Anti-Oppression Meeting Minutes - January 21, 2012

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Anti-Oppression Working Group Arlington Street Church January 21, 2012

Attendance: Bhavin, Meck, Maureen, Sable, Susan, Corry, Jude, Kendra, David, Greg, Carlos, Michael, Rachel, Anna, Susie, Charlotte, Jacob, Andrea


6:00-6:20 Opening

  • Introductions/appreciations
  • Facilitation, notekeeper, timekeeper
  • Ways of Being

6:20-6:50 Check-Is/Updates

  • Safety
  • Banner
  • OWS road trip – request for contact information
  • FAWG stipend freeze
  • Statement of Purpose and Vision Statements
  • Request for our presence at GA’s
  • Level 3 sex offender proposal fallout

6:50-7:10 Debriefs

  • Visioning Workshop
  • People of Color Community of Gathering

7:10-8:20 Task Work Group

  • Visioning Exercise
  • Break-Out Groups
  • Report Backs

8:20-8:30 Assessment of Ways of Being Ways of Being


Meck and Bhavin asked the group members to introduce themselves and then appreciate the person to your right. The group enjoyed opening the meeting in this way.


Facilitators – Bhavin and Meck

Notetaker – Andrea

Timekeeper - Greg


Facilitators opened up the space for folks to give additional appreciations. The following people were appreciated.

  • Michael → taking a risk to engage in this work
  • Greg → for the dedicated and often invisible work you do with Financial Accountability WG (FAWG)
  • Anna → for being in the center of difficult conversations around safety in OB
  • Susan → for all that you have been doing around level 3 offenders, and your involvement with so many working groups
  • Maureen → for asking good and hard questions at the Linda Stout Visioning session

Ways of Being

The group reviewed the ways of being.

  • Step up/Step back
  • Both/and
  • Don’t shame, blame, attack
  • Room for disagreement – oops, ouch, what’s up with that
  • Can use hand signals
  • Use I statements –speak for yourself
  • Active listening – it starts with a decision, a commitment, an intention,
  • 30 second rule – this is something we do every twenty minutes. We are also finding that it is tool that facilitators and participants can call for when the tension is high. It is also a useful tool when proposals are bring brought forward to a group and you want group to pause and have time to consider it before conversation begins. It ties into a diversity in the way we structure meetings and active listening.
  • Progressive stack
  • Diversity of Structuring Meetings -
  • No Screens
    • Ouch- Introverts among us, who don’t talk a lot, is it a barrier from fully engaging? Or is it a means of communication? A means for being present? It’s their way of having their voices being heard. Maybe figuring out ways to make room for screens can be folded into diversity of structuring our meetings
  • Appreciations – new way of being that has been added so that we can recognize and appreciate folks who have put themselves out there


