Narrative, Arts, and Culture
Friday November 18
Have you heard about narrative change and wondered what it’s about? Confused about the difference between narrative and strategic communications? Not sure how your organizing and program work fit in to the field of narrative change? You’re not alone! In this session, we will share what we’ve learned from our work in the field, answer your questions about narrative change, offer practical points of entry to the work, share examples of narrative change projects, and listen to the collective wisdom of those in the room as they share their narrative dreams. Participants will leave with shared language and definitions for narrative concepts, a vision for what’s possible, and a clearer understanding of where their existing work fits into the landscape of narrative change.
The arts are not simply a mirror of society. Rather, they are a driving force behind many social transformations. The arts communicate ideology and mobilize people all along the political spectrum. They foster solidarity around shared purposes, values, and identities and provide elements of aesthetic pleasure that can inspire creative responses to fear, oppression, and exploitation. The arts are also tactical interventions in their own right, providing a method for critique and resistance.
How can the arts be married with digital technologies to tell new stories of anti-racism? In this session, the co-presenters ask attendees to experience two new narratives constructed using 360° video cameras. This relatively new technology enables creators to capture an experience and invite audiences into them virtually, almost as bystanders. The two narratives at the heart of this session concern firsthand accounts of racial microaggressions. They demonstrate how new technologies can be a creative, expressive tool for learning about and working through racial microaggressions.
The session offers the opportunity to view the videos with VR headsets. As the videos were the products of a new course, Rehearsals in Anti-racism, the course designer and student creatives share the impetus behind the projects. They discuss the key concepts guiding their creative practice, and invite attendees to participate in a critical dialogue about the promises and perils of racial storytelling, reflection, and learning with new technologies. Special attention is given to how VR can help with healing after a racial event, but also risks retraumatizing visitors to virtual spaces.
development, civic engagement, media production and narrative shift. GJ’s mission is to inspire youth to become multidimensional leaders who are committed to social transformation. In New Mexico, GJ has been recognized as the premier youth media and leadership group, and locally and nationally, has been the recipient of numerous awards. In this year's Facing Race conference, Generation Justice Executive Producer, Roberta Rael and Associate Producer, Barbara Ramirez, will attend in person to conduct in person interviews and record audio for GJ's radio production which broadcasts every Sunday at 7pm on 89.8 KUNM-FM. GJ will conduct interviews of presenters and attendees on a number of racial justice issues. However, we will also ask interviewees their thoughts about the current moment we are in and what the role is of young people as we organize and strategize for a future that is based in liberation and justice. GJ will also provide information on our mission and training that we share with youth across NM. This includes our 2022 Leaders for Change Fellowship summer program, which was co-facilitated by Roberta and Barbara and provided 61 training sessions to 28 Fellows ages 13-25. The Fellowship also resulted in a vaccine equity social media campaign that the Fellows curated.
Achieving a racially just future in which the majority of people are engaged in building pluralist culture requires more than just changing a few narratives — it requires transforming the toxic narrative oceans in which we swim. But how can we transform our narrative waters so that hundreds of millions of people can change their beliefs and behaviors in order to engage in the hard, delicate work of belonging together? And how can we design for impactful narrative strategy at scale across a broad range of sectors, issues, and stakeholders?
The Pop Culture Collaborative approaches these questions through narrative systems design. To transform the narrative landscape in America around people of color, immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and Indigenous peoples—especially those who are women, queer, trans, nonbinary, and/or disabled — we focus on bolstering the infrastructure and impact of the pop culture for social change field. In this hands-on, interactive workshop, the Collaborative team will share about narrative systems design — the creative, powerful, and responsive narrative framework and strategy at the heart of our grantmaking and field organizing. Participants will learn about the six components that work in synchronized relationship: a culture change goal, mental models, narrative archetypes, specific stories, inciting experiences, and desired behavioral norms.
Through storytelling and interactive exercises, the Collaborative will help attendees analyze past examples of cultural change processes, and learn about the building blocks of a narrative system — so that they can utilize narrative systems design to advance racial justice values and issues in their own work.
