ivoh holds annual South Florida event to explore Restorative Narrative genre
ivoh founder and board president Judy Rodgers speaking with attendees in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. Photos by Leslie Loewenthal.
By: Rosalind Merritt
Rosalind is an artist, writer and consultant for residential design who lives in Miami.
Last weekend, Images and Voices of Hope conducted a dialogue in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, on the restorative impact media can have on communities.
About 50 people from the Greater Miami community attended the event, which featured a panel of media practitioners, community advocates and storytellers who shared strategies for integrating restorative media into community narratives.
ivoh founder and board president Judy Rodgers spoke about ivoh’s beginning and progress as a nonprofit media organization, community, and proponent of the Restorative Narrative genre.
Most recently, ivoh has focused on Restorative Narrative, a storytelling genre that shows how people and communities are making a meaningful progression from a place of despair to a place of resilience.
“Now, ivoh is not about ‘Just Good News,” Rodgers said. “ivoh looks at the whole story.” If consumers of ‘bad happenings’ in media are exposed to only those events that are destructive in nature or to a civilized society, they begin to think that everything is just dreadful. Rodgers shared that people don’t only want bad news.
“People want to know: What later happened to get the resultant victims of these events back on their feet? We have to figure out: What is the impact on these communities?” Rodgers said. “There’s something generating now, something that is bigger than bad news … something that wants changes in media … something that makes a difference in the stories being covered today.”
Juan Castaneda, founder of Human Pictures, a documentary film production company based in New York and Florida, spoke after Rodgers.
“Since I was a teenager I’ve been interested in stories that can have meaning. Everything we do has to do with social justice. We are filmmakers who do not remain neutral. …” Castaneda said. Human Pictures spent four years making a film in an area of Haiti called Cité Soleil.
Castaneda spoke about his experiences as a filmmaker and activist working in an area devastated by illness, poverty and heavy rain. “People and animals there got sick very often … from contaminated water that forms into canals, from flooding rainwater coming down from the hills. People clean it up, but the filth comes back each time it rains,” Castaneda said. His film focuses on how community members find ways to help one another, to brave the rains and build bridges using old tires.
Tires, Castaneda shared, are a symbol of revolution and social change around the world. “On newscasts where people revolt, you usually see tires being burned in streets,” Castaneda said. “But Cité Soleil painted them in colorful hues, using them to control the rain runoff coming through the town.”
Castaneda said his film is a testament to resilience, with the characters in continuous slow motion, transforming their city by laying stone, shoveling out rubbish in their rivers, and teacher children to write. The message of agency is unmistakable.
Other speakers included Miami Dade-County residents Robin Matusow and Binsen Gonzalez, who spoke about how community members can make a difference within their own city. Matusow, coordinator for JRE Lee Education Center for Autistic Students and the force behind the film, “I am Like You,” noticed something was needed to help autistic children find employment as adults in the area. She began a collaborative educational program for adults with disabilities in Miami-Dade county.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, used a $75,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to teach Miami’s millennials to tell their own stories, urging them to reveal their vulnerability and to embrace the mundane places in their environments that define that journey.
In his closing remarks, Gonzalez spoke about how community members, organizations and media practitioners can help bridge social and economic divides in South Florida by considering and sharing socially conscious and empathetic narratives. “It is not as important to change the world,” Gonzalez said, “as it is to change yourself.”
Judy Rodgers contributed to this story.
Miami has been convening annual Images & Voices of Hope gatherings since 1999 with the help of early supporters such as former Miami Herald Publisher Dave Lawrence and former Bee Gees member Robin Gibb. Special thanks to all those who helped make the local conversation a success, including Meredith Porte, who leads the South Florida planning committee.