The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I have been a student in Jesuit run education systems since I was fourteen years old and as I approach my graduation at Santa Clara University I believe the Jesuits have had a profound and deep impact upon my life and my vocation. At Santa Clara University, in an attempt to teach cura personalis, the education of the whole person, part of the core curriculum requires students to take a class focused on diversity. With my interest in film, I elected to take African American Independent Filmmakers. In it, I discovered Gil Scott-Heron and his iconic spoken word poem, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

Watch Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnJFhuOWgXg

A spoken word artist in the 70’s and 80’s Gil Scott-Heron focused a lot of his work on the civil rights movement and the oppression of African Americans.  In “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, he berates those who witnessed the Civil Right Movement through the removed and comfortable lens of television: “You will not be able to stay home, brother. You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out. You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip, skip out for beer during commercials, because the revolution will not be televised.”  The Global S ocial Benefit Fellowship placed me in Kolkata, India working with sister social enterprises Anudip and iMerit.  The brilliant thing about India is how hard it is to plug in, turn on, and cop out. On any form of public transportation, you are touching at least two other people. On the way to the bus, metro, or train stop you have to walk through families living on the sidewalk, forcing you to recognize the stratification of wealth.  There is a sort-of collective conscious of knowledge, pedestrians ask each other for all sorts of information, so there is no individual experience when you walk somewhere.  Even the taxi drivers pull over to ask for directions. The streets are noisy, the sun is hot, the food is hotter, and you are always in danger of being in the middle of fantastically huge thunderstorm meaning you are always alert, awake, and aware. The long train rides with my co-workers spurred evocative conversations on life, dating, politics, the future, happiness, taboos and tattoos.  Kolkata and India are alive, engaged, genuine, and passionate and that is how I want to live my life. I want to be engaged with my society, genuine in my interactions with others, and confident and consistent in my beliefs.

Melissa and I walking around town

Melissa Bica, one of the other India Fellows, and I walking near our apartment

I did not hold these lofty goals upon applying to the Global Social Benefit Fellowship. I was more focused on the opportunity to go abroad and continue to work on my skills as a filmmaker.  These goals were developed in the research and reading in the Spring and Fall classes and then enforced in my experiences in the field. The GSBF classes taught me about development and social enterprise, and the field experience taught me why it was important.  Anudip and iMerit showed me what earning triple an average family income looks like, and how economic empowerment of women in conservative communities can change perspectives. Yet, everything I did within GSBF was highly structured. I had brilliant and exceptional mentors throughout the entire experience helping me both execute my plan and reflect upon my experiences. The next step is to take the education the Jesuits and GSBF gave me and continue to act upon it outside of the supportive academic system in what college seniors scarily term, ‘Real Life’.

Metiabruz From Roof

An aerial shot of Metiabruz where Anudip and iMerit house of one of their biggest offices.

I believe my experience at Santa Clara University and with the Global Social Benefit Fellowship has equipped me as well as possible to enact my vocation, to be engaged with my society, genuine in my interactions with others, and confident and consistent in my beliefs. The next step is simple, acting upon those ideals working towards my goals and not plugging in, turning on and copping out.

“The revolution will be no re-run, brothers; The revolution will be live.”

Phillip Eukel

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People, Places, and Perspectives by Phil

Through the course of my life, I have come to understand that I thrive on human interactions. When I was little, I played every team sport my parents would sign me up in. Not because I was a great athlete, but because I loved team sports. In high school, I continued team sports and found myself involved in far more clubs and organizations than my schedule could realistically handle. The summer after my freshman year in college I found myself a job at a summer camp in the Sierra Nevadas called the Lair of the Golden Bear. It was awesome. I was surrounded by energetic, outgoing, loud, enthusiastic, and creative co-workers who all loved people as much as I did. I couldn’t think of a better place to be. We did all the menial chores to make the camp work, but it didn’t matter because the people around me were so enthusiastic.  It was so good I did it for a second summer. Again, I flourished in a community of people hooting, hollering, talking, connecting, working, playing, bonding and learning. I had discovered a society that was nourished by personal contact, just like me.  How could things get any better?

After my second summer as a camp counselor, a friend approached me about a new fellowship at Santa Clara University called the Global Social Benefit Fellowship. It would utilize my skills as a filmmaker for social good, and give me a wonderful opportunity to travel as well. I wasn’t sure if it could top being a camp counselor, but it was intriguing enough to apply. About six months later, I was boarding a plane to India crossing my fingers I wasn’t going to be a failure.

