Our theme for 2012-13 is “The Right To Think?! Science, Politics and Public Perception.” Our four theatre productions investigate different aspects of the current American discourse on the relationship between truth and ideology. In each play, knowledge provided by science creates personal and social crisis over questions of ethics, morality , politics, economics and the public good. These American landscapes include the issues of industrial waste and pollution, media manipulation in the interest of economics, the uninformed electorate, abortion and poverty, human communication in the age of technology, and academic freedom and the teaching of evolution.
In connection to the productions we are offering a series of Coffee Talks with distinguished panelists and public dialogue over the topics raised by the plays.
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Description:This hands-on workshop will use the techniques of The Pedagogy and Theatre of The Oppressed to collectivize the participants’ knowledge in order to broaden and deepen our understanding of race relations in the USA. Together will examine our perceptions of the root and systemic conditions that have erupted into the devaluing of Black lives and those of other People Of Color, especially at the hands of Law Enforcement.
With this technique, we use our bodies to represent images of individuals, organizations, institutions, concepts and actions. The goal is to arrange the images in a way that reveals the complete power relationships and dynamics between the individuals and the social structures contributing to the problem.
A Working Definition of Race: Race is an arbitrary (specious, false) socio/biological construct created by Europeans during the time of world wide colonial expansion and adapted in the political and social structures of the United States, to assign human worth and social status, using themselves as the model of humanity, for the purpose of legitimizing White power and White skin privilege.” -Joseph Barndt. Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America–
A Working Definition of Racism:Racism is race prejudice plus the misuse of power by systems and institutions. Racism is more than race prejudice; it is more than individual attitudes and actions. Racism is the collective actions of a dominant racial group. Racial prejudice becomes racism when one group’s racial prejudices are enforced by the systems and institutions of a society, giving power and privilege to the racial group in power and limiting the power and privilege of the racial groups that are not in power. Joseph Barndt. Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America
. . . and this is what happened
In our brief 85 minute workshop, we just scratched the surface of our understanding of the systemic aspects of racism and violence. But, the two analytical models we developed revealed some insights and connections. Extrapolating on these images can take us further into the understanding of this complex subject.
WE BEGAN the workshop with a brief demechanizing warm-up to loosen our minds and bodies, followed by a very quick exploration of making images with our bodies. Participants responded to the following prompts: Halloween, The Election, The world Series, Pokemon Go, Poverty, Racism, Systemic Violence. I was personally pleased to see little interest in Pokemon Go.
COLLECTIVE BRAINSTORMING: In this initial phase, participants were asked to consider various categories needed for a complete and true depiction of the problem: Individual People, Groups of People, Organizations, Institutions, Concepts, Actions & Who Benefits. With plenty of markers to go around, practically everyone added their thoughts to the lists. We then matched specific actions with the appropriate actors listed on the other papers. These connections and associations primed the pump for our first image. Also, The contents of the lists are are revealingling in itself. (click on the thumbnails below for a larger view).
IMAGE ONE: The Traffic Stop. The initial image showed a situation that has become ubiquitous and infamous in our nation. A black, make motorist with hands up, held a gunpoint by a police officer, and a passenger recording the interaction on a cell phone. Added to the image was a group of protestors calling for equality and non-violence. Next, the group added Donald Trump with his back turned away from the event standing above his supporters characterized as “angry, disempowered, uneducated, white men.” Finally, they added the American Couch Potato, flipping past it on t.v. with his remote.
During the creation of this image, we had the opportunity to talk about having empathy for all the individual people portrayed in the action. The search for solutions requires transcending the desire for blame and finger pointing. We also discussed that the impact of racism is not exclusive to Black people. We opted, in most situations to identify as P.O.C. (People of Color) When asked what percentage of the problem this image represents, the answers was, “Maybe 1%.”
At center is a representation of corporations that profit from systemic racism such as Private Prisons and Weapons manufacturers. On the sides are People Of Color inmates, with small print instructions to read statistics about thier prison rates.
IMAGE TWO: Profiteers. This image began with the desire to show the relationship of capitalism to the situation. This took the form of representing the profiteers of the Prison Industry and Gun Manufacturers holding a sign of blood money. Added to this image were two P.O.C. (People of Color) Inmates with a note to see the statistics about the incarceration rates of People of Color. The third addition to this image was intended to show the cycle of ex-convicts returning to prison after failing to find employment opportunities. One P.O.C. inmate is shown departing prison and seeking employment while a mirror image of that person is shown returning to prison due to the inability to secure a job. This image took a significant step towards recognizing the systemic aspects of the problem, particularly by connecting the cyclical nature of incarceration for communities of color with the profiteering of corporations, benefitting mostly people of privilege. The links between poverty, prison and privilege are undeniable.
(Special thanks to Professor Teresa Laughlin who spontaneously helped to facilitate this workshop with me.)
Workshop participants and readers of this blog can use the “Add Your Thoughts” box below to respond to the workshop and analysis.
