“… I am invisible, understand simply because people refuse to see me.”– Ralph Ellison
Being visible in a world that doesn’t see you for who you are is something people of color have been subjected to for centuries. Urban communities are inflicted with many issues that are overlooked because the voices in the communities have been silenced. However, things are about to change. The graduating senior class of CICS Ralph Ellison High School on Chicago’s Southside, Auburn Gresham neighborhood, have been charged and challenged with the task of identifying issues that are invisible in plain sight in urban neighborhoods as a part of their capstone project.
Since the start of the school year, students have diligently researched concepts concerning the black community they believe are noticed but have been neglected. As students conducted research, they devised topics such as Examining the Negative Effects of Atheism in the Black Community, Identifying the Negative Effects of Toxic Masculinity in African-American Men, and Analyzing PTSD in Teenage Girls and How it Shapes Their Relationships. In a brief interview with the schools Principal, Mrs. Taquia Hylton, and a few members of the senior class, The Chicago Defender had a chance to get a closer look into the motivation behind the senior capstone project, how this work has challenged and shaped their views on the black community and how this project has prepared them for the future.
The Chicago Defender: What was the motivation behind incorporating capstone for seniors?
Mrs. Hylton: It was something that I did with seniors at a previous school where I was an administrator. I saw how beneficial it was for students when they went to college. Based on my former students’ testimonials their experience with capstone was valuable to them in college courses. Many of the skills and strategies that are incorporated with this year’s capstone project are aligned with many of the research skills I use for my research as a doctoral student.
The Chicago Defender: How are students responding to this rigorous workload?
Mrs. Hylton: Initially it’s very overwhelming for teachers and students because they focus on the overall picture of what they have to produce as a cumulative product. However, throughout the course, we break down deliverables in bite-size chunks for students to manage throughout the school year.
The Chicago Defender: What have you learned about what’s invisible in plain sight in black communities?
Student A (Topic: Understanding the Lack of Studies on Selective Mutism in the Black Community) I’ve learned that there are so many issues that aren’t talked about in black communities because the focus is on bigger issues like gun violence. However, if smaller issues were talked about more, then maybe the bigger issues could be resolved.
Student B (Topic: Examining Gothic Culture in the Black Community) From this project, I’ve learned that there is a lot of different representation of different groups within the black community who go unnoticed because they are outside of our culture’s norm. It’s time for our communities to embrace members of groups within our culture and break some of the stereotypes about them.
The Chicago Defender: As a result of your research, what have you learned about your work ethic?
Student C (Topic: Understanding the Negative Impact Abortion Has on Men) I learned that if I put my mind to something I can do it. Throughout the year I had many assignments, but I never had an assignment that required me to focus on one topic for the entire school year. I’ve also learned how to take constructive criticism to make me a better student and person.
The Chicago Defender: What is one thing you hope students gain from their capstone projects?
Mrs. Hylton: One of the things I hope students gain from this experience is not just learning how to be a good researcher, but also the exposure to topics that are critical in our communities and allow them to experience public speaking and presenting their work in a formal way.
The senior class capstone project will culminate during the month of April with their presentations and an art exhibit at Gallery Guichard. As these students continue to navigate through making the invisible visible in black communities they’ll learn many valuable lessons. Each lesson they learn will shape the way they make their presence known in the world, and help give a voice to the invisible.
Liz Lampkin is a Lifestyle, Love and Relationships writer. Follow her on social media @Liz_Lampkin.