  • Safety (we’re going to do this one first because some folks will be leaving early to go to the GA)
    • Folks involved in thinking about community safe space building and way in which we can mitigate harm ….do community trust building. Use what we learned in visioning workshop there. Thought folks would have ideas for that.
    • Build a community for responding to harm. Build a community where there …because we respond to one another’s need for emotional and other forms of safety. To build a foundation, need to be able to trust each other. In the past month, Jumped into OB and put a lot of trust in folks in my WG and affinitiy group and didn’t know them well. A few things have happened that have shaken that trust. It matters to me that they are safe and personal responsibility to hold that trust – both ways me towards them and them towards me. This the background to wa
    • A couple of ways to be involved – Sunday at 1:00 at Flaxseed across from Park St. to help plan for Monday meeting. Or be in touch via email. Or want to help facilitate this. There is also a meeting next week on Monday for larger meeting for self-education about questions of restorative justice and safety…who in our/wider community have wisdom on the topic.
    • Appreciate what is Rachel is trying to do. Think that the discussion won’t ….there are anti-democratic structures of GA. Knows someone who got physically sick from being involved at GA. Confused by blocking….group decides if you’re objection is valid or not. Not intuitive. They understand –
    • Facilitator: Understand there are many people concerned about GA. Not our task to …many people feel that this needs to be deeply . You are welcome to address this with them .
    • Agree that these issues are important.
    • 6:00-8:30 Monday Gathering
  • Banner --. nothing new
  • OWS road trip – request for contact information → looking for contacts with whom to
    • Michelle and Angela offered to serve as contacts
  • Statement of Purpose and Vision Statements
    • Statement of Purpose – in progress, Andrea is contact person,
    • Vision Statement – finished and posted
  • FAWG stipend freeze
    • Proposal to put hold on monies until March 6. Frozen at the
    • Folks taking direct action with cap of $2000.
    • Goes into effect at 12:01 on Monday.
    • Why is only one area of work allowed to spend money – direct action? Passed at GA.
    • Money for community gathering? Will still be available
  • Request for our presence at GA’s
    • More presence of AOWG at GA’s made by member of Facilitation to be eyes and ears,
    • Maybe this group can bring an offering and open a GA with a reading
    • Maybe we can read our Ways of Being in our meetings
    • Nothing built into GA’s to deal with issues of oppression unless the facilitator already has the skills to deal with them. Hence, a lot of things are said and done and not always dealt with effectively. This area needs to evolve a step further it would be a wonderful to have the help of Anti-Oppression working group.
    • Some members of us are present at GA’s – Susan for example. We need to hold that some of us are present and that more of us could be there. It’s a both/and. It would be great …many of us are there not in front or in public ways, but there building relationships.
    • Proposal of another civility pledge, did look to this group about ways to speak to one another. Can lead by example. Don’t have to fight your way to the front. Leadership emerges by doing good works and having that recognized.
    • GA’s are a large group and we are a small group. Facilitators there need more skills. We need to understand what they are dealing with. It would be good for some of their facilitators to come here and learn with us.
    • It’s about bigger existential questions about OB and where to spend my time
    • Asking people to do anti-oppression organizing to go into a space that is oppressive, that we want to appreciate people’s self-knowledge to know when it’s not safe space to do this. And for those that go into those spaces, we need to find spaces to support them, the need for healing when there is real trauma.
  • Level 3 sex offender proposal fallout
    • There is a group that affects the way the level 3 sex offender proposal is addressed
    • It sounds like what is being said is that because there is a group, that it will be handled. That feels unfair – not right.
    • No - I didn’t want to open it up for a big conversation about the topic, so that’s why said that. But I didn’t mean that it’s all taken care of because the group exists.
    • Many of the level 3 offenders are oppressed themselves. They have needs for sex, as they do for other things…..There are issues of mental illness [full statement not captured]
    • We need to set a space to have this conversation – not here.
    • An ouch for me - Some of what you’re saying is an ouch
    • Some of what is being discussed is so complex and we haven’t set aside a space/time to discuss.
    • The community safety is approaching this conversation from a place of accountability and restorative justice and it is nuanced and complex. Not taking proposals, in process of discovery and learning. Not centered on a particular situation or person.
    • What is the frame for our discussion? Updates – where is the work, where are we at with a process for each of these. This wasn’t clear.
    • Feeling discomfort about this – when thinking about our ways of being. We’re trying not to replicate what we’ve learned by dominant culture about responding with what can be experienced as aggressive. My hope is that in this space to try to think about how we speak to one another – I mess up miserably and try hard and have been held by the group and accountable.
    • A few of us in the room - in not being honest with the issues on the table. Until we deal with the issues we won’t have progress.
    • When I first entered Facilitation WG – I came in attack mode. And wanted to point out all that was wrong with it. And found that the Fac. Team are all concerned with the same things. They are very concerned ….everyone in the community is aware that there are deep concerns with the process. A lot of people come in and out of facilitation team and they bring new ideas and skills. Now there is an action assembly, there’s conversation about a spokes council. You should attend facilitation meetings. You’ll hear a lot of anxiety about the process…the community is at stake at every GA.
    • Some of the things that have been said is patronizing and patriarchy. Very easy to sit in an arm chair and criticize. Don’t sit back and throw stones, get involved and change it. Get to know the people and what they’re trying to do. It’s a process. It’s very easy to talk about how bad it is and talk down at them. People need to check themselves.
    • Appreciate Bhavin for sharing his thoughts.
    • Need 20 seconds. ….silence.
    • I believe that we are all in this circle because we care deeply about many things that bring us here together. There are some deep conversation about the issues going on right now, about the stories that we bring to the work, that is deep work. OB is challenging us to go down this road. And there is no structure or way of doing this. There is place to hold the nerve, the will, the passion that people bring to this. Tere are truths being spoken, and everyone has a truth worthy of being spoken. We cannot deal with all of the truths now at this meeting.
    • Carlos’s way of communicating, just being you. It’s cultural. Maybe the fact that we can be who we are in the space says that we are closer to being family than we realize. We have to remember that all of us are products of our cultures.

Visioning Workshop

What did you learn that would inform our anti-oppression work?