On the plane flight back, I knew two things. I wasn’t a complete failure, I had gotten enough quality footage to create the videos I promised, and my experience in Kolkata was even better than being a camp counselor. It contained the quality I loved most about being a camp counselor, large quantities of deep personal interactions with people, but with an added a twist. This time, I learned how powerful connecting with people unlike me can be.

Ankur and ManeeshCo-workers Ankur and Maneesh

In Kolkata, India I filmed promotional videos for two sister enterprises, Anudip, a non-profit focusing on rural education in English, IT, and workplace readiness, and iMerit, a social enterprise that employs the Anudip graduates in the business process outsourcing sector. My video work required me and one of my partner fellows, Lauren Farwell, to take many four hour trips on trains to rural villages. Three co-workers, Prakash, Raju, and Arnab, would take turns accompanying us on trips to both facilitate my project and ensure my safety. These train rides turned out to be my favorite times in India, as they allowed for engaging conversations that projected an image of India no film or article could. The discussions ranged from fun talks about Raju’s baby (He was born during my fellowship!), Arnab’s wife to be (I believe she would be called high-maintenance in America), and Prakash’s tattoos (One was a cross on the back of his right hand). As the time passed, the conversations changed. The topics soon broadened to culture, norms, purpose, service, economics, and the environment, but somehow, always ended back up at love and relationships. Yet, the most thoughtful experiences happened once we got off the trains.

Souraj and ClassSouraj’s Class in Lokicanterpur

Lauren and I visited many centers, homes, and villages, wherein we heard a multitude of somber, inspiring, and remarkable testimonies, but there were three interviews that woven together give the clearest picture of my work, Anudip and iMerit, and the brilliant people involved in the two organizations.  The first experience found Lauren and I in front of a large group of eager women in one of Anudip’s DREAM (Developing Rural Entrepreneurs Through Adoption and Mentoring) centers in Harindanga. This particular center focused on teaching tailoring. The women were learning how to make traditional Indian clothes in order to open shops in their respective local villages. In an attempt to draw out the best answers, we made the interview “popcorn style”. We asked the questions to the entire group and anyone who wanted to answer need only raise their hand or reach for the microphone. As we inquired about their lives, the women passed the microphone around and told us about their lives and family. Some were local, but many came from long distances to receive training at the center. Many were shy, but all were clearly passionate about learning a new skill. When we asked why the women wanted to learn tailoring, one woman gingerly reached for the microphone and explained her motivations in very simple logic. If the family needs five rupees, but the husband only brings home three rupees, where will the other two come from? The other women echoed her sentiment in subsequent responses. Learning tailoring through Anudip’s DREAM program gave them an opportunity to earn the other two rupees.

IMG_1517IMG_1526The Women of Harindanga

This woman’s simple logic, frames the next interview perfectly. In our second interview, Lauren and I were lucky to have a chance to talk with the father of one of iMerit’s female workers. During our initial questions, he praised iMerit and claimed it was a good place for his daughter to work. Further probing revealed that though he supported his daughter working at iMerit, where she is a team leader, her family’s financial need was the only reason she was allowed to work anywhere. If the family did not need the income she provides, she would not work at iMerit, but stay at home. By the end of the interview, it was clear, despite the language barrier, that my viewpoint on women in the workplace differed greatly from his. Yet at the end, my companions and I were offered wonderfully cold 7up in tall glasses, a small luxury. This interview speaks to me about the power of Anudip and iMerit’s approach, because they melded the need for ‘the other two rupees’ into a brilliant opportunity for women.

VillageA semi-urban village near Kolkata

Finally, there was Musarral. Lauren and I had been doing interview after interview with iMerit and Anduip employees and struggling to find someone willing to open up to two white outsiders sticking a camera at them. It was understandable, but still frustrating until we met Musarral. Immediately, she poured out her life story telling us how she currently studies at a local university, works at iMerit, and pays for both of her brothers to go to university as well. She explained that her father hadn’t supported her for the first three months she worked at iMerit, but eventually she won her father’s support and how it was it her life goal to be an “RJ, a radio jockey.” She was astoundingly open with her life, and shone through the camera lens with confidence, independence and happiness. Every other answer ended in, “and I am happy.” When we asked her about what is was like to be a working woman she fervently responded, “iMerit gives women a chance to prove themselves, and that is all we need. A chance to prove ourselves.”

IMG_9027Musarral

I went to India worrying about whether my experience was going to be better than working as a camp counselor. Summer camp was fun, exhilarating, and enjoyable installing the important virtues of positivity, enthusiasm, and engagement. India and the Global Social Benefit Fellowship took the foundation of summer camp and built upon it consciousness, passion, and this small belief that the world’s problems might not be insolvable.

-Phillip Eukel

DarjeelingA temple in Darjeeling