I really appreciated the final Group Facilitation because not only was it fun and light, but it allowed us to reflect on an immediate manifestation of how we have perceived our own education and learning in the American system. I thought it was very effective to have us do the activity before we even knew the topic of the facilitation because it allowed us to experience it as we would before stepping back and unpacking everything that it could mean. I also appreciated the real life perspectives that the group had to offer and were so willing to share. It is through lived experiences that we can learn the most about the different systems that govern out lives and communities.
I think this is one of the biggest things that I have gained from this entire class. The wealth of diverse knowledge and experiences has been so amazing to absorb and I am so grateful for my classmates for their willingness to teach me and allow me into a small part of their world. I feel very fortunate to be able to spend time with such an amazing group of people and I look forward to working with many of them, hopefully all, in the future! This semester had its rough patches but through it all our class held together and I hope we came out more unified and understanding of one another in the end. It is this kind of learning that I am passionate about and I will continue to work towards in the future.
For my final Project I designed and carried out an Advocacy Training for Undergraduate students who would be participating in a Lobby Day in Lansing for the Campaign to Take on Hate. My participation in this event was through my field placement at ACCESS but I began to learn that many of the students who participated in years past felt underprepared and nervous about the prospect of advocating at the state level. I wanted to find a way to better support them and help them be successful. I collaborated with colleagues and past participants to develop an empowerment focused, interactive training. Seeing as I was brand new to the Dearborn community as of January, I did a lot of reflecting about how to begin and engage with this work. I have attached to this blog a few things illustrating my project:
I have so enjoyed my time in this class and feel it has helped further prepare me to do community based work. I look forward to collaborating with all of you in the future.
I was grateful to be invited into the Garage Cultural in Southwest Detroit. Grassroots spaces such as those are inspiring and beautiful. It was enlightening to hear Amelia talk about the organization’s roots as well as their vision for the future. So many of the themes she discussed including working within capitalist and non-profit systems, transfer of guidance and power from one generation to the next etc. tied together so many of the discussions we have been having throughout the semester. Sometimes I wonder how the coursework and time spent in class will benefit and inform my future work but I realize that so many of these insights that come much easier to me now in the field I would not be having if it weren’t for the content of my classes and ensuing discussions.
When we returned back to class it took a minute to regain focus but the Gallery Walk provided an excellent opportunity to reflect quietly and individually on community development. I appreciated the tranquility of the space as it often helps to clear the mind and allow for new and different ideas to arise. When we jump right into discussion our habit tends to be to react and counter instead of taking the time to look inwards and truly reflect. What rights do/should people have to move into other communities that are not their own? How can I have the right to enter a new community that has been continually oppressed when they were never given this same right? The discussion that arose from class Monday solidified my belief that I want to be extremely thoughtful and cautious about where I choose to live and just because I “can” live somewhere, does not mean that I should. I can’t recognize gentrification as an oppressive and unethical practice and then subsequently contribute to it.
I am sad that we only have one more class together as a group, I have truly enjoyed the time we have spent together.
When thinking about gentrification I immediately start wondering about the implications for where I want to live in the future. I probably should be first considering the people and communities who are being displaced and seeing their cities morph into something unknown before their eyes. This facilitation allowed me to not only closely consider a type of “community” but also what the real circumstances should be to allow companies and developers into a place that would contribute to gentrification. It seems like almost every city in the United States that has seen an economic “revitalization” has seen gentrification take hold. I have thought about living in Detroit after I finish at Michigan or another city with a similar story, but I constantly ask myself how I could do that and not be contributing to the problem? Am I not the poster child of a gentrifier?
On the other hand, I myself felt pushed out of my former home in Seattle because rent was impossible to keep up with and the competition for housing is painfully exclusionary. Seattle is not the city I grew up in. There are bits of its former self still there but the faces of Seattle are often things I don’t recognize. The structure of downtown has shifted as Amazon now owns dozens of city blocks. Places I used to go in High School are now too crowded or costly to even attempt. I love that city but don’t see myself ever trying to make it home again because it feels impossible and it’s a rat race I don’t want to be a part of. However I must recognize that I was not forcefully pushed out of my home, I did not have to witness my neighborhood be taken over. My experience and those of low income communities of color are certainly not the same. I don’t want to be part of a reason that this same phenomenon happens to another great city in America.
