Thursday, April 19, 2007

Seeing Beyond Sight

Tony Deifell rocks!

Our opening keynoter at the 8th Gathering of the Social Enterprise Alliance was Tony Deifell, who has been working as the senior strategy person at Kaboom!, the rapidly expanding social enterprise that builds playgrounds for kids. Tony has just published a new book entitled Seeing Beyond Sight, photographs by blind teenagers. As someone who has been working in the blindness world for a long time (18 years!), I was fascinated to learn about the paradox of blind kids taking pictures. Full disclosure: I bought the book a month ago and it sits on the meeting table in my office, so you might guess I ended up converted to Tony's point of view.
Tony Deifell at podium gesturing
Tony's talk blended photographs from his book with key questions that we should be asking ourselves. The questions were illustrated by the stories behind the pictures shot by his students at the state school for the blind in North Carolina. Tony recalled talking to Merlett about her best friend, Reba. So many social entrepreneurs work with "us versus them" issues and Tony riffed on this to great effect. Merlett told him that she didn't like white people. Here's the picture and the conversation Tony recalled:
Tell me about Reba. Reba is white, isn't she?
Don't ask me. I don't know.

You don't know if she's white?
Is she? Well, she has long hair - that's all I know.

Yeah, she's white. She doesn't act white?
(shakes head)

How does she act?
Like us.

Page capture from a book, with a photo of a white and a black girl holding hands
Tony really got the crowd going, because it was clear that at the same time he was teaching blind students to take pictures, he was getting a great deal of education himself. I was glad he was able to pass along some of those learnings to us!

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