At Community, the Verb, we the organizers envision creating an event that provides a container both for growth and exploration and also grief and healing. This document attempts to offer both our methodology for providing Safe(r) Space at the event, and also suggestions for folx to support themselves in creating a Safe(r) event as individuals and as a community. The Community Agreements document holds our guidelines for how to relate with each other in the collective space. This document provides tools and resources to support us as individuals.
Too Long; Didn’t Read:
At Community, the Verb, we intend to co-create a safe(r) space for participants to learn how we have internalized and act out white supremacy in the U.S. West Coast Fusion dance scene. To do this, we acknowledge that our collective success requires that we take care of ourselves, bring resources that might provide self-soothing support, and ask for 100% of what we want and listen to 100% of what other folx want. We get consent from each other before engaging intimately or physically. Sobriety and curiosity will support open-mindedness and learning. The organizers/facilitators/staff promise not to sexually exploit you. If you need to be accommodated in order to feel included, please contact the organizers as soon as possible to let us know what you need. More support resources are available upon request. For more tools and suggestions, read the rest of this document.
We are all co-creating a safe(r) space together; let’s do what we can to make ourselves and each other as safe as possible.
Safe(r) Spaces Tools and Resources
In order to create a Safe(r) Space for learning about how we have internalized white supremacy, we plan to offer the following resources for participants:
- A quiet space for reflection and privacy where anyone can go to be silent and non-interactive.
- A space for conversational and embodied support.
- A reading list of resources for pre and post-event preparation and education.
- A list of practitioners who do 1:1 counseling, teaching, and group work that is sensitive to racial justice. Click here to email Nancy Shanteau if you would like to be included on this list.
- We will have rescue remedy and a kit of helpful essential oils and natural remedies available, as well as blankets and stuffed animals for self-soothing.
- We plan to offer small group support for folx of color and mixed race folx, perhaps with a buddy system. The facilitators and organizers are sensitive to the needs of folx of color and will do their best to provide support as available.
We invite participants to:
Invite and Give Consent
- Everyone has a right to control their own body and space. We hold that all transactions at Community the Verb involve getting each other’s consent before and during intimate and physical engagement with each other.
- When we invite intimate conversation, touch or other forms of engagement that might require the other person’s consent, we suggest an “ask” might be expressed like this: “Is this a private conversation? Are you open to me listening, participating?” “Is it alright if I touch your shoulder?” “Would you like a hug?” “May I join you for lunch?”
- A response might be expressed like this: “You are welcome to join us.” “Let me check with my friend and see if you are welcome. Do you mind stepping away and I will signal you when we have discussed it?” “I’m not sure if I’m okay with sharing a hug. Are you willing to wait for me to check in with myself?” “I feel ambivalent about a hug, so I’d like to say ‘no’ for now. Thanks for asking.”
- Take pauses, check in with your body. You might find it helpful to say, “Let me check in with myself before answering.” Then take a few breaths, possibly with your eyes closed, and ask yourself what you want. We encourage you to shift any ambivalence in your answers to “no” during this weekend, to reduce the chances that you override the tender parts of yourself that need support.
- We suggest that consent is an ongoing and continuous process. Even if you ask someone for something, you might in the next moment decide you don’t want to exchange energy in that way anymore. State where you are in the moment, as soon as you know what you want.
- Speaking up might not always be possible. If speaking up is not possible, indicate your answer with body language (palms pressed together at the chest is one sign of lack of availability for contact) or walk away.
- Don’t take “no” personally. We all have thousands of reasons for saying “no” and most of the time it has to do with us, where we are at, and our needs. When we offer folx the grace to accept their “no” without making up stories about what their actions mean about us or how they feel about us, we are creating spaciousness for future transactions to go well.
- If you want to end a transaction, you have the right to end it. If you need to walk away to end a transaction and take care of yourself, please feel free to walk away.
Support Yourselves and Others
- Ask for 100% of what you want. We intend to create a space where everyone has a voice and the power to influence the layout of the space, the content of the workshop, and how we organize the event. We have very carefully designed Community the Verb to serve the community guidelines and support the participants in learning to recognize how white supremacy works as a system that affects all of us, and we are humans who can’t think of everything. Your voice and your needs matter to us, and we want your feedback on what is happening, how it is happening, what you need, and how we can support your learning and growth.
- Support yourself when you encounter something that triggers your safety reflexes and impulses. Ask for support from others, and offer support to others. Pay attention to your overall depletion level and “spoons” (read about spoon theory here.) We encourage you to make sure you have what you need for comfort, including sufficient snacks, liquids, warm and cooler clothing, and friends and learning partners who are willing to offer listening, compassion and physical support.
- If you find yourself in a fight/flight triggered state, we encourage you to get support right away rather than waiting until the end of a learning session. Once our fight/flight/freeze/tend/befriend/toward/dissociate systems are engaged, our bodies are flooded with chemicals designed to help us respond to life or death crisis. Our neocortical problem solving thinking processes are deprioritized, as are even our primary organs including the heart and lungs.
- During this time, we are very vulnerable to escalating the triggered state, and very soothing, non-fixing support strategies can be helpful to wait out the fight/flight recovery process and return to a fully resourced and open body/mind that facilitates our ability to learn.
- Our mirror neurons often give us a lot of information about the state of others. Alert states in others can trigger our flight/flight response. We suggest participants use a physical or energetic centering practice. Witnessing others’ resilience and trusting that they are capable of self-care is often more supportive than getting triggered in solidarity.
