Anti-Oppression Meeting Minutes - March 10, 2012

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AOWG 3/10/12

Present: David, Alle, Greg , Matt, Seble, Michelle, Firuzeh, Angela, Alexander, April, Rachel, Anna, Andrea Facilitators: Allison and Clyde

Agenda • Introductions – • Ways of Being • Safe Spaces Presentation and Discussion • Spokes Council of Anti-Oppression Groups • Evaluation of Ways of Being

Introductions The group members answered: Why are you here? What’s in your heart?

Ways of Being We reviewed the ways of being and commented on some: • Step Up/Step Back • Active Listening • Practice Both/And Thinking • It’s OK to disagree o There’s a lot trying to be said here – about disagreement, ways to resolve conflict o Might we want to revisit this section to see if we want to clarify the various ideas o Add – Agreement is not always necessary or the goal. Resolution doesn’t mean agreement. o Add – Pay attention to dissenting voices or silent participants • Progressive stack • Take 30 seconds of silence for people to think every 20 minutes • Use of hand signals is OK and be willing to explore cultural differences in styles of communication • Practice diversity of structuring/facilitation for different learning styles • Strive for diversity (bouquet) of facilitators and use a process observer o A process observer (not facilitator)is someone designated to purely watch for process during a meeting – can be watching for coalitions, anxiety • Practice giving appreciations at the end of meetings Consider adding – use Preferred Gender Pronouns (e.g. they/them/their)

Safer Spaces Objective of this conversation : Read the statement of Commitment to Challenge Oppression. Been going to different meetings of other working groups and explore ways of working with them in the spirit of co-creation vs. trying to get them

History • a group from OWS since Nov. They are the people who wrote this document plus a google group on line. We found it compelling and brought it to GA, where it was agreed upon XXXXXX. Sexual survivor and support informs the sentiment around transforming cycles of abuse. Dewey Sq. had a safety team and Anna was involved with doing safety. A month into living DS – resurrected Mediation WG which existed 4 days into occupation and then abandoned. How to address harm within the community –without saying go away and don’t come back. Changed from mediation to community wellness because disingenuous to call it mediation. Did a fair amount of mediation between 10pm and 2am. A small group remained engaged with this. After eviction, not much of a lull before picking up work again. • Post Dewey, needed to field safety questions answering to certain things and didn’t even have a safety team. Wanted to evolve beyond notion of safety – people needing to be protected from one another. Wanted to move towards concept of space, values and principles. For many of us come from personal experiences about feeling unsafe in certain spaces. So this stuff is personal. So this proposal came after the good neighbor agreement and there was a split. There was an effort to make this space safer. There was a learning experience of trying to mediate between different Question: Was it originally more focused in terms of non-violent spaces? What happened in DS, one of the first things we did was Good Neighbor Agreement – more operational.

Vocabulary is more geared towards oppression. How did that evolve? Difference bet GN agreement is that we’re not living together. Now it’s about other contexts – GA’s and beyond. We need to affirm some community values. Started with this particular set….issues that are not recognized or articulate enough in the movement. This comes first when trying to agree what the mission is in terms of regulating or moving towards a safe space. Additional perspective – why the transformation – in the chaotic or troubling stuff at DS, the attempts to deal with it were very different. Watched the attempt of intervention lacked awareness or sensitivity around issue of oppression with respect to people of color or gender….growing awareness of ways that anti-oppression needed to be brought to everything. Admire you for continuing to digest these issues and making it more applicable to the stuff that is happening in OB currently. Have some thoughts: As I understand oppression, race, class, heteropatriarchy and these arise historically and perpetuated because they recruit next generation to their system. They came about violently and are perpetuated violently. We through every piece of our skin is racist, classist and ….when I read this I read …no analysis of systems of oppression. How we internalize the power of rules and being ruled and how we bring it into OB. Communities designates spokespeople. If POC sends someone to the GA, the Women’s’ Caucus can …it’s very individualistic. Doesn’t scream out about the systems of oppression. Some of the energy is more than collaboration – merging forces, bringing wisdom, how to merge some of the energy …this group has gone through significant change. There should be space for a new form possibly to come about. Nothing in this statement about systems of oppression – no analysis about the structural nature of this. Part of way we envision the group is about learning about this stuff by going to Decolonize and AOWG and learn, amplify these conversation in other spaces – GA – so we can guide them, someone else would have to do this….First step of this is to be nice to one another. There is no definition of oppression in this thing. Made a commitment to this at GA. How to do power analysis and historical system s of oppression? Not with a group that has already agreed that these systems exist, but with groups like GA GA is an oppressive space. Very difficult to change this…when bring proposals to GA – wouldn’t pass….had discussion about what it meant to …this was questioned in the space of GA. How do we get space to have conversation about analysis at GA’s? Don’t even know if that is possible in current process of GA. Ways of Being is no way to dismantle systems of oppression. Some people have experience doing these kinds of We’re all beginners – only way to do this is through it. Doing it in different locations. Will take a group that is committed to this and merging energies. GN Agreement - Histories of Now- a collection of artists in Cairo, symposium dealt with global occupy movement in esoteric c and concrete ways. Both GN and this document are docs of now …what can we take on as a community at this moment? Some folks are probably further along than some of us here…if GA structurally inhibits us to take steps forward how do we deal with that? If this is all that we can say now …continually being able to commit to more as a community? While see the challenge of what document doesn’t have, stand behind it. I’m beginning to think that we’re going to find ways to have political discussions. In the last 3 weeks, the amazing influence that anarchy has on Occupy movement. I have no experience with it on the ground. On the surface, the things that I hear about anarchism and actions seem almost antithetical to doing anti-oppression work. In the way I’ve been mentored by people of color….this is the cultural rub of politics that we’ll have to find way to talk about. There are many people making decisions being made by folks who don’t hold anti-oppression lens. Structure of GA – people are realizing that it’s lacking…doesn’t it mean the GA needs to change or does it mean that we need fewer …started by 2 hr talking about ways of GA within GA’s. Is this happening still? There’s a catch 22 coming up in different ways – that when we come into this space going over ways of being. They’re not stated as I statements. By reviewing them, we’re inherently stating this is way we’ll be together and agreeing to them, our expectations. Don’t know purpose of this document, for those who weren’t there, how will they know? Unless we commit to continuing this as a conversation.

