The Wells College Scholar-in-Residence program and the Office of the Provost and Dean of the College present "ReStorying Community: Exploring Privilege and Diversity Through Listening and Storytelling," A Week Long Residency with Almah LaVon Rice and Louis Mitchell. A number of events from October 26 through 30 provide a meaningful way to understand ourselves and others better so as to develop authentic relationships is by learning to listen deeply to the experiences of people who have different lives than our own.
Story sharing and deep listening allow us to go beyond abstractions, sociopolitical and otherwise. But it ought not be just about passive listening or talking superficially – deep, effective listening and story sharing should move us to action, interruption, and intervention, to challenge and complicate the "Big Stories" and "Master Narratives," tropes, and memes provided by mainstream media, political parties, and religious institutions. Story can be the gateway through which solidarity may be forged.
The method and focus of the week long residency makes use of feminist epistemological and psychological theory to put forward opportunities that are developmentally appropriate for Wells students and that support the art and skill of listening and story-telling. This residency proposal seeks to build on student's developmental affinity for listening to their peers as well as grow empathy for those who are different.
The goal of this residency is to support students in developing sustainable relationships with each other within the Wells community and beyond. To reach this goal the residency offers opportunities for deep listening and storytelling and sharing. These opportunities, which are detailed in the schedule, provide a foundation for examining privilege and how to dismantle systems of domination on the intra-communal level, micro level, and community level.
All events will be held in Faculty Parlors, Main Building, unless otherwise noted.
Monday. October 26: A Map is A Spatial Story: Subversive Cartography and Locating Ourselves in the Privilege Landscape
2:30 – 4:30pm: Using movement games, we will vividly illustrate how one person's position in the world inevitably impacts others. These games are fun, unpredictable, and interesting. These games can be adapted for the mobilities in the room. We will also use a counter-mapping exercise, which will be grounded in its history as a radical indigenous "mapping back" tool to contest colonialist claims. This counter-mapping/"subversive cartography" component of the day will make use of the stories that students bring to the session.
4:30 – 6:00pm Breaking bread and beginning the week Welcome Dinner. Pizza in Faculty Parlors
Tuesday. October 27: Listening to the Emergent
1:30 - 4:20pm This session will provide some listening "training" for students to engage with skills to inform the listening and story-holding they do toward building community. Mirroring, non-verbal communication, etc. Students will be given space to share what makes them feel witnessed and heard, specifically. Students will pair up and be provided direction on how to engage in four different registers of listening. At the end of this session, students should have some new insights, possibly including: 1) How they are not used to listening deeply; 2) how they are not used to being listened to deeply; and 3) how deep listening is an active practice. Perhaps finding some interesting answers to the question, what's the relationship between attention and accountability, witnessing and changing the world for the better?
Wednesday. October 28: The Danger of A Single Story*
11am – 12:00pm Stories are not always feel-good tales that lull us to sleep. Or, sometimes "the Big Stories" do lull some of us to sleep--and the results don't feel good to those with the least privilege. This session will explore what happens when the protagonist is Assumption, and its implications for ensuring equity and justice for all.
2:30 - 5:50pm Using examples from popular culture and incidents on campus, this session will dive into how artivism can be a way to "talk back" to hegemonic narratives and images. And how can we move from story-curating to effecting the changes we seek? What direct art actions are possible?
*From Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
5:30-7:30pm Students Restorying the Gallery space with discussion support from Louis and Almah. Discussion will begin in the String Gallery and then move to Faculty Parlors.
Thursday. October 29: ReStorying Power: Exploring Privilege and Diversity Through Storytelling
12:15 - 1:15pm Third Thursday with staff and faculty Attendees will be led in storytelling and listening exercises designed to help them examine their own biases and better support students and their identity-stories.
1:30 - 4:20pm A Map is A Spatial Story: Subversive Cartography and Locating Ourselves in the Privilege Landscape
Using movement games, we will vividly illustrate how one person's position in the world inevitably impacts others. These games are fun, unpredictable, and interesting. These games can be adapted for the mobilities in the room. We will also use a counter-mapping exercise, which will be grounded in its history as a radical indigenous "mapping back" tool to contest colonialist claims. This counter-mapping/"subversive cartography" component of the day will make use of the stories that students bring to the session.
5:30-7:30pm Salon: Open informal dialogue with Almah and Louis. BYOA: Bring Your Own Agenda!
Friday. October 30: No One Belongs Here More Than You: From Margin to Center*
12:00 – 1:00pm in the Chapel: Almah and Louis reflect on and weave together the stories they have heard and held at Wells this week.
1:30pm -3:30pm "Living as we did—on the edge—we developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked from both the outside in and the inside out. We focused our attention on the center as well as the margin. We understood both. This mode of seeing reminded us of the existence of a whole universe, a main body made up of both margin and center." --bells hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
This session will explore what it means to narrate the outsider self, the marginalized self. We'll write from the inside out and the outside in, using recent class readings as a touchstone and flash memoir as a strategy. What's available to us at the Edge? What's there that can be gotten nowhere else?
*bells hooks and Miranda July mashup
Almah LaVon Rice has garnered a National Ethnic Media Award and been published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (University of Georgia Press). Her writing on dreams and Afrofuturism appeared earlier this year in the anthology, Black Quantum Futurism, and she recently co-facilitated the "Dark Sciences" retreat on dreams. Almah is currently preparing a spellbook steeped in the black folk magic and fictions of her native Kentucky, and served as the programming co-chair for Fire & Ink IV: Witness, a writers' conference for LGBTQ and SGL writers of African descent.
Rev. Louis Mitchell comes from a long line of people who believe that community building and community service are important spiritual values. Using his own life experiences and varied work, volunteer, social justice and ministry experiences, Louis seeks to share a vision of intersectional thinking and a commitment to inclusion and mutuality. He serves as the Minister of Family and Congregational Life at South Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass., and is the Community Engagement Coordinator for TransFaith. He is also a member of the National Black Justice Coalition Leadership Advisory Council, and a founding member of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries.
For more information about these events, contact Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies Vic Muñoz.