Saturday, December 20, 2014


It has been entirely too long since I have blogged. Lately, there has been an overwhelming number of police related violence towards people of color. At our university, there has been many people coming together to fight against this. The group UC Students Against Injustice along with other students are working together as a catalyst of change. So far, there has been a die in, where people lay on the ground with signs and don't speak, and trips to local demonstrations. I am so proud to be a bearcat. Although there are many, many skeptics and naysayers, this is the beginning of a revolution.

Photo Cred: Long Nguyen

Cincinnati, along with other urban cities, has been ground zero for heinous acts of police brutality. We, as a city, are responding. Aside from public demonstration, the Peasley Center hosted a Teach-In. This was intense and had the feel of a RAPPORT meeting only amplified. This was my first Teach-In ever and I feel connected. It was like being plugged into a new system. Each person came from their own world with their own understanding of the system. World-view: POWERFUL. The fact that we all brought a piece of our world here for the same reason is enough to cause chills. 

So, the question is this: WHAT CAN WE DO TO FIX A BROKEN SYSTEM?

The first thing is to stay engaged. Social change is in our reach but we have to first engage in grass-root discussions to know what is being done and what can be done.

1) Service-Work with grass-root organizations to meet the basic needs of others and yourself.
2)Activism- Force others to see you and why your issues matter.
3)Community/Education- Involve the people who are effected the most. Educate everyone of the laws but also listen to what the people want and need. Make information available for everyone.
4) Advocacy- Bring together every person and every world view to create one voice to empower the powerless.
5)Public Policy-Realize that all policies come from people standing up for their beliefs.

We can do this. My challenge to you is this: Challenge the mythical norms and see beyond the surface. If you feel that an injustice is being done, speak out and if you don't see the problem; look again.

Well that's my rant for today. Stay connected


Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Training and Supporting Peer Facilitators

Chapter 12

Okay, Chapter twelve was pretty interesting. It talks about training and supporting peer leaders and facilitators. I didn't realize that so much usually goes into it. We've had minimal training here, and I think we've done a good job with it. The readings have been most of it. And then we're all supposed to blog two things we've learned from the readings. I generally blog most of what I've learned, with a summary. (I think that's because I'm generally a talkative person.) I can also consider my RAPP intensive as training, in a way. I don't remember everything from it, but I do remember some of it, and the mainstays. I remember the model we talked about, unconscious and conscious on one axis and individual, institutionalized, and societal/cultural on the other axis. I remember some of the rules, most importantly, no one's opinion has no value. Even the dominant narrative has value, because that is some people's lived experience.

I also wanted to talk about the feelings I feel about not being up to the challenge, as a white person. In the book, one of the things I really identified with was a student quote that said,

"The biggest challenges I faced in becoming a facilitator of social justice conversations as an undergraduate student were largely internal. I experienced a lack of confidence as a result of my own unrealistic interpretations of who I believed was qualified to facilitate. Due to the social privileges I experienced because of my identity, I felt I was unqualified for the role."

This was definitely something I thought about. I know I'm an extremely open minded person. I accept pretty much everyone as they are. But I wasn't sure I had the right perspective to facilitate social justice education with my dominant worldview. My antecedents aren't nearly as open minded. Both my grandparents on my dad's side and my dad himself were VERY prejudiced against black people. I don't understand their beliefs, and they didn't understand mine. I remember coming home from day camp at the age of four, confused as hell about why dark skin made a difference. (There was one little black girl in the group, and nobody wanted to partner her. I did, and enjoyed myself. She was funny. But we were both outcasts for that week. We had fun, but we were "outsiders" to the rest of the group.) My mom tried to explain that people fear what they don't understand, and she tried to explain to me why it makes a difference for some people. I've never understood it, and I don't now. After all, we're all human, so who cares what color a person is, or where they come from or what language they speak. Really, it's NOT that big of a deal. So why do people make such a big deal of it? (That's a theoretical question, because you probably understand it as much as I do.) I work with people from India and GB/England and Germany and the USA. All of those people are valuable to my team, and I know what value they have. Why on earth does it matter which part of the planet they were born in??? WHY? (Another rhetorical question.) But because I'm not marginalized in my racial identity, I was uncertain I had the skills to facilitate for social justice. (The weird thing is that several of my Big Eight are marginalized identities. Gender and Ability are the biggest ones, but I'm also marginalized in Socio-Economic Class. I think the rest of them are all dominant. And I have been discriminated against. Sometimes, even, here at UC. It was a memorable event for Brice and myself when, in a small group for our class, one of the men looked at me disparagingly and said, "So how did YOU get into IT?" (I don't think he liked it that I laughed at his prejudice, but I thought it was funny that he was so ignorant.) I did answer the question, and Brice and I were just amazed that he thought that was acceptable. Even with several occasions of being discriminated against, I still wonder if I'm "acceptable" as a facilitator for social justice education. So that really struck a chord with me.

It was interesting to see how much training some of the facilitators got. It seems that the book recommends substantial one on one training and support, and group support. We really don't get that here. I'm wondering if I really need to work on my skills in a group of facilitators. Maybe Brice, Ali, Tristen, and myself could get together with the peer leaders (Jacob, Shawnee, and Bridge) and do some facilitation practice with feedback coming on how we did facilitating and what we need to work on most in order to improve. It's a small group, but Tristen has plenty of experience, and Ali and I don't. Or, rather, I don't. He's been doing things with Brice during the week that I've not been able to do because of working. So I guess I'm the only one without a lot of experience. I want to do some work on this over the break, if I can, and see if that helps me become more... Confident, I guess. I need practice to really feel that I know what I'm doing, and two meetings really don’t do it. So we'll see how it all works out.

I think Brice has done a pretty good job with us though. It's hard for him since I'm co-oping cause I can't come in to the office when he's here, so we don't get much time together. It makes it hard for him to develop me and support me properly. I think things will go much better next semester when I'm in class and can be in the office more.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Engaging Whiteness in Higher Education

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 is about whiteness and how it plays into racism. The chapter says something that interests me:

We are all responsible for racism because it continues to exist.

