Greetings LQP People!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING with all the baggage and beauty this yearly feast entails! And Happy Birthday to me! Yes, my birthday fell on election day this year AND I got exactly what I wanted . . . sorta. The re-election of President Barrack Obama was definitely what I rooted for, but this term out when he doesn't have to focus on the next 4 years, I want to see him engage more in dealing with the "teachable race moments" he championed exploring at the start of his first term. Since Obama's re-election to office, there have been many racial incidents and protests surrounding this pivotal event. Here are just a few articles that I think you will find of interest. Checkout the Monthly Resource Section to see many, many more.
So, What Now? Five Racial Justice Thinkers Make Sense of the Election
Clowns Attack KKK Rally in Charlotte, NC with Humor (The images alone will make you giggle!)
Over the past few weeks I have had some very interesting comments and statements made to me in regards to racism. Some asked me a couple of weeks back, "Its hard for me to get my head around grappling with racism so much." Really? As a non-white in America I ask the question, "when are we NOT grappling with racism?" Racism, not the overt hanger a n*gger kind discrimination, but the everyday impact of the institutionalization of racism that has profound impact on the lives of millions every day, not only in our country but worldwide.
When one considers what the definition of racism really is all about, our lives are inundated with it on a daily basis and we all participate in maintaining these systems of supremacy. Yes folks all of us. And once you know and understand how, then your job is to find ways to tear the system down.
Another asked the question, "Why are people divided?" Someone else responded to me, "What truly is the purpose of bringing up that history (wink, wink)?" The answer to both of those questions is that if we truly understood the totality of our history, we would understand what has happened and the present condition of our society. AND most importantly, how to un-f*ck the clusterf*ck we live in. In the words of my granny, Excuse my French for those sensitive ears.
With that being said, I have spent the last month on a roller coaster ride of training and gardening activities. As such, much of this month's discussion will focus on two very pivotal workshops that I completed - Civic Reflection Dialogue Training and Undoing Racism Community Organizing. Both were challenging on a mental and emotional level on so many fronts. I found myself consuming what had to be the equivalent of the caloric intake of 5 Big Macs daily just to replenish the mental energy spent in these workshops. Both were 2 days of approximately 7-8 hours each and gave a mental workout like no other.
I was pushed waaay out of my comfort zone, had to restructure my thinking and understanding on a near constant basis. Struggled and grappled with all of this in ways that I have not before. And on occasion I felt like I was hit with an emotional sledge hammer as I had to revisit my own race story and begin to understand more and more, why my life has ended up on the journey that it has. And no, don't worry, I am not a calorie counter!
On the gardening front, I learned to can again and harvest sweet potatoes. Everlasting life balancing the sorrow of yesteryear. And quite frankly, if the Zombie Apocalypse ever arrives I'll be able to survive on the run!
Finally, I want to humbly say THANK YOU all for your continued support and for helping to build new roads towards a more tolerant and healed society. New people have come on board with the Project to add their skills as well.
So with that said, let us begin.
Building Self for the New Future
CIVIC REFLECTION DIALOG
I participated with Civic Reflection Dialogue Training October 19-20, 2012. This training is offered by The Project on Civic Reflection (www.civicreflection.org) with many open forum trainings held in the Chicago, IL area.
At the root of this training is a process whereas a piece of media (poem, article, short reading, image of art, short video, etc.) is utilized as the catalyst to start a conversation. This piece of media is used as it is the equalizing factor. Expertise and hierarchies are neutralized in a sense and we all must start the conversation based on the media we are presented. For me, the media that will be used is images of Her Name was Laura Nelson.
At the beginning the facilitator sets the tone and direction of the discussion by asks one simple question to get the conversation started. Throughout the process, the facilitators use a series of questions they'vie Prue-planned to explore the topic from various angles. Or, the presenter will pay attention to the discussion and allow it grow organically and continue to bring the conversation back to a key points of the discussion.
Translating these skills into an informal communal setting that has little control is the trick for me. In essence, what I have taken from this training is to learn to better control the dialogue on the fly by having a series of stand by questions to explore. By control, I mean making sure we have a sane conversation instead of allowing the discussion to spin out of control.
This training for me was difficult in the beginning, because it requires one to rethink how they approach a dialogue. No rights and wrongs, just talking and letting the conversation go where it will. I understand this instinctually and try to practice it (Remember that Dialogue vs. Debate Post last month). But somehow in the context of this process, I felt discombobulated as I thought about how I could present LQP in a manner that required me to do more talking with vs. talking at and educating. Over the 2 days you participate in no less than 5 facilitated dialogues of which you prepare and facilitate one with a team of 3 people.
If you want to know how to develop a new approach to create dialogue in your community, then check this workshop out. Another open call workshop is available in January 2013. One piece of media we used during the training that I felt particularly inspired by is a short video from What's Your Calling featuring Father Fleger, a Roman Catholic priest and social justice activist based in Chicago.
I have thought about his comments long and hard for days in regards to the work I do with The Lynch Quilts Project. Take a peek at his video and join the conversation.
This cutting-edge training by The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond (www.pisab.org) was a kick in the head for me. A straight-up Capoeira, Tae kwon do flying whip kick in one fell swoop that often stabbed at my heart. As an African American you think you know what racism is and how it operates and impacts your life. For many of us we know this on a periphery level, but we do not have a true understanding of the insidiousness of Jim Crow now calling himself James Crow and how deeply, deeply rooted this is in our history, codified in our laws. How the society we'vie inherited today is the result of more than 400 years of planning.
Throughout the training you were asked to sit on your growing edge. That place where you know what you know encounters the space where:
You know what you know don't know
You don't know, what you don't know
Where you think you know, but you are wrong
For anyone, and I mean anyone, working for community change this workshop is a MUST. Not understanding the basic principles of racism and how they impact our daily lives, live within the context of our institutions and how we all in one form or another uphold the systems of oppression and white supremacy that is the foundation of much of society. Not understanding how and why people have been divided. Why exploring that history is important.
Because when we don't, we do more harm than good.
When we don't, we make policies that are fool hearted at best and outright lies and distortions that have devastating consequences for peoples' lives for generations at worse.
Because if we don't, we'll never become the America that can be, but will revert to the ignorance of old.
So, at the beginning of this month's newsletter I talked about what is or isn't racism. In simple terms the root of racism is the word race, which is a socially constructed ideology that has drastic consequences. It plays itself out because it means some have unearned privilege and access to real tangible resources, while others do not.
Race Prejudice + Power = Racism
Race is defined as "a specious classification of human beings, created by Europeans to assign human worth and social status, using himself (the European) as the model of humanity and "the height" of human achievement for the purpose of establishing and maintaining power.
So, you may be asking yourself what that looks like in the modern world. Ask yourself why Black women have processed their hair for generations. Or why and how neighborhoods became racially divided and why most people of color live in cities and whites in the suburbs. Or the role lynching plays in maintaining systems of power.
A great video to watch to explore this history of race further is Race: The Power of an Illusion, which is accompanied by a PBS on-line resource. Click here to access.
So, now that you have the definition and few quick resources and examples, can you, will you examine how you participate in these systems of supremacy and will you begin to look for ways to bring them down?
For those of you in the Indianapolis, IN area we are partnering and fundraising to bring the training back in the late winter / early spring months. Please contact me if you think you your organization maybe interested in participating. For those other areas of the country contact Diana@pisab.org for information on training.
Continue to be the light in the world LQP people!