Erasing a Horrendous Scar

Fernando Murphey and Alan Waite have organized cross community effort to reconcile an area of North Belfast that has an infamous black eye. Many community organizations are using dialogue and circles to bring youth together from opposites sides of Belfast’s impressive divides. Murphey had had enough of trying to do this conventionally.

Much like Sean Montgomery in the Skegoneill, Fernando explained how these circles and dialogues take 4-8 weeks to get beyond the posturing and silence youth bring to the table. He wanted to innovate the process of bringing youth from each side. The Interface Diaries was born.

Fernando is from Ardoyne, a Catholic community of 7,000 people in North Belfast. Close by is the Shankill area. Wall are present. Some Interfaces are not. Notice the Eye in the Sky, as Fernando puts it, to recognize when you are crossing into another neighborhood.

This area is Interface is also notorious for a calamity of community overlap in 2001. After the Good Friday Agreement, communities boundaries, in some parts of Belfast, were redrawn and remade. Nowhere did this have such gross impacts. The Holy Cross Girls School, a Catholic primary school, is now located about 300 yards from where the above picture was taken. Before the communities recognized the right and necessity of busing the girls these few football fields, the young girls were exposed to a gauntlet of hate and violence from the local Protestant Unionist residents. Balloons of urine were thrown at the girls. A bomb exploded on the third day and killed a police dog. The following video shows the ugliness and reality of communities growing up together in times of peace. If not for the 9/11 Attack in New York, people have speculated this dispute would have been global news.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6vNyCQHxr8

But now the Interface Diaries is using the format of video diaries to connect youth in each community. Instead of wasting precious time, Fernando and Alan decided to record young boys asking questions of boys the same age across the divide. The recipients would record their answers and send the video back to the other side. By the end of four weeks, when youth workers would just be scratching the surface of progress, the young people on both sides were chomping at the bit to meet the people they saw on the television screens. They wanted to be friends. The questions were hardest hitting at the beginning of the process. Culture, politics, history, stereotypes. These questions turned into questions about relationships, music sports.

This process was first used with young men, but the second installment of the Interface Diaries deals with young women.  A couple of the girls were involved in the Holy Cross dispute eleven years ago. After building the bridges between the communities, Fernando and Alan bring the group together with a traveling experience. This year the girls visited Manchester and met members from that city’s minority community.

The Interface Diaries is a unique and compelling project model for Belfast. The project is not at a loss for potential grant money. I will be in touch with Fernando and Alan to see if we can get them or students to visit Taos. We can build bridges together.

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