Love within the US context is often defined in overly individualistic, anemic, and depoliticized ways. It is discussed almost exclusively in the context of romance and its familial dimensions. Why and for what purpose? What of love and its role in social transformation? Grounded in Black liberation theology and Black feminist thought, this session will interrogate the Westernized construction of love. It will analyze the ways in which the everyday notion of love operates as a tool of oppression and perpetuates white supremacist ideology to shape our social realities, desirability, and diminishes our possibilities for social transformation. Instead, this session will offer us all an opportunity to interrogate what love is, how we have been socialized by it, and how it shapes our capacity to lead change and hold each other with loving accountability within the moment. Ultimately, this session is about reconceptualizing love in ways that helps us resist erasure and dehumanization, and defining it in ways that helps us heal. We will explore a Critical Theory of Love framework to interrogate our own social justice practices to ensure that we are not perpetuating oppression, but instead helping ourselves and others discover their power and heal.
Since Reconstruction, the public school has been a central site of struggle for racial justice, from segregation and redlining to curriculum and the school-to-prison pipeline. Any movement strategy and action that leaves out schools is missing a key element of victory, and ceding ground to the forces of reaction.
How do we break down silos to better integrate the fight for public education into larger movements for racial justice? In this session we’ll hear from practitioners who have organized across disparate issues to bring neighborhoods and cities together, and collectively chart new paths forward for grassroots activism centered in BIPOC communities.
Hear from student, parent and educator leaders of the H.E.A.L. Together (Honest Education, Action & Leadership) national school district organizing initiative who will share lessons learned from organizing against the ultra-right’s manufactured anti-CRT and expanding culture wars. Panel discussion followed by small group breakouts.
The importance of building youth political power.
Connecting struggles against anti-CRT attacks to ultra-right’s new expanded focus on gender and how it is part of a broader effort to dismantle public education.
Lessons in multiracial and multigenerational organizing “beyond the choir” to build a bigger “we”.
Conducting a broad community listening project to change the story about the role of public schools and build strong organization.
In the wake of QAnon, insurgent movements are embracing its model — building passionate extremist communities using the symbols and communication styles of pop-culture fandoms. When these viral techniques are combined with the infinite reach of digital platforms, the result is a dangerous new approach to hacking our democracy, consolidating influence and advancing the surging cultural power of white nationalism. From the parents’ rights movement to the pro-authoritarians, these toxic digital narrative ecosystems are activated by content created by influencers and right-wing media; held and spread by communities that criss-cross platforms and demographics; and ultimately ultimately forge the identities, beliefs and behaviors of millions.
Join Western State Center’s Eric Ward, Pop Culture Collaborative’s Tracy Van Slyke and Institute for the Future’s Jeff Yang as they share groundbreaking research and cultural analysis on how these “digital narrative ecosystems” are being created, evolved and expanded; discuss the implications of their growing role in American racialization and politics; and share insights on how these same fandom-based narrative change strategies could inspire millions of people to resist, neutralize, and supplant the white nationalist movement with the yearning for a just and pluralist society.
When Prism was established, it was because we knew that the status quo media landscape wasn’t reflecting enough of the truth — and it wasn’t bringing us closer to our vision of collective liberation and justice.
Prism is a community of journalists and justice seekers committed to delivering detailed and thought-provoking news and analysis at the intersections of multiple issue areas. We help people to understand the issues that matter most to them, digging deep into both systemic problems and solutions to empower readers with information that pushes the conversation on justice forward, and moves people to action.
For Facing Race 2022, in contribution to the goal of creating and building the society we want and deserve, our focus for this session is: How asset-based and participatory storytelling can advance social justice. The Prism team will host a panel discussion on what we’ve learned on applying a social justice approach to communications.
Our panel will engage with attendees on the context and history of worker’s rights news coverage, solutions, and lessons learned toward creating a participatory journalism model, and host a real-time workshopping session.
Prism’s goal for this panel is to welcome folks into a collaborative conversation on what it means to center lived experiences, how advocates and allies amplify solutions, and why this approach to storytelling is integral to racial justice.
