I’ve always been one to look at life in terms of opportunity cost, knowing the time I commit to one action, is the time I cannot use for another. I’m sure my undergrad studies in Economics, helped shape this quality even more (Morehouse College’17). Considering this and given my deep concern for the current conditions of America, I decided to use my time in grad school in a pretty unconventional way.
Rather than just sitting in the classroom while finishing my Master’s at Columbia University, I decided to take trips across the United States and talk to strangers about what it was like to live in their city. In doing so, I wanted to see how regional culture and experiences around the country have changed alongside America’s current political climate. With the goal of understanding [Where We Are Now] as a nation, by considering a range of local points of view from around the country, I managed to go to 18 cities across America’s mainland and island territories during grad school.
Just to note, this required some EXTREME dedication and hard work (so if you’re a full-time grad student like I was, I don’t recommend it). However, the curiosity to understand what’s going on in my country outweighed my desire to be rested for class.
I wasn’t 100% sure where this journey would take me, but I knew I wanted to go for it anyways. So on MLK day I wrote a post on why I wanted to pursue the project, I made my first video, and I got started. I will admit it took a while to get used to striking up conversations with random strangers. However, when people learned about the project I was working on, they were happy to help. People began opening up about the culture of their communities, and how things for them have changed over the last few years.
Each city’s experiences differed rather drastically: from getting a tour of farmland in Mississippi, to meeting refugees in Syracuse, NY, to being driven around the “real” Oakland, CA, to seeing how areas of Puerto Rico are still recovering from Hurricane Maria, to even learning how corporate practices are stripping the traditional beach and island culture of Hawaii. There are many more stories, and I will be posting different ones throughout the next few weeks on Vngle.com (and @VngleStories).
Vngle is my platform to share and highlight “various angles” of lesser known culture that persist in communities across America. [Where We Are Now] serves as my first project in kicking off that mission. Through my efforts, I want to start a unique conversation around aspects of America that are too often swept under the rug. At the same time, I want it all to form a basis for consideration around different cross-cultural experiences happening around the United States.
Since graduating Columbia, I took some time to step away and figure what’s next. Given the deep divide happening in so many aspects of America, I decided I want to continue this work in a new way. So I’m committing myself to hitting the road again in 2019 and visiting every state. From the journey, I want to capture more comprehensive coverage of various cultural perspectives from backgrounds all across the country. [Where We Are Now] will become a full docuseries benchmarking how far our country has come while mirroring the ranging perspectives on where Americans want it to go.
I’m striving to share a collective narrative of America and I hope to finish covering the nation by the early parts of 2020.
To make this happen, here is my call for support: I’m looking to connect with more passionate people across the nation, who want to share stories happening in their communities. If you know anyone who might be interested in any shape or form, please tell them to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, I’ll be sharing more videos to raise awareness, fundraising and developing a process of make it all work. New updates on the journey will be coming soon @VngleStories.