University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, CO, April 18 - 20, 2007
For the second year at this conference, ARSJ collaborated with the Affinity Youth Leadership Academy* (AYLA) and the Institute for Family Services (IFS) to lead an advanced workshop entitled "Trading in the Masters' Tools".The workshop addressed concrete strategies that can create and nurture inter-group and within-group accountability among individuals and organizations collaborating in grass-roots social justice projects.
The workshop was given at two highly attended sessions, the first to a group of predominantly educators and therapists and the second to a group of mostly high school and college students.The attendees at both sessions were diverse in age, race, class and sexual orientation.
The workshop consisted of three parts:
Rhea Almeida, PhD., Executive Director of the Institute for Family Services, presented a post colonial paradigm that highlights the relevance and roles of power, privilege and oppression to create foundational contexts of critical consciousness, empowerment and accountability to address inter-group and within-group conflict.
A member of ARSJ led a follow-up discussion of several film clips from the hit movie Crash, that highlighted how white allies that typically have access and trust, but who do not hold an accountability framework, can often place marginalized people in more dangerous situations than even overt opponents.
AYLA and ARSJ presented three interactive improvisational skits that engaged the audience to act out strategies and resolve a conflict. The skits involved a true story of how a young, white female member of ARSJ sexualized several of the young African American male members of AYLA at the WPC7 and how she came to see the meaning of her actions and take accountability.AYLA and ARSJ members acted out the assault, the challenges to the young woman that followed from other ARSJ members, and the young woman's reading of a letter of accountability to the young men.
This unique interactive format forged dynamic and energetic discussions, new ideas, awareness and understandings of strategies for resistance and collaboration that are fostered through accountability.
AYLA members and Affinity's Co-Director shared about their experiences:
It was a life altering experience to have a conversation about privilege and oppression at the same time - it made me feel more comfortable about talking to people about these subjects. It gave me hope that by working together, we can really change the world. --Calvin Johnson - AYLA Member.
I have gone to WPC for the last two years. I have attended and presented workshops. It is like breathing fresh air, the conference goes beyond where talk usually goes - nowhere, and leaves me thinking about new ideas for helping people to understand privilege, and how to do something for social justice. --Sharif Greene - AYLA Member.
I presented at WPC and I was amazed at the response we got from our presentation. People really got into it and we had some good feedback and conversations.I met a lot of people and it felt great to contribute to this important work. --Hasaan Muhammad - AYLA Member.
It was a great opportunity to collaborate with ARSJ and the Institute for Family Services and show others how we maintain mutually beneficial and integrity filled relationships as individuals and organizations. The conference was filled with diverse people with the same mission, dismantling oppression and making the world a better place.
Andrae L. Brown, Ph.D. - Co-Director Affinity Counseling Group; Assistant Professor, Hunter College.
Attendees gave the workshop high ratings for presenting challenging tools and strategies, motivating frank and progressive discussions, and providing concrete examples of organizations resolving conflicts using an accountability paradigm that incorporates within-group and inter-group components.
* AYLA was formerly Families Overcoming Recidivism - Transforming and Restoring our Youth (FOR TROY)
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." - Desmond Tutu