By Hannah Galgiani
On October 9th, over 25 members of the Denver community came together for a 2-day workshop hosted by Building Bridges meant to deepen communication skills, develop critical thinking around anti-oppression, and strengthen mindfulness practices in times of conflict or division. Participants from a variety of organizations and practices attended, including The Denver Foundation, The Delores Project, YESS Institute, and WorldDenver.
On their first day, participants were encouraged to challenge themselves to move beyond intellect and lean into experiential learning. They engaged in conversations and activities meant to explore communication styles, weaving in the unique role that culture and identity plays into our interactions with others. Participants experimented with the challenge of neutral listening: where one person sits across from someone and intentionally shows little emotion while their the other freely speaks for a few minutes. Later in the afternoon, in an exercise meant to explore the “four I’s of oppression” participants plotted themselves on imaginary lines throughout the room and identified attitudes or beliefs about different groups different from themselves.
On day two, incorporating group feedback, our facilitators pushed participants to go deeper in their thinking around power, privilege, and oppression. After a large group discussion on a recent incident of blackface at Colorado State University, participants were divided into race-based affinity groups, where they unpacked their reactions even further. It was quickly clear that an entire day could be devoted to each workshop, and conversations often “took off” right at the point of a workshop transition. These two days were an important reminder of the on-going process of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, and learning how to trust it – even when it feels uncomfortable.
For myself, as an observer looking in – I was deeply impressed by the work of our talented team and I look forward to engaging in this work – now as a participant! – at Uprooted on November 8th.