We are committed to making sure that every person who enters an OB space, it becomes something everyone becomes proud of. We would like language to be something, to be the way we do things. Diversity of Tactics and Autonomy Statement is something like this. Committed to being there on a regular basis. Did a process workshop 2 weeks before the agreement to own the space. Talking about doing a teach-in at a GA about this.

Important point – biggest Good Neighbor Agreement – copied it …difference between that and Diversity of Tactics and Autonomy – the sweater fits….knitting a sweater around a person having only a pile of yarn. How to help people own the language rather than know a catechism. How to own the work?

How do we make this real? Safer Spaces committed to making this consciousness is real in the movement. Know that this is what AOWG also believes. It’s about a diversity of tactics. Keep bringing proposal to the GA to get 2 hrs at GA to talk about white supremacy and create a curriculum that we can insert into GA process. Believe in spiral form of learning…let it continue to sink into consciousness. Would like to see groups merge – Safer Spaces, Community Wellness, AOWG.....this group needs to recreate itself. Group needs to meet fewer times a month (twice) and from 3-5 on Saturdays. Where it is and where it wants to go. Want to hear everyone – round stack.

Was at the GA the other night. This is the first stage. GA is a very hard space to bring proposals. It’s almost impossible to start an anti-oppression conversation in the GA. How do we shift mindsets and consciousness? To shift people’s understanding of the world as we see it. It’s the hardest work to do!!! Will require lots of different approaches. Figuring out how to do this is part of the work of the AWOG. How do we bring a conversation about anti-oppression to the GA? Maybe we need to re-think assumptions that it can’t work in the GA structure There is a parallel conversation going on with POC. Look at white supremacy works within OB. A feeling that GA needs to be – form of democracy doesn’t work for POC, tends to alienate …come and join us in this form of democracy and we’ll be a multi-cultural way. Different proposals are being discussed. Making sure that facilitation is diverse. Leadership groups consciously include people of color. One thing that comes up – with white allies …cultural shift and question of accountability. Notion of OB supposed to speaking for folks not on WS, needs to be in relationship with those not on WS – people in Roxbury and trade unions. Taking wisdom …steps to be taken…the now and tomorrow. Question of opportunities – education of systems of oppression. Violence that doesn’t always mean clubs- also means coalitions, passive aggression, talking people down. Systems that exclude people always.

If power analysis is too sophisticated, then we can educate there. Could talk about ways people are gender minorities are excluded in practice of GA. Through talking about it because you want to be more inclusive. And then talk about accountability –a lot of things done in name of wider community (MBTA). Accountability is what POC is biggest weakness the way that proposals are developed, in isolation of community itself. There are things GA can do now and then can do more. Nothing ever changes unless you make a demand. Have to yell and scream to get it to come down. Can’t get folks who are resisting that this is a better way. That this is in the best interest of OB. Resistance to changing to culture of inclusion and relationship. Needs a concerted effort by a larger group of people. Not happening with small groups going to GA. Absolute worst conversation to bring to GA – that’s the exactly way to turn GA into a nightmare. Not a place you want to be in. Might people get defensive if using anti-oppression….rather use inclusive. Frame it positively, e.g. We don’t run in the classroom. We walk in the classroom. We run outside. There is an element of resistance to change ….there has to be this level of work be done in parallel. There is some kind of motivation that is internalized. When a law gets imposed upon people, those who disagree, their resistance goes underground. There is no process of raising their consciousness while changing the cultural norms. Can’t talk about long enough about accountability. Part of scariest thing for white people to get a hold of notion to accountability. Autonomous action doesn’t have point of reference with accountability. How do they sabotage work of building solidarity? Example: International Women’s Day Celebration the other night. They’ve been having a difficult time. Went to support the caucus. Presentation was so was white, middle-class issues – from suffrage to body images today. There is an educational value. How do we hold a WG accountable?

