Our Truth and Purpose: Reflections of Heartbeat Staff

Our Truth and Purpose: Reflections of Heartbeat Staff

Over the past several months, significant criticism has been levied against Heartbeat. Because we are committed to a dialogical process, we as Heartbeat staff feel obligated to publicly acknowledge this criticism and respond to it. Specifically, members of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement have publicly claimed that Heartbeat is a normalization organization, serving the Israeli government’s agenda of propaganda, and enforcing the status quo of the Israeli Occupation and its oppression of Palestinians.1http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2383  Others, on the right of pro-Israel politics, have similarly accused Heartbeat of being solely pro-Palestinian and falsely portraying Israel as the lone aggressor and Palestinians as the only victims.2http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/does-heartbeat-promote-understand-through-music/

It is our absolute, fundamental desire and critical choice to engage in dialogical conversations with all who offer criticism and feedback. It is also important to us and for the safety of our youth musicians to clarify misinformation and misunderstanding about our program, while also reflecting upon how outside voices can compel us to look deeper at our programming and communications. As an educational institution first and foremost, we view this reflection as a tool of learning and dialogue over merely a statement of clarification. We do not have all the answers, but rather hope that this document can deepen understanding about our work and propel us all to ask better questions.
 

Music

The creation of good music demands that musicians respect one another as equals, hold to their individual and group responsibilities, and exhibit heightened skills in listening and communication.  In Heartbeat, music is the language through which we explore, question, and challenge the way things are, and imagine how things could be.  We understand music to be a physical, social, emotional and political force, capable of shaping our attitudes and behaviors and propelling change in and between our communities.

 

On Equality and Our Critical Pedagogy in Music Education

One of Heartbeat’s core aims is to dismantle the systems of segregation which fuel the suffering of both the Palestinian and Israeli people.  Heartbeat does this through a critical pedagogy3Critical pedagogy is an educational process through which students undergo the questioning of their world, challenging the forces of domination within their societies.   in education in which Israeli and Palestinian youth encounter and partner with one another as equals, in stark contrast to the unequal political and social reality surrounding Heartbeat meetings. This contrast is acknowledged and discussed within each of Heartbeat’s youth groups. Heartbeat’s equalizing educational space challenges and alters the youth musicians’ socialization4Socialization “is the indispensable process of drawing the young into a way of life and equipping them so sustain it.” “Through it, the young learn ways of understanding, communicating, and interacting, along with a body of cultural knowledge (which may always be evolving), that together are constitutive of their way of life.” (Hansen, 2008, p.297) For more on socialization, read “Curriculum and the idea of cosmopolitan inheritance” by David Hansen. within the unequal, victim-victimizer, oppressor-oppressed relationships which permeate society.  If we look at the deeper symptom, we see that youth are socialized to ignore or not see inequality or injustice and to normalize separation throughout society.  Increasing separation between Jews and Palestinians, through separate schools, separate neighborhoods, separate buses, travel restrictions, and myriad other physical and psychological barriers, enables the demonization of the other and the continuation of violence, racism, injustice, and occupation.  In the words of education philosopher in critical pedagogy Paulo Freire, “Once a situation of violence and oppression has been established, it engenders an entire way of life and behavior for those caught up in it – oppressors and oppressed alike.” (Freire, 2000, p.58)

To break free from this unjust and unsustainable way of life, Heartbeat critically challenges the socialization imposed upon our youth from childhood into adulthood, while also instilling an “ethic of care” (Holloway & Krensky, 2001) leading them “into action as they move beyond their own realms and envision others’ realities.” (Holloway & Krensky, 2001, p. 361)  Through raising the critical consciousness of our youth musicians, they are compelled to confront and challenge unequal power dynamics, segregation, violence, fear, and injustice and build equal social relationships with each other based upon critical understanding, empathy, trust, and respect.

