Sha'an Mouliert introduces workshop

10 AM - 2 PM June 10, 2006

Sponsored by Catonsville and Baltimore Branches of WILPF

On this sunny Saturday in June, 19 people attended the workshop, including members of both the Catonsville and Baltimore branches of WILPF, Women in Black of Baltimore, and 5 other non-WILPF members who responded to the various mailings, flyers, press releases, and phone calls that promoted the event. Three men were in attendance. Two of the women were African-American. Participants ranged in age from mid-20s to 90.

After the two facilitators, Sha'an Mouliert, Chair of U.S. W ILPF's Building the Beloved Community Issue Committee, and Donna Lamb, an active member of the BBC Committee, were introduced, Sha'an asked the participants to check-in by telling their name, what “hat" had brought them to the workshop, and what they hoped to get o

Participants create non-verbal Image Theater tableau

ut of it.

She then explained how the Theater of the Oppressed, founded by Augusto Boal of Brazil, would be used to help us to express our feelings through non-verbal images. Though Theater of the Oppressed was a new concept to most all of the group, this experiential form of theater had all members of the group taking part. Sha'an began with an exercise from the technique called Image Theater in which two participants create a tableau and other participants tell what they see. Viewers were asked what they saw objectively – such as two people shaking hands. Then they were to state what they saw subjectively, such as two people who had never met before shaking hands. The original pair was joined by two other people and then four people posed in tableaus. As we looked at the tableaus, first objectively, then subjectively, we soon realized that our first perceptions can be enhanced by looking at what we see more subjectively. First impressions seldom tell the whole story. We need to look at people and situations more carefully and deeply.

Break out groups discuss personal obstacles that often beset activists and how these obstacles can be changed into assets

Then Sha'an introduced the game, Star Power. This intriguing game provides a vivid analogy of how life is in the world for most people. All the members of the group participated actively and there was a lively discussion at the end of the game.

During the lunch break, Donna discussed white privilege and talked about how we as white people are often well meaning in our desire to work together with people of other races and cultures, but often are not effective. She related some of her own shortcomings, such as latent racists thoughts, holding petty resentments, and feeling competitive. Then she said that even our own personality flaws that keep our activism from being fruitful can be transformed into assets.

After lunch Donna asked us to form three groups to discuss problems that beset us as activists. We were to compile lists of obstacles to activism (within ourselves and without) then to list the assets that they could become. After reporting back to the entire group, we shared ways in which we could change problems into solutions.

As the workshop drew near to closing, the three groups were asked to use the skills that were demonstrated earlier in the Image Theater exercise and to, non-verbally, portray transforming obstacles into assets. Though there was some misunderstanding about being non-verbal, this confusion (an obstacle to our participation in the tableaus) helped to illustrate how even like-minded people can become bogged down in their efforts to work together. Even misunderstandings can be transformed by honest discussion. The leaders brought us back together and the workshop ended with feelings of hope and determination as we anticipate working in our communities with people of many cultures.

Submitted by Phyllis Yingling, Program Chair, Catonsville Branch of WILPF.

Following discussion, break out group forms tableau of obstacle Workshop concludes with tableaus of assets
Phyllis Yingling and Viola Rideout, Program Chair and Chair of Catonsville Branch of WILPF respectively Donna Lamb, Phyllis Yingling, and Sha'an Mouliert
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