r Letter From Eastie: Well, duh! Who doesn't like a mime?
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Collaged view of Boston, from East Boston

Letter From Eastie

News and other items from East Boston, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Well, duh! Who doesn't like a mime?

A new add campaign featuring mimes is being created to educate the citizens of Eastie to stop littering. (Personally, I think they need to bring back Woodsie the Owl--"Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute" ) The campaign is the brainchild of German Velazquez, Columbian immigrant and photographer.

Velasquez believes that many of East Boston's Latino immigrants don't feel genuine connections to their adopted home and therefore are less inclined to take proper care of it.

“We use the same trains and streets as others, but sometimes we don't feel like we belong to this community,” he says. “We not only clean dishes, but we do not have the opportunity to show our artistic abilities; people think we do not have a lot of skills. We need to show that we belong to the city - we love Boston like we love Medellin.”

In order to show Eastie's Latinos how to express civic pride, Velasquez tapped several local actors and artists to help create a public ad campaign - a planned series of television spots, print advertising and in-school educational appearances - that employs mimes to teach civic values to youths and their parents.

In the first TV spot, a boy throws trash at a can but misses. As the trash lies on the ground, the boy walks away but is accosted by a horrified group of mimes, one of whom has fainted. The mimes cajole the boy into properly disposing of his rubbish, rejoice and skip down the street together.

“There's trash on the street, so the mimes embarrass the boy in front of people,” explains Velasquez, who modeled the ad campaign after a similar one in Bogotá. “They teach him that the paper has to be in the can, and then the mimes applaud the good citizen.

“Mimes use the universal language - they use the body. I thought it would be a good campaign, because English is not easy for some people, and Spanish is not easy for others; with mimes, the message is for everybody. And the kids understand. Kids love mimes; they love artistic expression.”

As the campaign's name implies, Velasquez hopes that children will learn to pick up litter not just when mimes are around to scold them; he hopes good citizenship becomes second nature.

“They see that garbage has to be in the can. It's a corrective program now - they pick up what they throw on the ground - and a preventative program for the future - they learn that trash has to be in the can. Then they'll tell their father not to litter, and it'll have a domino effect.

Quoth the youth of East Boston:

Across the street from Velasquez's studio, at Orient Heights T station, some young people expressed skepticism about the upcoming campaign's chances of success. Asked if mimes' reprisals would stop people from littering, Ryan, who declined to give his last name, said, “Probably not. Mimes won't work. They scare me. They scare a lot of people. There's no way to stop people from littering, except maybe paying them, and that would get costly."

“Half the people I know would probably try to jump a mime, unfortunately,” he added.

Another nameless hooligan added, “I don't like mimes. I don't know anybody who does.”

But there are indeed some stirrings of conscience in Eastie. Asked if he would stop littering if a mime asked him to, a young boy named Billy said, “Yeah, because it's not right.”

“It depends on if it's a nice mime or a mean mime,” ventured Billy's companion Mark, before a third, James, yelled, “It's called littering! It's illegal!”

--The Weekly Dig


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