This really speaks to me, as a white person. Until RAPP, I was pretty much oblivious to the institutionalized nature of racism. I didn't know, I didn't see. And then I heard my RAPP buddies talking about it, and realized it is still there, it's just more subtle than it used to be. When I was on campus the first time, from 1990-1992, I was very aware of racial tensions. It was hard not to be. Insults were exchanged, and sometimes blows, over racial insults and slurs. It was not a riot, but the racism was overt. But now... Now it's much more subtle, and you can ignore it if you choose to. It was a hard thing for me to admit I have privilege, but now, if I can use that privilege to do something good, I'll be happy to have it.

The chapter also talks a little bit about one of my favorite topics: Intersectionality. I love how everyone is different in the way that their identities intersect with each other. There could be two people with the same identities that are totally different because those identities intersect differently. And I think that's an awesome thing. It's an amazing feeling to be able to be yourself. I've learned that over the years, to be myself. Trying to be someone you're not is uncomfortable and difficult. You end up lying to others about what you think and feel, and presenting a false front to people. I tried to fit in for a lot of years, but now I'm out of the closet, so to speak. I say what I think and think what I say. If you don't like me, that's your loss. That's part of the reason I'm so proud to be partnered with Ali. As a trans man, he is being who he is, even when it's so difficult. I find that his courage inspires my own, in many ways. It makes me more willing than ever to be myself, even if I am a bit weird.

The last thing I want to talk about from the chapter is the way whiteness is homogenized. For some reason, many people, both white and of color, dismiss white people as all being the same, not being a diverse group in their own right. This is seen in people talking about a diverse group when it's white people mixed with people of color. It's like white people can't be diverse among themselves. I don't really think this is done consciously, but it can be a problem. We do need to realize that whites can be as diverse as people of color can be. We need to recognize, as facilitators, that all people are diverse. It seems to me (and this is just my opinion) that there are whites and then other. And other is a diverse group, while whites is not. We're all lumped together, despite having different antecedents and characteristics. I hadn't realized it till it was pointed out to me, but diverse can have many meanings.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Building a Framework for SJE

Chapter 2

Okay, chapter 2 was interesting and fun. I liked hearing the participant quotes the author used, as that made me feel like she knew what she was talking about. She has her own framework that she uses to help her facilitate her SJE sessions. She admits she's made mistakes before, and that her framework evolves as she does. It's separated into several portions. The outermost portion (imagine a rectangle) is based on facilitator awareness and growth. This is an area where we need to be constantly concerned. We grow each day with our observations and actions. We learn what works and what doesn't. We also learn from our participants what works and what doesn't. Something I learned from the recent meeting was that I need to be very careful about how I phrase things, and how I speak. So we're learning something every day and adding to our experiences. This is a good thing, as we become better social justice educators when we learn these lessons.

The inner rectangle is about creating an inclusive learning environment. We have to make the space safe enough that participants feel they can take a risk, and we have to make the space feel like a welcoming atmosphere for them to share things about themselves that are... Deeply personal and risky. People need to feel like their statements will be respected and that people who disagree will do so respectfully. Inside this rectangle, there is a three part session plan or semester plan. The three parts are: 1) A model of oppression, 2) Participant Self Reflection, and 3.) A call to ACTION. I'll devote a paragraph to each of these.

The first part is the model of oppression. This is the subject where things can tend to get over intellectualized. People think that this is necessary, almost. It should be an intellectual exercise in part. But there should also be stories to go with it. Stories are the examples you use to show that this model is correct and not just a fanciful construct. If they are participant stories, that's even better, because those can't be scripted ahead of time. They're real and compelling, and are more believable because of it. This is where students take a risk. They tell the story of what they heard or saw or did, or what was done to them. These are the stories that bring the model to life. You can also use stories from the news media, or from the campus grapevine to "Prove" your theory/model is alive and well.

Next is participant self-reflection. As a participant, I had a hard time with this as subtleties are not something I see well. I don't see connections between things that I think I should see. I felt somewhat ashamed of my privilege at different times as well. Self-reflection is HARD WORK. It's something that can be done both publicly and privately, and I did a fair amount for RAPP. I also do a fair amount for my job as a facilitator. About what went right, and what went wrong. So self-reflection never really stops, it just keeps going.

And finally, the call to action. We had this at the end of the RAPP curriculum. That was the point where we had a gallery walk and saw posters up all over the walls where we could join groups on campus to make a difference ourselves. We could actually go out and DO SOMETHING to help. That was my favorite gallery walk. There were so many opportunities to help, and I wanted to do about half of them. (Like I have the time.) It gives me hope to see how so many people are interested in making a difference. We had a large (well, fairly large) group for my RAPP year. At the very end of the year, there were 25 of us that had hung strong through all the meetings and retreats and such. And it was so wonderful to see everyone, it made my day!!! And now I'm even more involved, which makes me happy. I'm helping others learn about social justice, and I'm asking them to go out and educate their family and friends as to what oppression is really about. It's wonderful to do these activities and feel like I'm making a difference in the lives around me. It's wonderful, and emotional and terrifying, lol. (After all, what happens if I do something wrong?)

Speaking of doing things wrong, we didn't really do anything wrong on Monday night. We were hoping for a bigger turnout, but we only got five people. So we pretty much redid our session plan at the last minute, and only did some of our activities. Then we substituted a guided discussion for the two activities we had planned to do that needed a bigger group. Even with the last minute substitution, we did all right. We ended up having it in the RAPP Office, cause that was cozier, we didn't need all the space, and there were students out in the lounge playing around and having music. We could have done it there anyways, but we chose to move it in the office instead. Our participants were wonderful (thanks to all those who came) and really didn't mind sharing very personal things that they thought and felt. So I'm calling it a big success. (And I'm now much less nervous about the whole facilitation thing. I've got a couple under my belt, and they both went okay, so I'm starting to relax and not be so afraid.)