Saturday November 19
From redlining to urban renewal to highway construction, which segregated and displaced communities of color, we know racism is baked into the places we live. This shows up as race- and place-based disparities in our built and natural environments. With deep knowledge and practice, urban planner and DEI consultant Ebony Walden will team up with activist and urban agriculture expert Duron Chavis to share their recent projects that highlight place-based narrative change, thought leadership, and solutions focused on dismantling racism and reimagining their city, Richmond, Virginia. Duron will discuss his recent video series, Black Space Matters, where he highlights the voices of Black leaders and their work for community change as well as display his work on urban greening projects and the development of the Bensley agri-hood – a planned community that builds affordable housing around urban agriculture for and lead by POC. Ebony will highlight the narrative change and thought leadership project, Richmond Racial Equity Essays (RREE), which is a multimedia project (essay ebook, 8 episode podcast, and 7 episode video interview series) she co-curated with Duron, focused on highlighting practical ways to advance racial equity in Richmond and other US cities. Ebony and Duron will share clips, solutions, and lessons learned from their work and engage participants in a conversation about how these issues show up and these solutions can take root in the places they live.
What would holding the power of your own narrative feel like in your body? How do we get from the present narrative crisis to the deep narratives we dream are possible? The definition of narrative organizing is the act of building, creating, and using narrative to build power towards a more just and equitable future. Narrative without organizing leaves narrative power to others. When we bring alignment, polyvocality, and community leadership to narrative work we are organizing people to hold and exert narrative power.
We will talk about what deep narrative power is, and how narrative organizing is a way to get there. Narrative Initiative will share nourishing lessons learned from our narrative organizing work in snack-sized portions: the power of narrative authorship, quick narrative capacity checks, balancing short term/long term, and ways to bond together for change.
In sprints, we will surface helpful narratives that ease our work, and harmful ones that impede it. Participants will create and share quick narrative maps of their own ongoing work, and will leave with a plan to further their own narrative organizing work, basic tools of narrative organizing that you can tap into, plus ways to connect with other narrative organizing practitioners.
Deeply-entrenched toxic narratives such as scarcity, individualism, and the inevitability of inequality, are serious obstacles in the fight for land, housing, and racial justice. Five years ago, advocates and organizers from 16 racial and housing justice groups came together with renowned artists from all over the country to identify and deconstruct these harmful narratives, while creating visionary alternatives. Join members of our groundbreaking BIPOC-led collective, Rise-Home Stories, to learn how we created a body of award-winning multimedia projects that advance new narratives of abundance and collective action to support grassroots organizing.
-Alejandria Fights Back! / ¡La Lucha de Alejandria! - a bilingual, illustrated children’s book whose 9-year-old Afro-Latinx heroine fights evictions on her block.
-Dot’s Home - a time-travel video game that allows players to experience racist housing policies over decades, through the eyes of one Black family living in Detroit.
-But Next Time - a podcast lifting up community-led responses to climate-fueled disasters.
-MINE - The pilot of an animated web series set in a future utopia fueled by sentient water, whose protagonist is Blaze, a non-binary Black teenager.
-StealEstate - an interactive web experience featuring audio storytelling and dynamic illustration that makes the case against the financialization of housing.
In our breakout session, you’ll hear how advocates became storytellers and artists became advocates as they shared creative decision-making power. You’ll also learn how you can use this media to support your own organizing and narrative work. We’ll help you identify harmful narratives that affect your social justice work and brainstorm visionary alternatives.
Race Forward’s Butterfly Lab for Immigrant Narrative Strategy was launched in 2020 to build power for effective narratives that honor the humanity of migrants, refugees, and immigrants, and advance freedom and justice for all. This year, the Butterfly Lab rolled out and trained organizations, institutions, and artists in its groundbreaking approach to narrative design and strategy. Utilizing narrative tools the Lab has tested and taught extensively, this breakout session will participants an opportunity to explore beginning and advanced topics in narrative strategy. It will be specifically grounded in our learnings from the scaled immigrant narrative projects of the Chrysalis Lab, original commissioned research conducted this year, and two years of advanced praxis in narrative design. The session is open to all who are interested, including those who have participated in Butterfly Lab work over the past two years, or to those who are new to narrative design and strategy. It will culminate in a process that allows participants to better advance an aligned narrative strategy for the immigrant movement. (Note: While we will be focusing on our work on immigrant narrative, all who are interested in narrative and cultural strategy are welcome.)
