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RavelUnravel: the Community Mosaic Video Project

RavelUnravel Trailer

Watch the RavelUnravel Trailer

by Beth Katz
Project Interfaith

“Wait, you’re a Muslim? But you’re not even brown!” This question inspired RavelUnravel, Project Interfaith’s interactive, multimedia project launching this spring about the diversity of religious and spiritual identities that make up our communities and world.

Emina, a participant in Project Interfaith’s 2010 Interfaith Youth Service Project, faced this reaction from a fellow college student as she prepared to log her first video blog entry. But instead of lashing out at someone’s ignorant comment, she used the experience as an opportunity to explain her identity as a Muslim and the diversity within Islam.

We at Project Interfaith were struck by this as we watched. We thought, “What if we could give more people the chance to define and share their religious or spiritual identity in their own words and confront the misconceptions they face because of this?” Thus, RavelUnravel was born.

We started by putting a call out for volunteers to serve as interviewers for this project and ultimately chose 35 individuals, ranging in age from 20 to 80 years old and belonging to 14 different religious or spiritual identities and multiple ethnicities.  Our goal was to have the interviewers armed with handheld, cordless Flip camcorders capture 150 videos of community members of diverse beliefs and cultures in the Omaha, Nebraska metropolitan area answering the same set of questions:

  • What is your religious or spiritual identity and why do you identify as such?
  • What is a stereotype that impacts you based on your religious or spiritual identity?
  • How welcoming do you find our community to be to follow your religious or spiritual path?
  • Is there anything else you would like us to know about you and your religion or belief system?

RavelUnravel

The RavelUnravel site will include:

  • 720+ video interviews collected from residents in the Omaha metropolitan area;
  • an interactive comments forum;
  • four downloadable discussion guides (one each to use with high school students, college students, community groups, and in the workplace);
  • links to credible, educational resources on religious and cultural diversity; and
  • information about other Project Interfaith programs and resources.

Users also may:

  • make a video answering the four interview questions using their web or cell cameras and upload these videos to the site;
  • create and share on the site and through social media a customized collection of their favorite viewed videos;
  • engage in discussions using the online forums and discussion guides;  and
  • view a randomly-selected video by using the site’s “shuffle” function.

To ensure we got a diverse cross-section of the community, we reached out to religious and spiritual communities, community groups, businesses, non-profit organizations, and colleges, inviting them to host an interview team for a morning or afternoon.  We also welcomed community members to drop in at the Project Interfaith office to be interviewed.

The response blew us away.

We ended up having so many people that wanted to be interviewed for this project that we had to extend the interview period from September 2010 to March 2011 — instead of ending in December 2010 as originally planned.

We now have over 720 video interviews, representing a wide array of theistic and non-theistic religious and spiritual identities including Agnostic, Atheist, Secular Humanist, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Latter-day Saints, Muslim, Native American, Orthodox Christian, Protestant Christian, Roman Catholic, Seeker, Seventh Day Adventist, Sikh, Spiritual, Unitarian, Wiccan, and other identities.

These videos, along with a host of educational resources, will be featured on a new interactive website we are currently building at ravelunravel.com.

In the name RavelUnravel, we’re exploring the tapestry of religious and spiritual identities that make up our communities and world and the complexities of how we construct and deconstruct identity.  We hope this site puts a human face on religious and spiritual diversity and exposes the tremendous variety of beliefs and practices within religious and spiritual identity groups — thereby transforming the way users understand, learn and talk about identity, spirituality, religion and culture.

We are planning to launch the site this April, so stay tuned!

Click here to watch the RavelUnravel Trailer