  • Appreciate Susan for all the work/outreach you’ve done to bring this opportunity to OB
  • Really challenging to apply techniques well in an organization to OB. Can you give an example? The whole thing.
  • I learned that I was really frustrated. I have tremendous respect, She was trying to uses a model that wasn’t applicable.. because we don’t have a shared community, rootedness in community (like Piedmont) – which is in fact what we’re struggling with. The visioning exercise went on so long with drawing time. Paying attention to what was going on with folks. Linda continued to speak to her own experiences when people were yearning. That the challenges were, what our creativity could yield.
  • Would she have been willing to alter it if she had heard this?
    • I tried to once to say something and it didn’t have much of an effect. To be fair hard to come in from out of town and shift gears mid-stream is hard.
  • I learned about commitment to things that are dysfunctional. When I step into a space, I commit to it and process it afterwards. It was helpful to do that. There were moments of beauty. The moments of one-on-ones were beautiful. I was frustrated by the visioning exercise – whether we were doing something together. If going to spend that much time creating a space, have to commit to holding it all the way. Think we lost the space that was being created at the end.
  • Not having been there – what did she do?
    • A lot of the time done to create the space to vision. A lot of exercises – step in with identities to see collective experience in the circle. Then went through guided imagery – from now into a time capsule 25 years ahead. Imaging the children now are adults then, what would be going on if our work were to come to fruition. Then draw the images that we had seen. At the end of the visualization exercise, the assignment was to listen and get a message from someone and bring it back.
  • Hearing common themes – an exercise that works for organizations and not occupy. The models for doing anti-oppression organizing – focused on structural and systemic oppression, not to ignore interpersonal – not having a community that knows and trusts each other can’t have structures for decision making. Feeling frustrated by desperate need of OB trying to create beloved community and do structural work….not possible to do structural work if not from a place of community. Making it harder to come back to OB.
  • To be able to deal with racism in institutional level your place of organizing has to start in a community that exists – famiiy, neighborhood, workplace, community, church..not one that has to be pre-disposed to want to deal with it – but place based. OB goes out into an ether and catch with whomever shows up. That’s enough to deal with it interpersonally but not structurally.
  • We have to understand a real issue, from here we’re going to talk to our colleagues.
  • Grounding – concept of being able to do work – internal community building work without common grounding. Place-based, can be varied - experienced based…but some grounding is necessary. At OB, feels like we’ve known each other for ever. A day feels like a week. How short this time has been – any of us. Important for me to hear. For me, who has not been involved in this type of organizing, have been so absorbed in it, it’s only 3 mos. Not having a common grounding in only 3 mos. and there is an expectation that we should have it. How to deal with the expectation and the disappointment that we don’t have it.
  • Have a lot of thoughts to respond to…..when we did exercise to step into the circle. Some of the things people …not having a space to hold the things that are raised.
  • More of a community interaction in OB – and can’t have a civil culture about civility proposal. All the spaces reinforce oppressive culture – church, sports, schools, entertainment, etc. Not going to pass …can’t blame the fruit for the tree. The most segregated hour of the week is Sunday morning. You can deal individually with a person and have to understand the culture from which they come.
  • Build community
  • Educate – we don’t all have the same analysis, richest place to start.
  • Model of visioning trained in – model that is steeped in naming what is current reality. It is completely critical to be honest about where I am right now. I need to know where I am in relationship with my vision. Creates structural tension to work with. As humans, do all sorts of things we do with that. OB is so fractured, and beautiful, and a lot of oppression here, and wanting to ….so critical for OB to realize what the current reality is. What does a stretched rubber band want to go with it? Lose the vision and no energy, or move towards the vision. Most people have the hope, but maybe not the skill……a lot of drug use and lack of safely at Dewey…maybe have skill set in the greater community but not at the moment it is needed. It’s the both/and thing…….
  • Where a lot of these divisions are in our movement….when you have a community. Can start by looking at where you are. Can come to a common understanding of what the problem is. Don’t have that at OB. Can also start with an understanding of what our vision is. There is also a big division about our vision. This might stem more from the way about the way we think about the vision than the vision itself. Visions tend to be visual – pictures….the way of doing this has been the problem– dismantling all prisons. A lot of people at OB don’t embrace that idea. Even in thinking of the future the way we want, the differences are still there. You have to focus on how it will feel not what it looks like. What is most important than the way we important people feel is the most important thing for me – there is nothing more important. If it’s important for people to reflect on what it will look like or what people will have done, but how it will feel, I suspect there will be a lot more common ground.
  • Sorry that you are facing foreclosure, I hope you are finding support for that given the connotations. Didn’t have my vision be understood - Not so much of the opening the prison doors – having our brothers and sisters join us with fishing rods, diplomas, but speaks to how we share our vision, and what we’re trying to get at. There is no shorthand because we don’t have a common analysis. Structural impediments to how they are perceived socially or what they embody for powers that be. The more we can come forward with our oppressed identities – whether we have suffered them, or hold them in solidarity with people who can hold them, the focus is on the person who is surviving and not on the perpetrator. Want to shift the dominant culture and culture of OB. While there is a lot of shifting, there is a lot
  • This is new to me, I’m from PR– oppression stuff. Mostly oppression is done by the government. Been here for 3 years and people are helping me see it. Am interested in how you deal with this……
  • Appreciating this and the people who continue to teach me…this is my reality and not making any sense and have it mirrored back….with yes but, yes and. Appreciate all of the responses. The work of this group – whether the community and education. There is a strategic question – what is our definition of community? Occupy – this broad thing? This space who come here and build that ground up. Educate - Building from concentric circles, starting with us or larger OB? If moving away from the visual and asking people to share their feelings – because it’s really personal, although we’ve crossed paths, this is personal. There is another risk – strategic risk – being effective …worry of over focus on the “I” – leads them to humanitarian path but not structural path. Rather than asking people – how will you feel? Ask how will we feel?
  • I met Susie at a book fair –and talked about white privilege. Though difficult for me – very rewarding for me, forced me to re-examine my beliefs…healthy debate is good, re-examine beliefs and willing to get heard. I’ve spoken with Kendra and learned a lot …have to be true to your own values. There needs to be healthy debate. Take this opportunity to thank Susie for the conversation – that’s how community is built, through exchange of ideas.
  • I heard you – and this is the place to come to have those
  • We can see it and we do need to feel it. What we want to create.

