Love My Neighbor Curriculum is the children and youth educational program that is being developed around Love My Neighbor public art project by Alexey Steele in collaboration with The Rev. Dr. Isaac Caneles, PhD of Mission EbenEzer, Pastor Alton Trimbil of Glory Christian Fellowship International (GCFI) and Athia Carrim, an Interfaith and Education Director of International Institute of Tolerance (IIT). All three are leaders of very influential local faith based groups Rev. Canales representing predominantly Latino community, Pastor Trimbil - predominantly African-American and Athia Carrim – an Islamic Interfaith center.
This envisioned as the pilot educational program with the aim to being expanded.
The launch of our program with the good friends from IIT on August 12, 2017 was nothing short of amazing and inspiring. It was our first test of concept for how to teach kids of all backgrounds to love ones neighbor whomever that great neighbor happened to be. It worked better than anything we hoped for.
We started with the tour of the gallery when I explained why I started Love My Neighbor project and shared the stories of incredible people that posed for me.
The highlight for the IIT kids, of course, was to see the painting of my good friend and their beloved Imam Ashraf.
After talking about how same values in life are shared by great people of all different backgrounds it was just so special to hear the kids chanting "Cirilo!" and posing in front of his painting just as proudly as they did in front of Imam's.
We then proceed to the next room where 14 art working stations were set up.
I asked if the kids had any great neighbor of their own that they can think of and then asked to paint anything that first came to mind as they thought about that special person. The result of this experiment was spectacular. Everyone described the idea of the special person to whom they are grateful with poignant and convincing precision. There was more true content in the images those kids created, some using the medium of painting for the first time, then many "art shows" much too often being a tiring exercise in proficient pointlessness regardless of the style used.
The first courageous girl to answer the call was Zainab Khan, the youngest in the group, and one by one everyone else, even the skeptical ones, followed suit.
Amazingly, the initially skeptical kids did absolutely fabulous and striking works. Everyone got so much into it that didn't want to stop when the time to go came.
We then had a ceremony of making kids official Love My Neighbor Ambassadors to their own neighborhoods complete with their own badges. One of the requirements was to say thank you to any of their great neighbor.
Our very first Love My Neighbor Ambassador was, of course, the magnificent Zainab Khan.
Our first Ambassadors and remarkable Athia Carrim, the Interfaith and Education Director of International Institute of Tolerance (IIT).