Photo courtesy of Saturday Light Brigade

By Alyse Horn

Since 2012, Saturday Light Brigade has used its voice to exemplify the voices of youth and adults through its Crossing Fences program.

Saturday Light Brigade is a radio production that was founded in 1978 and works out of the Children’s Museum, 10 Children’s Way, utilizing a digital broadcast studio and training facility with the mission of “using audio and radio to amplify and distribute the voices of children and adults,” according to SLB’s website.

Chanessa Schuler, program manager of oral history at SLB, said the Crossing Fences program, which works with African American male students, is a community based oral history program designed to connect generations and document their conversations. On a larger scale, the program helps celebrate the conversations by sharing their work with a broader community. In 2013, Crossing Fences worked with students on the Northside, but more recently SLB has focused on working with youth from Northview Heights.

During the first few days of the program, the students are trained on how to use SLB’s audio equipment and how to conduct interviews. The students are also asked for input on which community members they would like to interview. Shuler said the staff at SLB also does research and reach out to adults in the neighborhoods to find interview subjects for the kids.

Schuler said SLB partnered with YouthPlaces for the Northview Heights program, and 12 students were able to conduct 10 interviews with adults from their neighborhood.

“I think the program affects the interviewers in a few different ways,” Schuler said. “I think that the basic skills of talking to people are lost nowadays, with all the technology we have, and we kind of lack that face to face discussion.  Back in the day we had more discussions with elders because a village was raising us. Now, we are facilitating these discussions and from that they get to utilize technology used in radio production, and they learn how to edit in state of the art editing programs.”

The students have the benefit of interviewing adults in their neighborhood that they may not necessarily have met outside of the Crossing Fences program. Schuler said this opens the door for participating students to look at these interviewees “as a resource and not a random guy.”

The students also receive a computer at the end of the program, which is a reward for the kids taking time out of their summer vacation to participate in Crossing Fences.

Darrell Goodwine was one of the 10 men who volunteered to be interviewed by the kids from Northview Heights. He grew up in that neighborhood, and currently runs the After School Program there, but now lives in Brighton Heights.

Goodwine said the overall the experience was positive, and that over his last 15 years of working with kids in that neighborhood, he had never before had the chance to tell them his story. “It was a great experience for me and the youth,” Goodwine said. “Every neighborhood should want to try this.”

Goodwine said the program worked with younger youth in the neighborhood, as well as “street level guys,” and through gaining interview skills and working with the radio and editing technology, he believes the program changed their lives for the better.

Schuler said the interviews are usually done in the neighborhood that the project is taking place, but SLB was not able to utilize the Northview Heights Family Center because of construction, so the training and interviews were conducted at the main branch of YouthPlaces across from the Children’s Museum. Goodwine provided transportation for the kids each day and was “very supportive.”

“He just got it done,” Schuler said. While working with individuals from the Northview Heights neighborhood, Schuler said “the sense of community was amazing.”

“The community is close knit, and everybody just knows everybody,” Schuler said. “This program gave participants an opportunity to dig deeper.”

Crossing Fences is funded through support by the African American Men and Boys Initiative of The Heinz Endowments. To have the program come to your neighborhood, visit neighborhoodvoices.org/contact.