Hopefully, this finds you all hale and hearty and doing well. I'm happy with the way things are going. Have a good weekend everyone!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: The Evolution of Social Justice Education and Facilitation

Chapter 1

Okay, here is part 2 of chapter 1. It was interesting, and there's an interesting thing I want to note at the end of this blog about the book in general. But I'm gonna leave that for last. For now, I'm going to take a look at the framework the book writes about. It has three dimensions, or I'd draw it for you! If you look at it at angle so that you can see height, width, and depth, you can see that it's cut into two layers vertically, two layers deep, and three horizontal layers.

I'll talk about the height first. The top layer is broken into six blocks, if you will. All six blocks are the intersection of three sections. The whole top layer is conscious. So, for example the front left block is the intersection of conscious, behaviors, and individual. Each of the six blocks has a different combination of elements in them. The second layer, height-wise, is unconscious. And the bottom left front block is unconscious, behaviors, and individual. Depth wise, we have a front group of six and a back group of six. The front group is behaviors and the back group is attitudes. So for example, the back right bottom block is unconscious, attitudes, and societal. The last group of blocks is the horizontal grouping. There are three blocks across, and they are individual, institutional, and societal. There are a total of twelve possible combinations of these blocks, and each addresses a different type of oppression. We talked about this model in my RAPP group, and I found it fascinating. We even had an activity, led by Brice, where they drew the grid on the floor of conscious and unconscious on one axis, and individual, institutional, and societal. There was also a place to stand if you felt the news article or fact in question was not racist. Then Brice would read the story or fact, and we would all stand in the block or blocks we felt applied to it. (Sometimes, it was very hard to decide.) As we stood there, we listened to a few people give their reasons for where they were standing, and then moved on to the next story or fact. It was a great way for us to use the model, at least partly, and apply it to real life situations.

Of course, this is not the only model. It belongs to R Hardiman and R Griffin. There are many other models, and I'm sure the discussion regarding them is fierce. It has occurred to me that we could do a whole meeting based on the various frameworks out there, with maybe a vote at the end of what the participants think is the most elegant model, the most usable model, and the most applicable model to our situation here at UC. Hmmmm... Now the brain is churning, lol.

The framework that we use to found our social justice education efforts is the Intergoup Dialog Method. (No one told me this, but it seems to fit the best.) It involves content learning, structured interaction, and facilitative guidance. There are four stages: 1) Group Beginnings, 2) Exploring Differences and Commonalities of Experience Across and Within Social Identity Groups, 3) Exploring and Discussing Controversial Issues, and 4) Action Planning and Alliance Building for Creating Change. It seems to me that participants in these groups MUST consider themselves a unit in order to get work done. They must think of what they can achieve together, rather than singly.

The last thing I want to note is that this book often makes me nervous. This is my first position as a facilitator, and while I did well this Monday (it was like pulling teeth at first, but we eventually did all right), I'm still really nervous about the first meeting next week. And while I think some of it is natural nerves (not being all that comfortable speaking in front of people), I think a lot of it is due to trying to keep all the facilitation advice handy in my head. Be impartial, be multipartial, be encouraging, be fair, allow all ideas an equal chance, help participants learn... And then there are the don'ts. Don't agree with any one person or faction. Don't be partial. Don't allow your face to show your emotions. (I have a glass face. Most people can read me as easily as you're reading this.) So I worry about how it's going to go. And the book sometimes makes it worse as there are so many different things they talk about that can go wrong. It is, in a way, like mothers telling the expectant mother horror stories about labor and delivery. I read about how things can go wrong, and I pray I'll remember everything and do a good job. You can all wish me luck!!!

Anyways, that's all from me today, so I hope you all have a good weekend. I'm working tomorrow, and hoping to be very productive as I have a lot to do and a deadline coming up. I'll most likely be working late Tuesday night too, as that is the last day. Mostly, though, I enjoy my work, so it shouldn't be too bad. Y'all have a good one!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: The Evolution of Social Justice Education and Facilitation (Part 1)

Chapter 1

I put a piccy of myself with Ali and Tristen up this week, just so you have something to look at!!! I wanted to have something for you to look at for a change. (I hate having my piccy taken, and Brice loves to take photos. He's always pointing his phone at us. He took one of me and Byron that night too.) Also, this is going to be part 1 of 2. Brice may have sent out an email (I want to say I saw one), but he doesn't remember doing it, and I can't find it. So he chose Chapter 1 today (for the week of October 26 to November first), and I don't think it's fair to ask everyone to read a chapter on Saturday and another chapter for the week of November second. Since there's PLENTY of info in chapter 1, I'm gonna do a part one and a part two for my blog on it.

Anyways, on to Chapter 1. Chapter 1 was actually quite interesting, talking about the roots of the Social Justice Movement and how they intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. I've an interest in History, and have enjoyed several classes in the subject, so this part was enjoyable for me. The book talked about how it came about (even before Brown vs The Board of Education in '54) and how it has changed over the years. The book used a term that I personally am uncomfortable with: assimilation. It talks about how educators wanted to put these new students (new being people of color and women) into the groups that already existed on campuses. It also talks of a homogenous society, where people leave behind the customs and language of where they came from and take up new customs and languages to fit in. And in one sense, I think this is a good thing: In the language arena. I believe that all citizens of the USA should learn to speak English. This is my personal belief, and is in no way indicative of how my RAPP colleagues feel. However, I also think that with friends and relatives, these people should be free to speak whatever language they want, be it English or Spanish or an Indian or African dialect. That's my one nod to fitting in. When it comes to leaving behind the customs that brought you here, I'm adamantly against it. I think that where you came from defines a big part of who you are. So this is something I think we should all keep. Follow the traditions your parents and grandparents started. Do Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Diwali every year. Celebrate your holidays and eat your food and follow those traditions that have been given into your safekeeping. So many educators back in the day strived to assimilate people, and I think that's wrong. Plus, every time I hear the word assimilate it reminds me of Star Trek and the Borg, which is just creepy. So it makes me want to have people in my life that follow different traditions. At my co-op job, they had a big Diwali celebration last week. I went down for some of it, and it was awesome. They read a story, then performed a skit of the story, tuned of course to our business and using our software product. There was music and dancing and food and it was awesome. I thought it was so cool of them to have something like that... Earlier in the year, they had an all American picnic lunch with burgers and hot dogs on the grill and things like potato salad and macaroni salad. It was awesome. (I've been really impressed with my company. It's an awesome place to work.) None of my fellow co-ops went down though, and I thought that was sad.