All has to do with accountability – way we frame things when educating. I like it when you do this vs. you don’t do this. How do we hold a WG accountable “to our higher knowledge”? Want to find a way of saying – “wouldn’t it be wonderful if..” What/who are we accountable to? Not to a WG. For each individual to themselves. How to have concepts of right and wrong and not be religious about it? New statement trying to provide a new space from which to have this conversation …to be accountable to some greater statement of way to be in the world. Where this comes from? Word that is popping up is discipline….not sure what GA committed itself? How do we change? No one knows. How do we change habits? If want to meditate, teacher won’t take you on if you don’t commit to discipline about it? The cynical part of me will say – negative space in GA. There was a desperate energy to do something. This is a values statement. Every once in a while there….what’s missing about it a discipline around it. Way we committed to in this group –review ways of being at every meeting. Piece we need to figure out what discipline looks like ….falls apart around boundaries. Until we figure this out- space won’t feel safe. Need to figure out how to get proposals from groups vs. individuals. Don’t feel worked out enough to process at GA’s or representing too few. Instead, proposals get vetted in spokes councils……Groups that represent marginalized groups come together to shape proposals to bring to GA, which will Inability to have conversations about violence – it could be of significance to have a well facilitated conversation about violence without the goal being that we agree on anything. Our commitment to begin to do this work doesn’t sound like a commitment – that you don’t trust that the GA hasn’t done the work and that we are committed to. How am I going to take create a statement with people who don’t feel safe coming to GA? I have a lot to learn about oppression and commit to learn about. This is not just a piece of paper. This has a lot value to it. A lot of discussion about it. But not a lot of resistance. People waiting to become allies and waiting to do this work. Not illegitimate because it was worked on for a month with a lot of groups – medics, facilitation, anti-oppression, …..first step in creation of statement of purpose. This means doing a lot of work. I don’t think we can become something together if you don’t trust that I am serious and am holding myself accountable to this statement.

Take a 30 seconds. Remind ourselves to speak in the “I” Feel safer having this conversation in affinity groups. Individuals expressed experiences with bringing value statements with the intention of deepening the work not with the intention of shutting this down. To deepen the work of AOWG and Safer Spaces. Not an argument that needs to be resolved. Hold ourselves how to best move GA shift. In my experience, GA will need to review these commitments. I see the amazing amount of work done and am impressed by it. Not saying that it was not legitimate and …when doing this work at GA, and all the people in OB, not just the people in the room. You have taken a great amount of commitment of talking to people – not a personal criticism. What I’ve experienced at group level at GA, when we get in larger group setting , don’t see that we’ve found a way to …..great start. I am wondering what the steps are to make it a discipline within the GA. Unless it’s actualized discipline on a practical basis. Looking at how to change a culture is what we’re talking about. Don’t know what the GA committed to exactly.

Need to figure out how work continues. The Declaration that have passed, engaging the GA –amend declaration. Autonomy and accountability – need to engage change in new terms that are more self-reflexive vs. to another group or authority. That aspect within OB of educating others while educating ourselves – about race - that has frustrated people with background their effort s to the same level. In terms of the tone with which we bring these values forward. This is the conversation. This is where autonomy and accountability come into play. Some history has been sitting in this room exemplified in that exchange. There is history in Facilitator’s WG, Safer Spaces and AOWG in the room. Really hard to have process person step out of process role and when facilitators step out of roles. Loving what you’re doing. Appreciating spiral learning – from paper to action. When we put ourselves into so many meetings there is a lot of tiredness that goes with this. With the idealism there is cynicism.

Appreciations Rachel: For idealism and cynicism – amazing to me that 5 mos. is long enough to cycle through idealism and cynicism. One of wonderful things of having extra maturity, we gain appreciation of appreciating many different energies and ways of doing this work. Michelle: For Anna for doing all the work of bringing this to the GA and committing to the work. Angela: For Andrea for taking notes. Alli –remain willing in your insistence that you put out your preferred pronouns.

Ways of Being • Practice giving appreciations at the end of meetings o We did some • Strive for diversity (bouquet) of facilitators and use a process observer • Practice diversity of structuring/facilitation for different learning styles • Use of hand signals is OK and be willing to explore cultural differences in styles of communication o We used some • Take 30 seconds of silence for people to think every 20 minutes • Progressive stack o not conscious choice about this, be explicit about progressive • It’s OK to disagree o • Practice Both/And Thinking • Active Listening o • Step Up/Step Back o middling

Questions? • Challenge for me to be facilitator and relinquish participation – how do facilitators facilitate and participate?

Process suggestion – decision to stay longer until 8:40. Why people who have been dedicated to this group have left? Holding the space is important next week. Greg will facilitate. What is the agenda? • Work going forward • Further discussion of one of ways of being • Time and frequency of meetings