On October 17, 2016, we invited our community to participate in the first rehearsal of the plays. Usually the first reading of a play to begin the rehearsal process is a mostly private event for the cast and artistic staff. In this case, the intention of the work is to create a springboard for dialogue, and so, the first rehearsal would not be complete without the first dialogue. Towards the end of the evening, participants will be pointed to this page with an opportunity to share their responses to the subject matter and the event.
In a recent session of Molly Faullkner’s DNCE 102 Survey of Dance on Film, students watched and discussed Stormy Weather. In the comments to this post, they will share some of their reactions. Read the comments below and please, add your thoughts to the dialogue. Remember to be considerate and respectful in the way you choose to express your ideas.
In a recent session of Molly Faullkner’s DNCE 102 Survey of Dance on Film, students watched and discussed The Wiz. In the comments to this post, they will share some of their reactions. Read the comments below and please, add your thoughts to the dialogue. Remember to be considerate and respectful in the way you choose to express your ideas.
This discussion is focused on understanding our world from a sociological perspective. To bring that into focus please comment on the following sentence:
How has your social location affected your life chances with a particular focus on gender and ethnicity?
Before you post a comment, consider the following definitions.
1. Social location is composed of all those social characteristics that define your identity. History (meaning the year you were born) and where you were born both have strong impacts on life chances. Pay particular attention to those characteristics by which people who don’t know you judge you. Most important for this discussion are your gender, your ethnic background and your social class status (meaning if you were born rich, poor or in between)
2. Life chances are defined as all the opportunities and disadvantages you experience as a result of your own social location (see above.) For example, if you were born a hundred years ago and you are a woman it’s likely you would not have been allowed to go to college. If you are a man born during the 50’s it may have limited your career choices. Don’t limit yourself to just age or era. If you are white, how do you experience the world and your life chances?. Do you imagine it would be different if you were an immigrant with brown skin?
Clearly, these are complex questions and require a bit of thought. As C. Wright Mills tells us, a sociological imagination allows us to connect personal struggles and troubles to social forces. Please reflect on your own understanding of how you shape society and how society shapes you.
Remember to put MILLER SOC 110 next to your name for extra credit for SOC 110.
In a recent session of Molly Faullkner’s DNCE 102 Survey of Dance on Film, students watched and discussed Spike Lee’s controversial film Bamboozled about the representation of Black people in the media and pop culture. In the comments to this post, they will share some of their reactions, beginning on Thursday, September 29. Read the comments below and please, add your thoughts to the dialogue. Remember to be considerate and respectful in the way you choose to express your ideas.
The Campus Engagement Through The Arts/Coffee Talks project is dedicating this school year to cultivating multiple dialogues on racial justice in the United States. The Department of Justice Community Relations Services has created a useful Dialogue Guide for conducting dialogues on race. They make and important distinction between debate and dialogue.
“Unlike debate, dialogue emphasizes listening to deepen understanding. Dialogue invites discovery. It develops common values and allows participants to express their own interests. It expects that participants will grow in understanding and may decide to act together with common goals. In dialogue, participants can question and reevaluate their assumptions. Through this process, people are learning to work together to improve race relations.”
Here at the college, there is a strong belief in the Socratic method of posing questions to deepen our understanding. I propose that we collectively brainstorm a list of questions that might be useful for beginning the dialogue. In the spirit of brainstorming, let’s offer questions without self-censorship or judgement of others. Please use the “Add Your Thoughts” box below to contribute as many questions as you like and to respond to others’ questions.
from The Department of Justice Community Relations Service
What do we mean by dialogue?
A dialogue is a forum that draws participants from as many parts of the community as possible to exchange information face-to-face, share personal stories and experiences, honestly express perspectives, clarify viewpoints, and develop solutions to community concerns.
Unlike debate, dialogue emphasizes listening to deepen understanding. Dialogue invites discovery. It develops common values and allows participants to express their own interests. It expects that participants will grow in understanding and may decide to act together with common goals. In dialogue, participants can question and reevaluate their assumptions. Through this process, people are learning to work together to improve race relations.
What makes for successful interracial dialogue?
The nature of the dialogue process can motivate people to work towards change. Effective dialogues do the following:
Move towards solutions rather than continue to express or analyze the problem. An emphasis on personal responsibility moves the discussion away from finger-pointing or naming enemies and towards constructive common action.
Reach beyond the usual boundaries. When fully developed, dialogues can involve the entire community, offering opportunities for new, unexpected partnerships. New partnerships can develop when participants listen carefully and respectfully to each other. A search for solutions focuses on the common good as participants are encouraged to broaden their horizons and build relationships outside their comfort zones.
Unite divided communities through a respectful, informed sharing of local racial history and its consequences for different people in today’s society. The experience of “walking through history” together can lead to healing.
Aim for a change of heart, not just a change of mind. Dialogues go beyond sharing and understanding to transforming participants. While the process begins with the individual, it eventually involves groups and institutions. Ultimately, dialogues can affect how policies are made.
An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. . . I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. . . We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.