2022 Program Topic:
Friday November 18
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.
Presenters of this session will guide participants, through workshop-style activities in order to better understand how systemic racism affects their own embodied histories, perceptions, and relationships. Participants will gain understandings of key concepts of power and positionality, which work in tandem with the social construction of racism and race. Participants will gain hands-on experience with arts-based and arts-informed activities that address how to creatively intervene in a world structured by racial inequality. These activities can be useful tools, skills, and ideas for educators and learners (both in formal and informal settings), artists, administrators, leaders/policy makers, etc. Participants will be empowered to analyze systems of power and the structural dimensions of racism to surface root causes and contributing factors through the following activities:
Activity 1: Game of Power - participants will select three objects, either in the room or on their person, and arrange them in a manner demonstrating that one object is the most powerful among the objects.
Activity 2: Portrait Identity/Positionality Chart - participants will create a portrait identity chart for themselves, considering the question: “Who am I?” Participants will consider which labels on the chart represent how they see their own identity and which ones represent how others see them.
Activity 3: Racialized Moments - participants will participate in an interview-style dialogue recalling the first moment they first learned their race.
This workshop will wrap up by allowing presenters and participants to reflect on the activities and any new understandings of key concepts such as race, racism, power, positionally, and more.
Saturday November 19
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.
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.