Our 2016 Haile Fellows Brandon Black and Chris Glass began their year long journey with PL this week. You will no doubt hear many things about their respective projects as the year goes on, but for now we asked Brandon and Chris to answer a few questions about their upcoming year. Read on.
Q: What part of your fellowship are you looking forward to the most?
BB: I’m getting the sense that it’s going to take longer than I expect and my project may not work out the way that I originally envisioned it. I’m really interested in allowing this idea to develop naturally.
I also had a thought this very morning: this is one of the first times in my life that I’m not working for money since I’ve been an adult. I’m very excited about getting started and to discover more about what it feels like to A: not work for money and, B: be a complete master of your own time, development and tinkering of things. I want to better understand not just how the project will develop but how my perspective might change at the end of this thing.
CG:There are three major components to my project. First, going around to neighborhoods, meeting people and finding out what their favorite parts of the neighborhood is, is something that I'm really excited about; mainly because I’m going to learn more about my city and explore places I've never seen before. Second, is getting the community involved with a series of photographic challenges to hone skills and tell better stories. Finally, depending on how all of these stories unfold over the year, they’ll all be collected in something. Right now, I’m thinking a magazine which would be neat to curate, reflect on and something that's lasting. I’m usually most excited about what's going to happen tomorrow. So, the first step ahead of me, which is going out to meet people in the neighborhoods, is something that I’m really looking forward to.
Q: What meeting, event or person do you feel impacted you most during the first week? Any new insights?
BB: I can’t point to a specific thing, but I keep feeling that every day there is a new impact. The last 10 years of my life have really been about expanding my idea of Cincinnati, so I’ve made these intentional rules to put myself in places where I’ve never been or meet people I’ve never met. With that effort, comes with a new version of Cincinnati every time. Just when I thought that I’m really figuring this city out, there's a new Cincinnati that I’m meeting through this experience. It’s a random number, but I'd say 87% of everything that I'm hearing, it's for the first time. So it's interesting. So I don't think I can pinpoint it to one thing, rather a collection of things that have had an impact.
CG: I will say that I was inspired by Kat’s story at the Toolbank. She has a wonderful story about how she got to where she is and why she's doing it. She mentioned an old quote: “many hands make for light work.” She asked herself, “what do I do well?” And it turned out, she is very good at getting people excited about things that she’s excited about. It was a really lovely and energizing peak into somebody’s life that's been transformed from a business perspective into a career of doing something that is selfless.
Q: Do you have a hero? Who is it?
BB: Part of me believes that, if you are of a certain age, you are a hero. Living is not always easy and longevity is even more rare. So, with that in mind, I want to shout out Grandparents. People who are grandparents and great-grandparents have wisdom and perspective to look back and to show us that there's more ahead. One quote that comes to mind is from Muhammad Ali: “All that matters is what you do when you’re completely exhausted.” When I think about endurance and longevity, there's a lot of exhausted moments. The ability to push through and to keep going anyway is a strength that I think heroes have.
CG: Mr. Rogers. He takes these really complex lessons and reduce them down to their core components, packaging the message in a way that is so simple, easy to understand, enjoyable and engaging. Sure, he’s known for their kids’ shows, but I think that it's those core truths that are universal. It wasn’t just the ABC’s or 123’s, but how to deal with sadness. He got into really complex stuff. Even as we get older we have to hang on to that kid inside of us. I think that Fred Rogers epitomized that spirit and succeeded probably beyond his wildest dreams in influencing so many lives through teaching and learning.
Q: If you could collaborate with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
BB: My great-grandfather, Phillip Nelson Sr. who I remember from when I was young. He did mason work and was a builder of many things. I think it would have been really cool to work with and learn from him as well as have him be apart of this project. I feel like there's always space for guidance, supervision and someone you can look to for help. I feel that in America and society today there's a lot of push towards certain labels that are greatly valued: young, beautiful, rich, wealthy. I realize that elder is not a label that has much value. It seems to be that if you are getting older, you’re on the way out and disconnected from everyone else. I want people to realize that there's so much value and wisdom in elders and I want to help bridge the gap between young and old.
CG: If I could collaborate with anyone, I think I'd go with Jim Henson. Like Fred Rogers he had a profound impact on my development as a person in a way that was filled with joy and wonder. I'd love to have been a part of Henson's team to see how his vision came to life—whether it be on the set or workshop for the Muppets, Sesame Street or any of his movies. So many different disciplines working together for something that resonates for generations. That? That would be a dream project.
Q: If you can look back at the end of your Fellowship year, what do you hope that you gained from this experience? What makes it successful for you?
BB: One of the things on my life compass is this idea of intergenerational wealth. Wealth is not just about money, it's about relationships, knowledge and time. Because of this comprehensive view that I've adopted of what wealth is, in regards to intergenerational wealth, I would love to see a greater conversation around what it means to pass things on in a generational fashion. I like the idea that at the end of this project, if there are people who have never considered owning a home–looking into owning a home; those who have never thought of learning a new skill–becoming more hands on and actively involved in their space or their place. When it comes to changing a space, it just takes time.
I like the idea that people have found each other and young folks are now more comfortable reaching out to older folks who they can go to for help with something or just go for advice. Additionally, I like the idea of elders having a newfound perspective on young folks.
CG: I would love it if the project inspires people to consider, pause, look and reflect. Hopefully that can be represented through someone voicing specific thoughts or if they end up sharing deeper perspectives about life with those around them and in their neighborhood. So, I really feel like the success for me would be greatest if it came from others. I’m excited to see the stories of the people that participated and stepped out of their comfort zone to take a snapshot of life because it takes a bravery to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to share something that goes a little bit deeper. That can be a really hard door to go though. If a lot of those doors are opened that would be awesome. It's about, can it affect one person? That’s what would make this project a success.
Keep an eye out for more posts about the fellows as the year continues. Read the descriptions of their projects on our People page.