Events invite community curiosity about race

Katie Kowalski, arts@ptleader.com
Posted 4/18/17

Quanita Louise encourages people to spend a little more time in uncertainty when faced with deep and difficult issues.

“That's where the growth is, it's in the not knowing,” said the teacher, …

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Events invite community curiosity about race

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Quanita Louise encourages people to spend a little more time in uncertainty when faced with deep and difficult issues.

“That's where the growth is, it's in the not knowing,” said the teacher, healer and singer, who is visiting Port Townsend this weekend to co-lead an event that includes a community conversation on being curious about race.

The talk is part of a two-day “True Colors Weekend,” produced by the Songwriting Works Educational Foundation (SW) and facilitated by both Louise and SW founder Judith-Kate Friedman. True Colors gets underway Saturday, April 22 with an interactive song- and poetry-filled evening, followed by a collective inquiry into the issues of identity, race and privilege Sunday afternoon, April 23.

It’s an opportunity for people to gain more insights and courage to be themselves, said Friedman. “And to be open to learning, healing and transforming the parts of us that might not be so welcoming,” she added.

ON BEING CURIOUS

“Curiosity is the opposite of judgment,” said Louise, who has led conversations on race at many retreats and workshops.

Part of that conversation, Louise said, is first talking about how we’ve been having the wrong conversation about race.

“So often we are trying to convince each other of our point of view instead of trying to explore how we feel,” she said.

“I think that when we examine our love and compassion for self, that then we can give [love and compassion] to each other. We can't give something we don't have.”

That’s where curiosity comes in – she creates a space for people to ask questions, grow in a place of uncertainty and keep delving deeper.

Louise plans to incorporate a “privilege walk” into the community conversation, during which she asks questions that generally deal with something people didn’t have any choice in. (Example: “If your family had a newspaper delivered when you were a child, take one step forward.) Questions on Sunday would be tailored to a Port Townsend audience, she said.

She also asks people to consider what lies behind any shame or guilt they may have.

“So many of our conversations about race are really veiled – and fueled with blame, shame and guilt,” she said, noting that often people consider shame or guilt to be emotions. “But they’re really not,” she said. Rather,, shame and guilt are signs that people are hiding from the real emotions they mask.

Friedman notes that the conversation is to be facilitated in a way so that everybody can be in touch with what matters most to them.

“My hope is that we walk away asking deeper questions,” Louise said, even if that question is just that: “What's the deeper question?”

CONNECTING THROUGH SONG

The evening before the community conversation, Friedman and Louise lead a participatory concert.

The artists plan to share poetry and song with the audience, whose members are invited to engage in the spontaneous creation of music and chants, said Friedman.

“There will be opportunities to sing along, or just enjoy listening,” Friedman said.

Friedman views song as a powerful force for building community and allowing diverse voices to be heard – regardless of what side those voices may be on any given issue.

The concert is also a way for people to get to know each other and the leaders, before delving deep into conversation the following day, said Louise.

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