Community Gathering Feb. 13 and Film Series

What is our vision for our events? What can we hope for?

Put praxis and theory together – bumping up against our limitations in terms of our own organizing experience because this is a different beast in the context of doing these events. We use our community organizing strategies when not a community or rootedness. Knowing that the people are shifting, hard to build on things. And that there is a level of community building that is going on is real. The time put into building relationships, learning, getting to know folks. It’s this and constant building relationships. It’s a both and thing.

Folks on Community Gathering team: Meck, Bhavin, Michelle, Andrea (Meck volunteered to serve as team coordinator of effort)

Folks who volunteered for Film Series: Clyde, Bhavin, Salma, Susan, Chris, Ester, Michelle, Andrea, Seble (Andrea volunteered to serve as team coordinator of effort)

Evaluation of Ways of Being

  • Step Up/Step Back – mixed; ask for folks who have not spoken to speak; (mixed with listening) don’t raise hand when someone is speaking
  • Both/And - did well holding different truths at same time. I thought that at the point of
  • Don’t Shame, Blame and Attack – differentiate between conflict and shame/blame/attack, what we moved what could have been shame/blame/attack to both/and. Everything I have experienced at OB, fairest way to do things as an organization is Robert’s Rules of Order. Understand, respect your approach and wonder about its portability.
  • Oops, Ouch, what’s Up – good
  • I statements – good
  • Active Listening – good
  • 30 second rule – good
  • Progressive stack – mixed
  • Diversity of Structuring Meetings – break out groups, one-on-ones, when we drop some aspect of agenda where there
  • No screens –
  • Appreciations - thank you to facilitators for holding the tough space, introductions were a beautiful model of speaking of everyone in a loving way

One more thing in response to concern about GA’s – there is a realization among many of us (facilitation and others) that we are not actually doing consensus and that is at the root of our problems.

Closing Poem

Choose To Bless The World
By Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, President of Starr King School for the Ministry

Your gifts, whatever you discover them to be‚
can be used to bless or curse the world.

The mind's power,
The strength of the hands,
The reaches of the heart,
The gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting

Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
Bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger,
Praise what is sacred,
Do the work of justice
Or offer love.

Any of these can draw down the prison door,
Hoard bread,
Abandon the poor,
Obscure what is holy,
Comply with injustice
Or withhold love.

You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?

Choose to bless the world.

The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
To search for the sources of power and grace;
Native wisdom, healing, and liberation.

More, the choice will draw you into community,
The endeavor shared,
The heritage passed on,
The companionship of struggle,
The importance of keeping faith,
The life of ritual and praise,
The comfort of human friendship,
The company of earth
The chorus of life welcoming you.

None of us alone can save the world.
Together‚ that is another possibility waiting.