How can we conceptualize a world where we regrow cities and communities but with them at the center? Where they see the benefits of growth and prosperity and not outsiders? How do we create equitable housing, neighborhoods and schools? I very much enjoyed this week because it really gave us the space to think about these things in context and not just as ideas. Until we can put some of these things in practice however, gentrification will always has the power.
I could not have been happier with my group’s facilitation this week. I was fortunate to work with some of the most thoughtful, inspiring and brilliant people I have met at this school and Monday left me with a feeling of hope and positivity about the future. Most days lately have not been this successful and so it truly was a delight. I felt the class engaged in one of our most meaningful discussions to date and I learned so much just by listening to my colleagues speak their truths. The more I hear from those who see the world very differently from me, the further I uncover more of my own privilege and bias. It is shameful at times how long it has taken me to have some of the realizations that I have had in the last few months but I have never been a part of spaces where those discussions have been allowed to happen. I am committed to finding a way to bring these discussions to the forefront and not allow them to fester in the dark any longer. White fragility must be confronted and I want to assist in the dismantling of the current paradigm.
Another discovery I made on Monday related to my love of philosophical inquiry and how it relates to the radical imagination. Engaging in the process of radical imagination asks us to completely reconsider concepts within our current paradigm, strip them down to their core and then reimagine them in a more just and ethical way. This is a very similar process to philosophical inquiry and development of theory; you strip away all the outer layers that society has placed on a system and instead examine its core values and intentions. You then develop a theory that truly reflects and holds true to the foundation, sacrificing nothing for societal conformity. Where I think philosophical study does not go far enough is by applying these theories to reality and attempting to truly devise plans to make them applicable. This is no easy task but this is what radical imagination is asking us to do. It has been done before through every major paradigm shift and social movement and we must not lose sight of that if we wish to truly transform the world.
I very much enjoyed thinking about street art and its many forms, what they represent and how they are perceived by different individuals in our society. This medium represents so many different things to so many different people and its not a subject that I consider often so it was nice to discuss and engage with something fresh and new. I applaud the group that led the facilitation because it is never easy to be the first at something new and especially after a long break from being together in class.
The feedback session that followed obviously triggered me in a fairly negative way and when I reflect on it I can’t quite say why. The words spoken were surprising and hurtful but I think I was most appalled at the lack of realization of the feelings in the room and so before I could articulate my thoughts calmly I burst out. I try to be thoughtful about what I say but I also know a truth about myself is I often say exactly what I mean with little or no hesitation and forget to filter my words for the situation. I do not regret what I said because I felt it needed to be said and I wanted my colleagues in the room to know that I saw them, I heard them and I felt them. I did not want them to feel any more isolated and attacked than they so clearly already were. I think the discussion ended on a decent note but I hope that discussions like these in the future will be more productive and I am going to try and do my part to make that happen. Thanks to everyone for bearing with me.
It was interesting to read about what activates social movements and how that so closely relates with what motivates my own behavior change and willingness to participate in movements. For a call to action to occur there has to exist simultaneous outrage and hope. There has to be genuine fear that something is at risk either for oneself or another entity of concern. I was fascinated by the idea that the only way to overcome this fear was through anger and thereby gaining the motivation to participate and demand change. As I reflect I do find that those moments in my life when I have been the most emboldened to demand change in another or in a system were the result in some anger or frustration of the current state of things. Is there any other way to find will power within oneself than from anger? I would like to think yes but it makes sense that it is a collective frustration communicated across peoples that ignites social movements and gives them the energy to succeed. Maybe from that beginning point them comes empathy and compassion, but the ignition is first required to get people motivated enough to take action.
Grace Lee Boggs gave another perspective describing change occurring on the personal and local level. Instead of looking for leaders or large movements instead simply do something within your own circle. Instead of focusing on how to change the larger system, if everyone were to make small individual or community level changes then larger change may begin to occur quietly and patiently. I wonder if she would agree that anger and fear were a necessary part of social change?
As I think about my final project I want to focus on amplifying the voices and stories of those who often go unheard. Since my fieldwork has been with the Arab American community of Detroit I am contemplating doing a photo voice project with members of this community and their reflections on living in Southeast Michigan and the current state of our nation. I have not decided on all the details but I think this would be a great way for me to learn more about this community I am working with and gain a greater understanding of their lived experiences.