One thing that life has taught me is to be open minded. You never know who will do what. Life is unpredictable, so live every moment of it. Always do your best, and provide an atmosphere for others where they can do THEIR best. Learn about the cultures of others. This country was built on the premise that whiteness WAS a culture (in one way). I say this because all of the traditions of the white immigrants sort of coalesced into one culture. German and Irish and Scotch and English and French and Spanish all mingled. And Americans created some of their OWN traditions as well. But people of color were not accepted in this culture: they didn't fit in, so they were scorned and worse. In being penalized for the color of their skin, or the accent with which they spoke, they were marginalized, kept away from the "mainstream" culture. So many traditions were lost in this culturalization of America. And slavery put paid to many traditions of African cultures. Tribes sold captured prisoners as slaves, and sometimes whole villages were taken as slaves. Their traditions are now gone, lost forever.

One thing I think we need to encourage immigrants of today to do is to keep the old traditions, as well as forging new traditions here. There is no reason Christmas and Hanukkah should not be able to coexist. Follow your religious traditions, and create new traditions with your families, traditions that they can pass down to their children. Because the little things are often what we're made of. The things our parents did for us, the things our grandparents did for us, those things, little though they may be, make up who we are. And that's my sermon on traditions. (Yes, I got WAY off the path of chapter one, but it was an interesting trip, I hope.)

Another thing Chapter 1 said was that the early movements did not really look at the social structures that perpetrated the inequity of education. Racism at that time was INSTITUTIONALIZED, but the movement did not yet question the structures that higher education was built on. Instead, they focused on adding to the curriculum classes that celebrated the differences of other cultures. In this way, they thought that white students would begin to see the value in marginalized students, and would then accept them into their lives and into their culture. This did not happen, and educators realized there must be something more done to achieve equity.

And I'm going to include a quote this week too, that I really think speaks to what the Social Justice Movement really wants to see happen. The words resonated with me so much, that I wanted to share them. They're from a textbook, Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice Sourcebook by Adams, Bell, and Griffin in 1997. Bell said the following :

Social Justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. We envision a society in which individuals are both self-determining (able to develop their full capacities) and interdependent (capable of interacting democratically with others). Social Justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward with others and the society as a whole.

Her words are deeply evocative of a society that I may never see here on earth, but hope my children, or perhaps their children, will see. It will take a lot of hard work, but I believe we can bring this ideal to fruition, one person at a time if necessary.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: When Neutrality Is Not Enough

Chapter 10

Hi there everybody. Welcome back. It's the weekend again, and I'm in the office this weekend. (I wasn't last week. I um... Injured myself. Yeah, that's it. My sister in law and I went to Land of Illusion last Friday, and I walked myself into a lot of pain on Saturday, so I didn't go in to the office last weekend.) I worked from home instead, but this weekend, I'm feeling fine, so I came into the office. It's a gorgeous day out there, so I wish I had my laptop so I could work outside for a while. Anyways, enough of that. On to Chapter 10 of The Art of Effective Facilitation.

It's a good chapter in some ways, and not in others. In some ways, it was a frustrating chapter in that there's nothing to really get ahold of for most of it. Effective multipartiality is both a science and an art. Honestly, I think it's something that you grow into more than learn. The book gave three examples of facilitations, an impartial, partial, and multipartial. Impartial is when you can't get the participants to take risks in being partial. The example used was that of five scenarios. Some participants expressed the idea that the scenarios were UC-Centric. The facilitator thought otherwise, and didn't dig deeper into why these participants thought so. This was impartiality at work. The second example, partiality, was of an exercise where the author indicates that the participants in the facilitation igonored the facilitator's instructions and did their own thing. No one remarked upon this, even though it was a team building experience. (The objective was to count to fifty with each person speaking at least once and no person speaking again before everyone had spoken. You had to do all this with your eyes CLOSED.) There was a group of three males that counted off to fifty, putting the goal (reaching the number fifty) ahead of the process (not speaking again until everyone had had a turn). No one else in the group pointed out this breach in the rules, and the other voices were silenced. The facilitator, feeling triggered, didn't know how to resolve this. (I'm not sure how I would have resolved it myself. Maybe asked for a show of hands of people who had said a number and then gently reminded the participants of the rules? I really don't know.) The facilitator considered this a failure and a debacle for a long time. (I'm not sure if I would be any different, in that respect.) Finally, there was an example of multipartiality. It was a group discussing the prison industrial complex, along with facts and figures regarding the marginalization and mistreatment of minorities. In this discussion, several dominant narratives were introduced. The art of it is knowing when to encourage and/or present the counternarrative. It is giving respect to all beliefs and bringing out the experiences of people who are marginalized so that we see all the sides of an issue and can really discuss the meat of it. The three facilitations were handled very differently, and had very different outcomes. The multipartial experience was the hardest to understand, hence the reason I said I think you grow into it. After doing multiple facilitations, I think you would have a better idea of how to judge the group and bring forth those marginalized viewpoints.

