|Jennifer Belcher | Dante Benedetti | Chris Jenkins | Enter Sharing Stories
Jennifer with her three smiling nieces.
Jennifer Belcher is 27 and grew up in Connecticut. She studied journalism
at the University of Arizona and now works in documentary film in San
Francisco. She continues to learn about things she never dreamed she
would pursue, such as alternatives to the internal combustion engine and
the lack of modern day American heroes.
Explain the significance of community in your life.
I was raised in Connecticut in a house surrounded by acres of woods and
trails, so I spent a lot of my childhood exploring on my own. I always
wished I lived in a neighborhood and would beg my parents to move to a
"normal" house on a block with other kids so I could play games like "30
Scatters" in the streets after dark! That never happened. Instead, I
developed a sense of solitude when school let out and would spend my
summers absorbing everything in those woods around me. Looking back, I
can't imagine a better experience than the one I had. As an adult, I have
lived in New York and now live in San Francisco, a faster pace than the
woods behind my house, but places where I can continue to explore and
observe with the same sense of curiosity I had when I was younger. I
believe that because I lacked this feeling of belonging to a community, I
have learned to seek out and appreciate the communities other people belong
to even more. This is what led me to studying journalism, which gives me
the ticket to entering into other people's lives.
Is cultural identity important to you? Why?
I think cultural identity is important in shaping who you are as an
individual, but I don't think it has to be from one culture. As a white
Anglo-Saxon Protestant in a very diverse, multicultural public school, I
was the minority. When I look back at who I was intrigued by, I
unknowingly was drawn to people from very strong, cultural and ethnic
backgrounds: Irish-Catholic, Italian, Jewish and African-American. I went
to Christmas Mass, Sunday lasagna dinners, Passover seders and racially
mixed parties. I think it's extremely important to experience different
cultures, but I don't think it's easy. It requires a conscious effort. I was
very lucky that my hometown happened to be extremely diverse, but I have
three nieces who live in a very homogeneous town and they don't have that
daily exposure. I feel it is a challenge that I want to partake in to
ensure that they grow up at least aware of other ways of life.
What roles do cultural traditions play in your life?
I don't feel that I have any of my own specific cultural traditions,
besides those holidays that fill more of a family connection rather than a
religious or cultural significance. My personal traditions come from my own
unique experience, such as taking time to go off and explore, whether it's
on a big trip for a few months or a short walk down my neighborhood
street. I think traditions are extremely important, but they can be any
kind of tradition, not necessarily cultural.
Is keeping ancient ways alive important to you? Why?
Ancient ways are important in the sense that they connect you with people
who lived in a different place and time. I think it's important to be aware
of these ancient ways, but also to be able to evaluate them in connection
with the present. Not all ancient ways have a place in today's world. I
think it's important to be able to make that distinction.