic expression, are powerful tools for community organizing in health and related areas (McDonald et al. 2006–2007; Chávez et al. 2004; Catalani and Minkler 2010). They can draw attention to an issue, offer catharsis for a community after a crisis, pull communities together to create art, and communicate across cultural and language barriers. As Vivian Chávez and her colleagues (2004) note, “The cultural diversity, personal sensitivity, and passion that characterize some of the arts resonate with some key principles and commitments of health promotion” (396), including the fostering of high-level community participation and building on community and individuals’ strengths. In this chapter, the authors draw on diverse examples to illustrate how the arts have served as vehicles for change, to highlight their legacy in social movements nationally and globally, and to point out the theoretical basis of their use in community organizing and community building. Brief examples describe how the arts have been used to foster community organizing for health; this is followed by a discussion of two increasingly popular visual methodologies—photovoice and videovoice—which enable individuals to get behind still cameras and video USING THE ARTS AND NEW MEDIA IN ORGANIZING 289 cameras, respectively, to “research issues of concern, communicate their knowledge , and advocate for change” (Catalani et al. 2012, 3; C. C. Wang et al. 2004; C. C. Wang and Burris 1997). A videovoice case study in post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans then is used to explore how a community-academic-filmmaker partnership used this approach for studying and engaging in policy-focused change and to describe its ripple effects (Catalani et al. 2012). Community Organizing for Change and the Arts as a Vehicle Communities interested in organizing for change decide on the strategies to use by looking critically at who their target is (e.g., who has the ability to make the desired change?), identifying the resources available to them, and deciding on the best way to effect the changes they seek (see chapters 9 and 11). In each of the case studies explored in this chapter, community groups chose the arts as the vehicle for accomplishing their goals. The Arts as Vehicle for Social Change Artistic expression is universal to human culture and has historically tapped into the most deeply felt ways of understanding and interpreting the world. The act of creating increases feelings of well-being and can help facilitate feelings of belonging . Furthermore, the creation of some form of art is not dependent on language or literacy level, but can be undertaken by anyone with the will and desire to do so. The power of art for community organizing, then, lies in the power of the arts to communicate a message and elicit an emotional response, as well as in the creation of art itself. The arts and literature have always played a role in the processes of community organizing and of social change, though they are typically seen as incidental or secondary. Poet and activist Audre Lorde (1984) challenged this view in her classic essay on the importance of poetry in people’s lives, especially the lives of women: “For women . . . poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action” (37). Lorde sees poetry, and other forms of creativity and expression, as necessary precursors to action. Her view has been shared by many artists, educators, and advocates throughout history and across the globe. These figures include African American jazz singer Billie Holiday, whose insistence upon singing a song about Southern lynchings shocked audiences; Chilean songwriter Victor Jara, who courageously sang against the murderers of the 1973 coup d’état; and Maya Lin, the Chinese American architect whose design of the Vietnam War Memorial helped to create the conditions for...



Subject Headings

  • Health promotion.
  • Community health services -- Citizen participation.
  • Community organization.
  • Community development.
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