So the question is, "How do we, as social justice educators, come to the point of recognizing when is the right time?" When is the right time is a hard question to answer as every group is different. The dynamics of the group are unique to that group and that session. Even if you get the same group together a week later, or two weeks later, they're not in the same mood they were in last time, and that makes for differences. I think this is generally true of all groups, even small groups that get together day after day. Each person is in a differnt place each day, not so much in their mood, but in their learning and in their process. On Monday, I may be grumpy. (I got to sleep in over the weekend, and now I can't.) On Tuesday, I could be happy. Wednesday I could be troubled. Even if I'M grumpy Monday through Friday, my co-workers moods will change as the week goes on. So each group has a different dynamic. You can never count on having the same people say the same things. So a skill that is important if you want to be a multipartial facilitator is to read the crowd, and be able to determine what they need to progress along the path of their learning at any moment. You have to know the right time to introduce new ideas or encourage participants to speak up. And your participants have to be brave enough to speak out and share feelings that are sometimes deeply personal. (And deeply rooted, too. We have to remember that we are challenging, or having others challenge, ideas that have been around for our participants since they were in diapers sometimes. We begin to learn sterotypes in early childhood, and sometimes, participants don't want to admit that mom or dad may not have had the right of it. These are emotional times for participants, and we have to let them learn from each other as much or as little as they want.)

Since we encourage our participants to share deeply held personal beliefs and incredibly moving stories, we need to make sure everyone is respected for what they bring to the table. We all have a unique viewpoint, brought about by our life experiences to date. We all learn different lessons at different times. Sometimes, we learn those lessons the hard way. Sometimes we learn by example what to do or not do. But we all learn at our own rate and in our own time. As the saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". (Of COURSE it's a male horse, lol.) The same is true of participants. Some of us have to take a huge risk to change our opinions. It is a difficult thing to do: admit something we may have taken on faith for YEARS is wrong. It's a hard thing to recognize that we are privileged because of our gender or our skin color or our religion or whatever identity it is. It's hard to admit our world view is skewed. We cherish those lessons we learned in early childhood, and don't want to let them go. It's a risk to have that conversation. You don't want to learn that you have been privileged while you didn't even know it. You don't want to admit you've been blind, or that you don't see clearly. Sometimes, we fight harder for those things we have learned that make the least amount of sense, and we don't even know why we're fighting it.

Facilitation is an emotional process, and participants will be emotional about their learning in many cases. It's a painful process, to realize you've been a part of marginalizing others your whole life, without doing anything overtly oppressive. I know for a fact that I learned this lesson the hard way. I then felt guilty about it for weeks. I felt like I had done something wrong, when I was simply oblivious. These are extremely difficult realizations to come to, and very personal as well. Deep seated needs and beliefs are at play. There is a reason that these conversations are so difficult to have: they're intensely personal, and difficult for all involved. We have to trust others to see where we are in our own journey and respect us for what we bring to the table.

I see clearly how difficult multipartiality must be to achieve. It's another step in the process, but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to judge people adequately enough to reach it. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and be brutally honest with people. In other words, don't ask my opinion of something unless you really want it. You're likely to get an earful. Unfortunately, my face is as easy to read as my words. I worry about facilitation with that face. It gives me away every time, sigh... This is one of the challenges Ali and I face as cofacilitators. We have to get used to each other's style and viewpoints. Our identities are opposite in many ways, and that is a good thing, in my opinion. We can learn from each other, and from the participants that we facilitate, which is a very good thing. What we learn from our endeavors depends solely on our desire to learn and our participants and each other as the sources of knowledge. I hope to learn much this year, about both leading and about social justice. I also hope to help others learn in any way I can.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Evolution of a Social Justice Educator's Professional Identity

Chapter 3

Okay, this week we read chapter three. It wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be, which was a disappointment. I did find some nuggets that will help me in developing myself as a social justice educator. One of the first things the author said was that she struggles with her identity as a social justice educator. And that made me feel so much better, because I struggle with my identity as a social justice educator too. I just feel like I don't know enough. There's so much to learn, and I don't nearly feel like I know what to be doing yet. It's much easier to teach one person at a time, I think, than to take on a whole group. There are so many pitfalls that way... And what happens when one person pisses another person off? Do we let them be angry at each other, and say mean things, do we try to control the discussion, what happens when we as facilitators get pissed off? I feel like a newborn when it comes to facilitation, and it makes me nervous.

Another thing I realized is that when people get emotional in this type of setting (during a workshop or meeting), it can sometimes be a beneficial thing. But it can also create an adversarial relationship between two people or two groups. This is especially difficult when someone gets angry. In most groups, this anger finds a target in someone of another group identity. For example, the black man may be angry with the white man who has just struggled to admit he has been oppressive before. Or the black woman may be angry with the black man who has just discovered that he thinks women are the weaker sex. (It's amazing the things you can realize during a training, workshop, or meeting. It was hard for me to realize that by not figting oppression where I found it, I was contributing to the status quo.) So in some ways, emotions (even anger) can be a good thing. In other ways, not so much. And the difference is in the people involved in the workshop. A statement in one workshop could be completely unchallenged, where with another group of participants, it could be like setting gasoline on fire.

One other thing I think is important. The author brought up a very interesting point. Every culture seems to think their standards for non verbal communication are universal. But they aren't. In the US, we make eye contact a lot with our bosses and coworkers. In Asian countries, this would be considered an insult. So when an American boss meets her Asian counterpart, she thinks he is untrustworthy because Asians do not make direct eye contact. And the Asian feels insulted that the American keeps trying to make eye contact. Neither is true, but the PERCEPTION is really all that matters. The Asian goes back to his colleagues and tells how rude the American was, while the American goes back to her colleagues and says the Asian was untrustworthy. In our communications across differences, it is best to talk about these types of things. If someone of another culture is speaking and says something verbally offensive or whose actions are offensive, it's best to ask if they know that what they said/asked/acted is offensive to you. It's hard to ask that type of question though. Or, if the person is drawing away and not wanting to talk to you any longer, maybe you can ask if you've offended them somehow. If we reach out instead of pulling back, we can learn about our neighbors in ways that empowers them - and us - to be better global citizens.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Reflections on an article: Reflections On Our Practice As Social Justice