- Click here for helpful audio recordings by Nancy Shanteau. She recommends the Centering and Ice Blue Egg practices in particular for centering and energetic clearing purposes.
- Historic trauma is an embodied phenomena. If you have a history of trauma and would like to share anything with the Safe(r) Spaces team about how you can be supported if your traumatic history is triggered during the event, please feel free to reach out to Nancy Shanteau (firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-273-5170).
Create Opportunities for Learning
- Notice the impulse to identify “right vs. wrong” instead of “right for me, right for you, wrong for me, wrong for you, depending on the context.” White supremacy and individualism as forces have been internalized in most of us as oppressive beliefs and shame. We end up feeling bad about ourselves unless we are “good.”
- Yet this emphasis on being good doesn’t lend itself to learning. We invite all of us to suspend the desire to be good, and instead focus on offering all of us compassion for how painful and traumatizing it is to be part of a system that perpetuates so much violence and “power over/against“ due to threat of violence against the most vulnerable group members.
- We believe that folx are most likely to change when they feel loved and connected. Because of this, we want to cultivate an environment of “calling each other in” rather than “calling each other out.” When we orient towards connection, love, mutual support learning and growth instead of rightness, perfection, righteousness, or superiority, we are more likely to create a culture that supports us all to become more powerful, embodied, connected, trusting and soft enough to change.
- White supremacy results in alienation by increasing our isolation (disconnection from contact), mystification (hiding, distorting and/or misrepresenting the truth), and oppression (keeping people from doing what they want to do, or making them do what they don’t want to do.) We commit ourselves to the liberation of all beings through contact and community, increasing our access to and understanding of the truth, and taking action against oppression.
- Community the Verb aims to be an inclusive and welcoming environment to all folx. We are all “opting in” to a challenging learning and growth opportunity. If you have particular needs for inclusion that involve allergies, sensitivities or ability accommodation, please let us know. We will do our best to meet the needs of participants with appropriate support.
- If you experience an aspect of your identity as vulnerable and wish to be supported, we would also love to hear from you in advance. We will do our best to offer support and resources.
- A mood of curiosity is an immense resource for learning and growing in challenging and distressing conversations and contexts. Notice what makes you curious and how you feel when you are curious.
- Notice the sensations in your body of curiosity, and take an inner map of the shape of curiosity in your body. Later, if you find yourself feeling lost, disorganized, defensive, confused or overwhelmed, you might find that your inner map of curiosity can help you notice yourself and how your body has shifted away from curiosity, and also your map might offer a possible route back to curiosity.
Normalize Conflict in a Learning Environment
- Conflict between folx in workshop environments is a natural outgrowth of our internalized oppression around learning. When we are afraid we are being criticized, we often react with defensiveness, based on our “good intentions.” We are often afraid of being misunderstood. CTV is an environment dedicated to the messy work of excavating the learned behaviors and beliefs of white supremacy, and this means we will transfer our attention away from our intentions, which we grant are most likely “good” and towards our impact, which happens in the perceptions and experiences of others.
- When someone gives us the gift of offering us feedback that we have hurt them or that we might hurt others with our behavior, this is an immense opportunity to develop the skills of listening, and before we speak to our own feelings and needs, offer validation to the other for their observations and experiences of us.
- From there, we may then turn inward to attend to our own emotions and sensations, to offer compassion and forgiveness to ourselves, and then decide what to do, whether to offer an apology or repair, to take time to reflect, research and learn more, to ask for more support or information, etc.
- Apologies are powerful transactions that may not be welcome. If you want to give an apology, please get consent first.
- We encourage all of us to be aware that the tears of folx of color are invited, supported and acknowledged. While at Community the Verb, folx of color will likely be absorbing more pain than the broader community. This is because we will be directly addressing the sources of external, systemic, historic oppression and the violence that comes with that oppression. Folx of color who come to CTV are choosing to do so with the heightened awareness that these are painful topics. We acknowledge that for folx of color, it’s a lot of work to be present while folx with historic, systemic privilege are coming to terms with that privilege.
- Often there will be additional microaggressions related to the ways in which privilege mystifies and denies the systemic nature of the oppression people of color are facing on a daily basis.
- Folx of color who want to connect with a facilitator prior to the event are invited to reach out to Aaron Johnson at email@example.com or via text/phone at 760-885-6740.
- When conflicts occur, we offer the Skills for Change Clearing Held Feelings and Stories model for addressing the situation. This model is likely to be unfamiliar to most participants, and due to the analysis of power in transactions, it’s very useful for helping us to offer ourselves and others compassion for the difficulties we experience in relating successfully with each other. (Learn more about this model here.)
Follow These Group Agreements and Community Standards
- Community the Verb is a recreational-substance-free environment. We invite all of us to choose sobriety as a way to optimize the learning we are doing together. Please continue to take your prescription drugs and other supplements you use to support your mental and physical health.
- Facilitators, organizers and staff will not sexually exploit participants. The power differential can reduce consent. If attraction occurs, everyone can wait until later to pursue it.
- Confidentiality is a frequently requested group norm for workshops like this, and also we recognize that a great deal of our learning process continues as we tell stories about our experiences. We suggest that in any situations where stories are being told to non-participants, we leave out names and identifying details that would let another person know who we were speaking about.
- If someone particularly wants a detail or a story they tell in the public space to be held confidential by all the participants, we encourage you to ask in the moment and get agreement before disclosing. Often in environments like this, it can feel much safer, and there might be folks in the room who have reporting requirements for their professional licensing. We suggest that participants refrain from disclosing any criminal or reportable activity.