From the global pandemic to racist police violence to wealth inequality and the consequences of climate change, the struggle for an inclusive democracy is in danger. The work of building inclusive democracy requires the efforts of artists and musicians as much as it needs organizers, teachers, and community and local government leaders. Art and culture-makers have always been uniquely able to bridge divides, applying their creative skill to the hopes and fears that animate and unite us, using their spotlight to hold power accountable, and inviting fans and consumers of their work into new spaces that foster inclusion and belonging.
For the past two years, Western States Center has been actively engaging with the question of what happens when we bring together diverse cohorts of artists and musicians to break isolation and discuss some of the most relevant issues of our time: racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, white nationalism, and authoritarian threats to democracy. This Facing Race panel discussion brings together a few of the voices from those cohorts: artists and musicians who have embraced the work of inclusive democracy in their art, fan and industry engagement. Workshop participants will join a conversation with these culture change-makers, including singer/songwriters from our Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab, about the power and relevance of art and music in justice and anti-bigotry movements today, the challenges they face, and the critical roles for artists and musicians in the coming days.
"Add Just: Embodied Liberatory Practices" will meld Soyinka Rahim’s BIBOLove signature elements of collective breath, affirmation, and movement meditation with Leah Okamoto Mann’s play-full kinesthetic practices. Buoyed by Soyinka’s drumming, flute, and original compositions, participants will be invited to tend a felt sense of justice in their body - through balanced, respected presence. Gathering the “congregation” of our inner parts, Leah will offer liberatory practices to cultivate a healthy ecosystem, micro to macro / self-regulation for co-regulation. These somatic practices will be sourced in self-observation, improvisation, gesture, and whole body movement, with an intention to increase the frequency of peace. We will explore being in flow with our “body weather” in order to bring more empathy, reciprocity, and generosity into the world, in return for the privilege of each breath. This workshop is inspired by somatic practices of Resmaa Menakem and Nkem Ndefo, as well as writings of Indigenous botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and ecologist, Suzanne Simard. All are welcome. No experience necessary.
Soyinka and Leah have collaborated on numerous art and social justice actions over their 15 year friendship, including: Hello/Goodbye Viaduct 2019 (dxʷdəwʔabš / Seattle) and The Human Murmuration at Duwamish/ dxʷdəwʔabš Waterway Park 2017 (dxʷdəwʔabš / Seattle). Soyinka has presented with the Sacred Dance Guild, the Parliament of World Religions, Abby of the Arts, as well as Facing Race. Leah's current projects include: DreamathonATL with Morehouse College & the Andrew Young Center for Leadership and The Indicator Species Project, a BIPOC Centered Art, Science, Eco Festival (Seattle).
"Racism, or discrimination based on race or ethnicity, is a key contributing factor in the onset of disease. It is also responsible for increasing disparities in physical and mental health among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)." (Lewsley 2020). When you layer on taking on the charge to initiate change, being a leader in movements, and holding space for healing from race-based trauma, the stress become compounded. Wellness and wellness practices are essential components to counterbalance, heal, and recuperate from the impact of race equity work. Often times, spaces for rest are not accessible, not created, are underfunded, or are not elevated as a crucial component of race equity work. Wellness Through Movement is a session that focuses on understanding the dynamics of self-care and offering space for recuperation for attendees. The objective of the session is for participants to engage in dance therapy techniques, movement, and mindfulness practices for rejuvenation. Participants will be guided through reflections on holistic self-care practices and leave with tools that they can integrate for more balanced and effective living. Participants will learn about components of self-care, the impact of stress on the body, the impact of race-based stress on the body, and methods to create a holistic approach to caring for self. This training is grounded in Audre Lorde's assertion of self-care as a necessary means of self-preservation. "You are a precious resource...you have a right to health and peace of mind." (Romm)
Join us in November to celebrate abortion access and storytelling that busts stigma and debunks myths about abortion care and the people who need it!
We will be putting together abortion care packages as we discuss the intersections of repro justice, immigration, and incarceration. Abortion access is a racial justice issue.