Reflections On Our Practice As Social Justice: Educators: How Far We Have Come, How Far We Need To Go

This was a very interesting article. It followed the author's social justice education efforts down through the years (I see some parallels, but I have the benefit of MUCH more information) to the present, and then she looks at the things that may need to happen at other times to move forward. It was interesting to look at the evolution of social justice education from a single practitioner's standpoint, as it gave me some insights into ideas that I hold that need to change (the aforementioned inability to see my whiteness and privilege being one of them, of course). I liked seeing that the author made mistakes and did things wrong. It helps me to know that because I'm sure I'll make a few mistakes and I may do things wrong. Knowing up front that it probably WILL happen, and more than once, helps me to turn a mistake into a learning experience for both myself and my co-facilitator, as well as our participants for that day. I'm not, by any means, an expert on social justice education. And I have no problem with others learning from my mistakes. (After all, that's what they're for. To TEACH you something.)

I know that Kathy is one of Rebecca's heroes, and I was very interested in what she had to say. I actually learned a lot. But the key idea that I seized on from the article was the intersectionality of our identities and how this intersection drives us. I did quite a lot of thinking about this over the last couple of nights, and I'd like to share some of my ruminations with you. The first is that two people may share almost all of their identities. But that doesn't mean their identities affect them in the same way. It also doesn't mean that their identities INTERSECT in the same way. We all deal with this intersection differently. My mom and I are very alike in our identities, but VERY different in how we treat the world. We're both middle class white women who identify as cisgender, heterosexual, and Roman Catholic. We both spend a lot of time working. We enjoy a lot of the same leisure activities, and family is very important to both of us. But the way these identities intersect is totally different. She allows her judgments of people to color how she treats them, whereas I do not. I've often said I don't see color, creed, race, gender, etc... By this I mean I'm not making judgments on people because of these things. I accept people as they are, and am always looking for the good in them. (I can find good in most people, of some sort.) She looks for the bad. I accept that different people bring different things to the table. She thinks customs from other countries are weird or odd. So the fact that our identities are similar has NO EFFECT on how we interpret those identities and how we act them out.

And the intersectionality is sooooooooo fluid. In some situations, two of my identities interact in one way, but in another situation they may act in an opposite way. To me, this means that this intersectionality is dynamic and can change from situation to situation. When I started reading this article, it was in my head that my identities react to each other in a static way. (By static I mean unchanging.) But then I started reflecting and realized how easy it is to change the way this intersectionality works. One or two words different in what someone says to me, and I may have a completely different reaction to the sentence. My boss emphasized ambiguity once. He said look for ambiguity in tasks and refine them till there isn't any. He used a simple statement to prove his point: Tom didn't say Harry stole his wallet. But how many meanings can this statement have? I see eight. TOM didn't say Harry stole his wallet. (George did.) Tom DIDN'T say Harry stole his wallet. Tom didn't SAY Harry stole his wallet. (He implied it.) Tom didn't say HARRY stole his wallet. (He said George stole his wallet.) Tom didn't say Harry STOLE his wallet. (Tom lost it, and Harry found it.) Tom didn't say Harry stole HIS wallet. (He said Harry stole George's wallet.) Tom didn't say Harry stole his WALLET. (He said he stole his money clip.) So you can see how delicate words can be. We could react to the same sentence in very different ways. And a one or two word change can make a BIG difference. So we really need to look at how our identities are intersecting in the moment. Are they all involved, or are just a few involved? Are we acting in a triggered state? Do our identities intersect in certain ways around certain people or groups? Do we react to certain identities in certain ways? There are so many questions we can ask here, and if we ask them around different people, we're bound to get different answers to them.

It is my opinion that we all react to the things that happen in our lives based on which identities are intersecting at the time of the event. If our religious id is intersecting with our race id at the time of an event, we'll react differently to that event than we would if our gender id was interacting with our social class status id. And our reactions could be just a few words different, or they could be worlds apart. And I've come to the realization that my identities are what make me defensive or cautious or pedal to the metal. My identities drive me to respond in certain ways. When one is at the forefront, I respond in one way. If another is at the forefront, I respond in another way. I've come to realize my myriad identities need to be recognized as a big part of what drives me. My student identity drives me to get good grades. My employee identity drives me to do the best job I can at work. My white identity drives me to want to tell people what to do. My Roman Catholic identity drives my morals. These are just a few examples. But my identities are what drive me. If I'm in student mode at work, I have a hard time working. If I'm in work mode, I have a much easier time of it. And I've decided if I want to be a GOOD social justice educator, I need to be more conscious of exactly WHAT is driving me at any given moment: a tough task to be sure. I'm frequently oblivious to what is driving me, so becoming more aware is something I'll really have to work at. On the plus side, I do like to be challenged, so that'll make it a good thing for me to do. And so I'd like to challenge my readers (all four of them) to be more conscious of their identities and what is driving them when they interact with the world at large. I may try journaling, or maybe some brainstorming to see if I can get a better handle on this. Good luck to you in doing the same. (And feel free to leave a comment on this post for what you want to try and how you think it will work out for you.)

The Art of Effective Facilitation: From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 hit home in some ways for me, because I have been wrestling with the idea of safe spaces in social justice education. I don't see how to both have an honest conversation where everyone can participate and also have a safe space. This is not to say that I don't think there should be ground rules. I think there should. However, I just don't see any way to create a space that is both safe and challenging for participants. These conversations about isms are SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable in some ways. And safe spaces don't allow for substantial discomfort. So how do the authors of this week's chapter bring these two ideas to bear on each other?