The Heartbeat experience of equality exists in stark contrast to the world around us where Israeli Jews have considerably more privilege and agency than Palestinians and other minorities. Rather than waiting for government leaders to change policies and impose equality from the top down, we engage in a grassroots effort to grow spaces of equality from the ground up. Our program is structured with weekly meetings that combine music co-creation and dialogue5For more about our philosophy of dialogue, read Chapter 2 of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. “Because dialogue is an encounter between women and men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some name on behalf of others.  Is it an act of creation; it must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one person by another.  The domination implicit in dialogue is that of the world by the dialoguers; it is the conquest of the world for the liberation of humankind.” (Freire, 1970, p.89), field trips to understand participants’ hometowns and other places, such as Area H2 in Hebron, Silwan, Yad Vashem, unrecognized villages of the Negev/Naqab desert, and two annual retreats to explore multiple perspectives and deepen relationships.

After many months, our youth musicians utilize their  “collective empowerment” (Rogers & Singhal, 2003) to become voices for change in and between their communities through performances and publication of their original songs and music videos. Ultimately youth musicians take their critical understanding and tools for advancing solidarity, nonviolence, human rights, coexistence, and co-resistance out of the safe, equalizing space Heartbeat creates with them into less safe spaces to challenge and alter the socialization of those in their communities.  Heartbeat youth musicians express their opinions and challenge the status quo through live performances, music videos, music publications, lyrics, public statements and Q & A sessions with audiences. Music provides one of the few powerful and nonviolent means for young people to be heard, to advocate for themselves and their communities, and to influence others.  To read an official statement by Heartbeat graduate musicians as well as other material, please visit: www.heartbeat.fm/youthvoices

While we know this to be our truth, we would never impose or demand that any of our youth musicians uphold the same way of reading her or his world.  Heartbeat, as an educational institution, is firmly non-partisan, while undoubtedly political, remaining a space for anyone, with any opinion or background to be welcomed and to enjoy the same dignity and freedom to express him or herself.  Cognizant of the unethical and strategic dangers of “banking” or “depositing” ideas (Freire, 1970) in our students, we do not promote our own opinions to our students nor do we tell our youth musicians what to believe or what to sing. As educators dedicated to raising critical consciousness, we ask questions and challenge our youth musicians to search deeply for their own answers and understanding of their world. As a community, we only require that Heartbeat musicians unite in promoting universal values of freedom, equality, and respect.  We hope that our youth musicians will convey humility and empathy and that the critical awareness they build will lead them to a lifelong commitment to working for justice and peace.

“Authentic liberation – the process of humanization- is not another deposit to be made in men. Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.” (Freire, 2000, p.79)

“Because of this, and because we work with students on a daily basis, our humility toward our own perspective and our capacity to listen to the perspectives of others are key to the work of social justice. Social justice is, after all, a social act. It is work that is inclusive and generous, and it requires the inclusion of those we wish to act with: our students and communities.” (Allsup & Shieh, 2012, p.50)

 

Because Love Is An Act Of Courage

“Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to others. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause – the cause of liberation. And this commitment, because it is loving, is dialogical. As an act of bravery, love cannot be sentimental; as an act of freedom, it must not serve as a pretext for manipulation. It must generate other acts of freedom; otherwise, it is not love. Only by abolishing the situation of oppression is it possible to restore the love which that situation made impossible.” (Freire, 2000, p.89-90)

 We, the leaders of Heartbeat, value each human life with equal importance and refuse to segregate our love, empathy or concern for either the Israeli or Palestinian people.  Our goal as activist-educators and artists is to build a future where all people enjoy the same rights and opportunities to freedom, dignity, and safety.

As activist-educators and artists, we believe that “at the heart of teaching others is the moral imperative to care” which begins “with adopting a disposition to perceive and then act against indecencies and injustices.” (Allsup & Shieh, 2012, p.47) A starting place for all of us is to notice and “name the inequity” (Allsup & Shieh, 2012). In adhering to a critical pedagogy of humanization, care, and nonviolence as a method of positive force, we recognize the systemic inequalities of the oppressor-oppressed relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Occupation, a human rights violation and illegal by international law, is detrimental to the lives and basic rights of Palestinians. It dehumanizes not only Palestinians, but Israelis as well by placing young Israelis into a role of superiority over others.  A just and secure end to the Occupation is critical to the long term safety, dignity, and human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis.  In the same breath, we abhor the use of violence, by Palestinians and Israelis alike, as a means to achieve justice, safety or any other goal.