#AbortionShowers started as a direct need in our local community in Arizona to begin to tackle the current culture around abortion, reproductive rights, and autonomy. Digital organizers and abortion doulas connected to create a space that is a part of a broader movement to destigmatize abortion and reproductive justice. We know that culture reflects policy and vice versa. Through online mutual aid support of Language Justice workers, artists, and volunteer shower organizers we have been able to create digital online rhetoric and archives.
We have visions to continue this work of narrative shifting because access to abortions is about racial and immigration justice. The systems denying us basic necessities are the same ones forcing us to love under violence and white supremacy culture.
From Plantation to Psych Ward: How Disability Justice Shapes Abolition and Black Liberation will examine how reforms from enslavement, policing, and mass incarceration will inevitably lead to more and more incarceration in a different way, possibly psychiatric institutionalization, which coincides and runs alongside prison and jail carcerality to create systems of disappearance and strip people of their humanity and autonomy. We will examine together historical examples of how ableism has been used to uplift racism, enslavement, and oppression. We will draw comparisons between psychiatric institutions and prisons and jails that show the insidiousness between the two institutions. And we will be creating our own plans of how to address these reforms to stop them in their tracks and reach true abolition to keep our communities safe, not caged, and thrive without fear of incarceration.
Mass Liberation AZ presents “The Importance of Black Political Solidarity in AZ; Not just a hashtag but a political framework”. Through our workshop, participants will discuss the impact of and importance of Black political solidarity, analyze systems of power and how they affect Black movement organizing, and principled struggle in building a framework centered on Black solidarity. Participants will gain a better understanding of systems analysis from a Black political framework; Applying what they learned from the break-out exercise, participants will provide to Race Forward, a co-created assessment by attendees and set of recommendations to help on their journey to achieving Black political solidarity in Arizona.
Poetry has the ability to translate the sacred and ceremonial in accessible ways. In this session, we'll review poems by contemporary Indigenous artists, including Layli Long Soldier and Joy Harjo, among others. We'll also discuss how various poetic forms, including language/word use, visuals, and performance, can bridge and build community and kin. Participants will learn to recognize and empower the ceremony inherent within their everyday lives in ways that will strengthen the impact of their own art and relationships.
Among us all there are basic needs we strive for. The need for shelter, for a roof, for protection from the elements is as old as time. The rapid growth of white supremacist western culture has been a journey towards a lack of culture that refuses accountability as well as community. Unchecked growth without the symbiosis of surrounding life is the definition of cancer.
Today we are seeing a lack of housing, nutrition, and education on a global scale. How could this happen? Some of us are asking. This was always going to be the only outcome when profit became the focal point of a society. Now we are speeding ahead towards a cliff, and some of us are rushing to engage the breaking system with everything in us. Of course, survival is also a core need within us all. But there is a case to be made for survival beyond the lesser of evils.
Working with unhoused people in recent years has taught me that people are adaptable and strong and vulnerable and rigid. I approached this work expecting to learn about “the homeless” and what I learned is why I am not currently “unhoused.” Because now without a doubt I can tell you that I am no different from anyone on the street. And neither are you. We have been born into a set of circumstances that has written a favorable probability for us to be here right now.
Every student deserves an education. Unfortunately, many schools across Arizona have adopted harsh disciplinary policies that push students out of school for common adolescent behavior. These policies often disproportionately impact Black, Brown, Native American, poor, LGBTQ, and disabled students. In these cases, students are unfairly punished and left without the necessary resources to continue their education. As a result, these policies decrease the likelihood that students will go on to higher education while increasing the chances of drop-out or involvement with the criminal justice system later in life.
The Demand to Learn campaign is demanding changes at the local and state levels to dramatically reduce Arizona's suspension and expulsion rates, increase the number of mental health professionals in schools, and ensure enrollment is simple and non-discriminatory. By working with families, students, and community members, we can collectively advocate for reforms that will help children stay in school.
This session will spend time working individually and collective to think about power structures and who has power to create change, and expose various strategies that exists. The participants will be able to hear from each other's commitment to advocate in their local school boards, at the legislation, and other spaces where change can be accomplished.