They talk about creating instead Brave Spaces, where participants can challenge each other (respectuflly) and really have those conversations about power and privilege. One thing the author pointed out that I don't think everyone remembers is that the discussions we have as a part of this come from our own dominant and subordinated identities. Each of us has both, and so each of us needs to think a bit more on what we're doing.Why are we resistent to having a certain conversation? Are we too tired to formulate our thoughts? Are we not sure what our opinion is? Are we resistent because the new idea introduced threatens our world view? If we want to jump into a conversation we can ask ourselves about that too. Why are we so eager to be heard? Are we defending our power and privilege? Are we eager to share with others so they can learn from us, or do we want to prove our point and preserve the status quo? These are all questions we need to ask when we decide when to participate and when not to participate.

I think, and this is just my opinion, that we NEED to challenge ourselves and our world view. If we don't, we're not learning much. This is something that is hard for me to do. I have this problem where I don't actually notice my whiteness and privilege. I KNOW I have it when I think about it, but it rarely crosses my mind. (One of my goals this year is to make myself more aware of my privilege and use it to further my social justice aims.) I need to challenge this view that I have that hard work pays off because it doesn't always, dependant on your group (dominant or subordinated). I'm not sure where this part of my world view comes from. It could come from the same place my privilege comes from. It may also come from my idealist nature. (That's the way the world SHOULD work, so it must work that way.) I'm having a hard time placing it. I want to say it's my idealism at work, but it could easily be my privilege since I don't tend to notice it.

Those are some of my takeaways from this chapter, and I've expanded on them quite a bit this week. I had several hours of tossing and turning last night (I had a bad asthma day yesterday, and so, since struggling to breathe wears me out, I slept most of the day. Then I went to bed at my normal time last night and woke up at three am wide awake. So I used the time to read some of the chapter and reflect on it while I tried to go back to sleep.), so I got quite a lot done in the middle of the night. (It's about the only time I HAVE for reflection.) Anyways, I'll be blogging again in a few minutes about an article Brice found and wanted us to share our thoughts on, so I'm gonna post this, then get to work on the next thing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Chapter 4

As I become more and more aware of the cycle of socialization around gender and gender norms around the world, I know that there is so much more to learn and explore. I see how we all have been conditioned to see male of female in such a way that when faced with someone who identifies outside of the binary;we can barley keep it together. From over friendly smiles to awkwardly asked questions. You know the questions I mean; the ones that you know come from the most caring soul but is used to see where exactly you fit. 

This chapter really hit home to me because of the intersection of my own identities. I am a Trans-person of Color who is also an American born African, a college student, a facilitator, a book worm, a Bengals fan and a great listener. These are all facets of me and I am usually about to express all of those identities in what ever fashion that I choose. Well, that is, all but one. The chapter focuses on TJ. As I read on, TJ and I were living parallel lives. From childhood through finding his own identity and realizing that no matter what he defined himself to be, others would still place him somewhere on the spectrum.

This chapter enlightened me to the way that cisgendered people really cared and really wanted to make an difference; even when they were unsure of uncomfortable. I have lived outside of the spectrum for most of my 28 years and only recently was able to say that I am in fact a trans-person aloud. This also made me think of my many years of RAPP and my wonderful facilitators. They used many of the ideas given in the book. One thing that I thought was kinda silly when I began my social justice journey years ago was the introduction of pronouns. Who would have thought that giving each person the space to identify themselves their own way made a huge difference? Even though some of them where "cis", they took the time out to include, educate and ponder  how such innate privileges are associated with living within the gender binary. The best thing is non-gendered bathrooms!! Being gender non-conforming can make the easiest task hard. If there are only bathrooms that take into consideration the sex that you were assigned at birth, where does the trans-person go? 

In retrospect, this chapter forced me out of the victimized stance and see thatpeople do care. There are ways to change the way we socialize children and ways to be easy and allow gender to be fluid and defined by each person as they see if fit for themselves.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation

Chapter 4: Developing Gender Inclusive-Facilitation

This chapter aims at ensuring that a facilitation space makes everyone's identities feel addressed properly in discussion and education. This chapter specifically focuses on "transgender or gender variant" identities. Though these identities do play an important role with binary gender identities, there is an emphasis on making sure that non-binary gender issues are addressed.

The main concept that I learned from this chapter really just put a face on a familiar evil that I have been learning about for a while. Like the author, I too have been grouping transgender and gender variant issues under the umbrella of sexism or cissexism. This chapter used a new term that I don't think that I have ever encountered before which is genderism. Gendersism by definition is the belief or assumption that are only two and can only be two genders. I think that this is a vital distinction from sexism and cissexism because I believe that both of those terms continue to reinforce the belief that there are only two genders. Even for gender queer or non-gender conforming folks we tend to describe their characteristics based on the masculinity to femininity scale. This scale has been helpful for some and has been helpful for the education on people's gender expressions. But, I think in social justice education we neglect to acknowledge that this scale is limiting to the possibility of gender expression and gender identities. The exact thing that I am angered by, Lisa Landerman highlights as the "forced social labeling process." In order to continue making RAPP a more inclusive space I need to keep in mind and remind others to continue to be cognizant of how other's identify and to not necessarily use the skewed systems that have already been constructed to shape their perspectives.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Developing Gender Inclusive Facilitation

Chapter 4

Hi folks. I'm back again. As you can see, this week we read chapter 4, Developing Gender-Inclusive Facilitation. I picked this because it's an area where I'm shaky. When I grew up, you were male or female, and you lived with it. Period, end of statement. If someone had asked to be called ze and zim, they would have been laughed out of the building. So this is an area where my knowledge is shaky. I don't know the definitions to all the words used when having this conversation, and I know I need to learn more. It seemed like this chapter would be the perfect place to start.

It has been brought forcibly home to me over the last few years that people don't always feel like we think they "should." I hope you notice the quotes around the word should. How you feel is entirely for you to own. How I think you feel is something for me to find out. I can ask you questions about how you feel about something, or try to intuit it from your body language. But how you feel is not right nor wrong. It just is. How you ACT on those feelings can be right or wrong for you or for others, but the feelings themselves just are. If you and I feel differently, neither of us is right or wrong. We simply have a difference of opinion. We can talk about the situation, try to compromise our actions based on how we feel, but at the end of the day, those are our feelings and our opinions. And we're ENTITLED to them.

