2022 Program Topic:
Friday November 18
What is food, and how is it central to timely and urgent conversations around identity, racial justice, community organizing, environmental activism, and decolonization? For so many people, especially BIPOC, food is so much more than what goes in our bellies. It is a lifeline back to other homelands, a conduit for immigrant parents’ love, a medicine that transcends borders, or a map that tells stories of resistance, migration, struggle, survival, and joy. Christopher Tse and Meenakshi Verma-Agrawal will facilitate an interactive space in which we explore and reclaim our relationships with food, community, and identity. Through small group work, circle, and storytelling approaches, this workshop seeks to unpack questions such as: “What’s your favorite cultural practice around food?” “What’s an example of a time you felt embarrassed or ashamed about food?” and “How do you cook your rice?”
In a time of globalization and easy access to other cultures, food has become yet another site of colonialism, power, and white supremacy. Celebrity chefs rave about the utility of turmeric and star anise while gentrification shuts down old kitchen bastions of racialized communities and replaces them with culinary fusion cafes that photograph well for social media. It’s time to reclaim these stories. This workshop is for every kid who’s ever been afraid to open their lunchbox in the cafeteria. We see you, we’ve been there. Let’s talk about shame, and joy, and cut fruit. Let’s talk about spices and identity. Let’s talk about how we cook rice.
One of the main ways white supremacy maintains its system of dominance is through perpetuating dissociation -- from our bodies, emotions, communities, and the natural world. At its worst, dissociation in white people manifests as violence and terror inflicted on BIPOC bodies. White dissociation can also look like denial, defensiveness, appropriation, silence, and/or distancing (especially from other white people). In our white antiracist organizing, disassociation impedes our ability to build authentic relationships, act with accountability, sit with discomfort and conflict, and share or release power. It can manifest as competition, unsustainable work habits and burnout, isolated and unaccountable action, lack of vision and imagination, and the inability to follow leadership of BIPOC communities.
As we seek to build a white antiracist identity and practice that is still emerging as a collective, we have the opportunity to reconnect to that which white supremacy seeks to destroy: our wholeness, interdependence, and humanity. In reclaiming and embodying these parts of ourselves, we enhance our ability to viscerally attune to the impact of racism, discern where we are responsible for its perpetuation, access the courage and vulnerability to repair, and engage in accountable organizing and action.
In this session, we'll explore what embodied antiracist practice looks and feels like. We will imagine a white antiracist identity that divests from practices of domination, extraction, consumption, and scarcity. We will explore how to take action, relate to each other, and organize from a place of embodiment, connection and interdependence. Come prepared to engage in emergent practice together.
How do we organize millions of white people into social justice movements? Divide and conquer strategies by those at the top have used race to divide people and maintain power, and the result is disastrous for all of us – including white people. Racial capitalism and authoritarian movements are threats to us all. Panelist will dive into Showing Up for Racial Justice's (SURJ) model for organizing, an approach needed to fundamentally change the cultural and political landscape in the US, but which goes against much of the current thinking about organizing white people.
SURJ formed to answer the call of Black leaders to “organize our own.” We organize majority white communities, guided by a “shared interest” approach. White people must understand that their personal interest is tied to the demands raised by BIPOC-led movements. Simultaneously, we must center those most impacted by white supremacy with a framework that incorporates both race and class. Panelists will share organizing stories from white rural, Southern, poor and working class, suburban, disabled and middle-class communities. This approach represents a departure from earlier approaches to anti-racist work with white people. It moves beyond guilt as the primary framework. We center the most marginalized people in our organizing, while understanding that middle-class people have an interest in ending white supremacy as well. With the model of shared interest, we can shift narratives about whose interests are served by the maintenance of white supremacy and create opportunities for multiracial movement building.
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.
“There’s really nothing like the self-righteousness of the partially informed.” - Karen Kilgariff*
Although from two very different vantage points of identity, both presenters react to Karen’s insight with a similar “Oh, damn...that’s the truth!” response. Having experienced, witnessed and owning up to their own periods of partially informed self-righteousness, Jasmine and Melia share their stories of unproductive allyship, damaged relationships and stalled (or backwards) progress all in the name of “good intentions.” Encouraged by the groundswell of white folx getting involved in anti-racism, this workshop is designed to help emerging allies break typical patterns of privilege - saviorism, fragility, performative behavior - and develop more effective ways to show up in solidarity with BIPOC. When learning to ride a bike or drive a car, you start in the empty parking lot, keeping yourself and others safe. Learning effective allyship deserves the same care. When you Know your Lane you operate as a safe, trusted and effective ally. No swerving or speeding to get ahead, rather following the direction and pace of the Movement. Through story-telling, small group discussions and journaling, participants will learn to recognize and avoid common allyship missteps, build resilience to reframe “call-outs” as gifts for personal growth and assess where they currently land on an allyship continuum. Taking ownership of previously harmful behaviors, participants will leave with new insights - knowing better to do better.
*total coincidence that our quote comes from a white woman named Karen. It is what it is.