MARCELLUS, a black high school student from South Boston, smiles as his audience at the Boston Public Library bursts into applause. Dennis, a white South Boston student, warms to a similar response. Maria, a high school senior who was originally from the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa, laughs, compliments the audience, compliments herself for her performance - and the crowd loves it.
Each student has told his story to an audience gathered to see an exhibition of stories and photographs similar to the ones shown here.
In 1980, forced desegregation fractured Boston's schools along racial and social lines. South Boston High School started the ``Mosaic'' project to encourage interracial communication. The lack of such communication seemed to be the root of the racial tension.
Mosaic, as an ongoing project, encourages students to write stories about their lives. They take photographs. Then they share the stories and images with the public - usually through a student magazine, but in this case through an exhibition and an oral presentation.
In presenting themselves, the students learn to see through other people's eyes, other people's perspectives. And the confidence they exuded at this exhibition shows how these new perspectives produce poise and strength.
Dennis's childhood memories and Marcellus's introspection strike common chords in the American experience. Maria, on the other hand, tells of her uncommon American experience. She tells her story first in Portuguese, then in English. The same experience, told in two different languages, becomes two different stories.