Letter from a Teacher
March 28, 2005
Dear Pat Goudvis,
I work at a school where 68% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch and where half of them will never graduate from high school. Because they are the “poor” kids of this city, they are often teased and made fun of. I’ve struggled for a long time trying to show them they have a lot to offer and they should care about the world. I want to show them children matter, and their voices need to be heard.
I’ve also struggled teaching them a different form of history from the ones taught in textbooks. I want them to be proud of their background and respectful of how lucky they truly are. I want them to know the real historical events that Americans are responsible for. Your film made this possible. Right before I watched your movie I was overwhelmed and frustrated and beginning to feel sorry for them. And then I saw, “If the Mango Tree Could Speak.” I knew this was the answer to my struggles. I knew that this would make it possible for them to understand how children live and to see what they could be facing.
They had an amazing response. They truly care about the children who live in Latin America. Two months later, they still talk about them. I know that it changed their lives. Thank you for making it possible.
Teresa Lugo and Students
Axtell Middle School
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
The following is an excerpt from a collaborative poem inspired by the film that was written by young people affected by trauma, as part of the Owl and Panther Project (www.owlandpanther.org).
If the Mango Tree Could Speak
If the mango tree could speak, it would be honest.
It would tell us how it feels inside.
It would touch our hearts
and we would know what is good and bad.
It would talk about my people and say how they live.
It would talk about my broken heart of memories,
My broken heart of my past
My broken heart
Hearing people cry for their relatives.
If the mango tree could speak it would weep with the fear
of thousands of years.
If the mango tree could speak it would say
that the people are beautiful
and that they have love to give.
It would say, “Help the poor people.”
It would sing
“Hope lives on.
Peace can come
Wave its banner in my leaves.”
If the mango tree could speak, it would say, “I love you.”
The mango tree would tell the truth.