Since our work exists within an “ethic of care” (Holloway & Krensky, 2001), we as educator-activists understand the role trauma and retraumatization play in also sustaining the status quo. Trauma is not an excuse or justification for inequality, occupation, or any suffering to continue, and does not suggest that Israeli and Palestinian suffering is the same, but rather is an extremely important dimension of the conflict that also cannot be ignored. Both Israelis and Palestinians are traumatized and retraumatized, though often in unequal ways, as each passing blow of the conflict occurs daily. For violence, inequalities and the occupation to end, Israelis and Palestinians must witness their mutual needs for safety, freedom, survival, and rehumanization, not through a “culture of silence” (Freire, 2000), but through dialogical praxis in solidarity with each other.

 

Final Thoughts

This reflection comes as a result of a long process of dialogue, but is not static.  We invite and welcome your feedback, further criticism, questions, and suggestions for ways to improve.  We also recognize that programs in our field which do not utilize a critical praxis in educational content, pedagogy, and structure, will not lead to a just, positive peace (Barash, 2009), and may serve to prolong the status quo. It is important to us that other programs which work with Israeli and Palestinian youth seek a critical praxis, creating sustained spaces for encounter, based upon equality, where youth can truly raise their critical consciousness to explore and challenge the reality around them.

We hope to work with you to reach the day when all residents of this Holy Land will enjoy the same dignities, freedoms and rights to self-determination, representational democracy, safety, and equal treatment under the law.

 

Glossary

Critical pedagogy: Critical pedagogy is an educational process through which students undergo the questioning of their world, challenging the forces of domination within their societies.

Critical Praxis: Educational process that combines reflection with action, or “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (Freire, 1970, p.34).

Dialogue: For more about dialogue, read Chapter 2 of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

“Because dialogue is an encounter between women and men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some name on behalf of others.  Is it an act of creation; it must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one person by another.  The domination implicit in dialogue is that of the world by the dialoguers; it is the conquest of the world for the liberation of humankind.” (Freire, 1970, p.89)

Oppressor-Oppressed relationship: is described by Freire as “denoting the dialectical conflict between opposing social forces” (Freire, 1970, p.46) of oppressor and oppressed.

Positive Peace: Positive peace is the minimization of direct and indirect violence, including structural injustice, leading to “positive visions of peace as being greater than the absence of war” (Barash, 2009, p.146).

Socialization: Socialization “is the indispensable process of drawing the young into a way of life and equipping them so sustain it.” “Through it, the young learn ways of understanding, communicating, and interacting, along with a body of cultural knowledge (which may always be evolving), that together are constitutive of their way of life.” (Hansen, 2008, p.297)

 

Work Cited

  1. Allsup, R. & Shieh, E. (2012). Social Justice and Music Education : The Call for a Public Pedagogy.

  2. Barash, D. (2009). Building Positive Peace. Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies (pp. 146-187).

  3. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum.

  4. Hansen, D. T. (2008). Curriculum and the idea of a cosmopolitan inheritance.Journal of curriculum studies, 40(3), 289-312.

  5. Holloway, D.L., & Krensky, B. (2001). The Arts, Urban Education, and Social Change. Education and Urban Society, 33, p.354-365.

  6. Rogers, E., & Singhal, A. (2003). Empowerment and communication: Lessons learned from organizing for social change. Communication yearbook, 27, 67-86.

 

To cite this page, please use the following:
Heartbeat, Inc. (2015, June 15). Our Truth and Purpose: Reflections of Heartbeat Staff.  Retrieved from http://heartbeat.fm/2015/06/15/truthandpurpose/

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2383
2. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/does-heartbeat-promote-understand-through-music/
3. Critical pedagogy is an educational process through which students undergo the questioning of their world, challenging the forces of domination within their societies.
4. Socialization “is the indispensable process of drawing the young into a way of life and equipping them so sustain it.” “Through it, the young learn ways of understanding, communicating, and interacting, along with a body of cultural knowledge (which may always be evolving), that together are constitutive of their way of life.” (Hansen, 2008, p.297) For more on socialization, read “Curriculum and the idea of cosmopolitan inheritance” by David Hansen.
5. For more about our philosophy of dialogue, read Chapter 2 of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. “Because dialogue is an encounter between women and men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some name on behalf of others.  Is it an act of creation; it must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one person by another.  The domination implicit in dialogue is that of the world by the dialoguers; it is the conquest of the world for the liberation of humankind.” (Freire, 1970, p.89