(That was the build up. This is the real what I learned from Chapter 4.) This leaves me in a strange place. I don't know enough about how a trans person feels, because I only know one trans person and that relationship is still fairly new. On the plus side, I do know a couple of things. The first thing is that it's hard to be a trans person in todays world. Some trans people have been traumatized by their treatment at the hands of society at large. People who are trans have been heckeled, pushed, shoved, punched, etc... There are even people who have been murdered for being Trans. So it's a really hard way to be. And how to tell the people that you love? And will they still love you? Will they still want to be your friend/family? What if they don't accept you? What will you do if they refuse to have further contact with you? These are all good questions to ask if you're a trans person. At the base of it, it comes down to doing the work (thinking, reflecting, imagining) and doing what's best for you. To all of those in the thinking stages, try to do the best thing for you. To all those in the initiating phases or coming out phases, good luck. And to all those who decide the best thing for them is to hide it, I wish you the best. It's a difficult decision to make, and I can't imagine having to make it. Some of the quotes in this chapter just made me want to cry. Especially, one student study participant said, "I knew that the office staff were looking at me. They all stopped what they were doing... They tried to be unobtrusive,but I could obviously tell that they had handled my records and they wanted to look at the freak..."1 I could just cry for that person. The transition and surgery are traumatic experiences, even if they take you where you want to go. And to have to go through that after all that work... It's just tough.

Another thing that I think is important is that there is NOTHING wrong with trans people. They are what they are. Male, female, undefined... Whatever they are, that's what they are. They can't help the way they feel. They weren't born wrong or crooked. They don't have a mental or physical illness (despite the DSM IV classifications of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Transvestic Fetishism (TF)2). They weren't born wrong, they don't feel wrong, and they're not the ones that have the problem. WE'RE the ones that have the problem if we can't accept them for who they are. I think this point, that there's nothing wrong with trans people, is very much in the minority. So as facilitators, how do we get the point out that we ALL need to be inclusive? We can, of course, lead by example. And that's just to start. We can also talk honestly about the issues that trans people face in today's world. We can talk honestly about what we know, AND what we don't know. We can ask questions to find out what makes each trans person feel included and safe. These are all things we can do to help ourselves understand and empower those we facilitate who are trans. I feel I'm blessed to know my trans acquaintence. From what I've seen so far, he's an amazing person, and so strong to claim his true feelings. I'm sure it will be a rough road for him, but I'd like to learn as much as I can so I can support him on his journey.

1: The Art of Effective Facilitation page 72.
2: The Art of Effective Facilitation page 70.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Developing and Sustaining Effective Cofacilitation Across Identities

Chapter 6

This chapter had a lot of very important information about establishing a good foundation for cofacilitation. I found this chapter very helpful especially because this is Brice's and my first year working together so it is imperative that we lay a good foundation for the rest of the year. One thing the chapter pointed out is that practicing these things will not only improve the quality of the relationship between Brice and I and how we work together, but also as a model for participants to build relationships within the group.

Two things that I learned the most from this chapter are being able to develop my own social identity to become more confident in group dialogue and being able to work with and around triggers. It is important to develop my own sense and definition of my identity that includes each and every integral part of my being. With that being said, that doesn't mean that I have to stay silent in situations because I am afraid or doing or saying the wrong thing if I am not a person of that identity. This isn't speaking from the perspective of someone else's identity, but speaking up about something because I am trying to educate people on a topic from the perspective of all my identities working together.

I also learned that knowing your cofacilitators' triggers are very important to being able to to be aware of their disposition. Last week, Brice and I actually had a conversation about some of the things that may trigger us. I was happy to find out that some of them were the same, but some of them were different. From this, I feel like I am able to assist him better during dialogue and he is able to assist me. I also know how to not to trigger Brice so that we can continue to build our relationship.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Co-Facilitators Turned Besties ... Just By Learning Who We Are And Being Comfortable Enough To Say So

Being in tune with your co-facilitator is a very intricate part of facilitation. As two people try to mediate a group successfully, you will find that it is better accomplished if the co facilitators have discussed their own experiences and expectations. 

It is important to point out that each facilitator will come to the arena with their own set of ideas ad values. Though yours and theirs may be different, they are both important. One thing that I didn't know was that it can take years and years become comfortable enough let your guard down; even with a co facilitator. I guess I felt this way because we will working together with social justice and that seems like a common ground, right? Well, yes! That is true! But what I said before still stands. We are from two different worlds so we see social justice differently.

Just something to think about. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Navigating Trigger Events

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 was pretty interesting too. It talked about triggering events, and we as facilitators react to them in different ways. Ali and I both have a partial list of triggers that this chapter advocated that we write. I think it will help us both to look at what triggers do to us and for us. It could be helpful to us to look at triggers and what we feel like when we are triggered, because if we know how to identify a triggered state, we can react more calmly and follow our own values better than if we react on the fly.

There was also a really interesting chart in chapter 9. It shows different types of self-talk (self talk is defined as what we say to ourselves) and more productive things we can say instead. So instead of saying something like, "I can't handle this," I could instead say, "If I make a mistake, I can use it as a learning moment," which makes a positive (a learning situation) out of a negative (not being able to handle something). One thing I've learned and learned well from RAPP and my training as a facilitator is that I need to be as positive as I can. Sometimes, things go wrong, and that's okay. We can use what went wrong to teach ourselves to do things better the next time. This can be helpful in all kinds of situations, not just in social justice education. Being positive is something we need to do as humanity. Creating a positive out of a negative can change a person's whole outlook on life. It is, I think, on of the best things we can learn to better ourselves.

Another thing I learned, and found really interesting, is that a triggering event has a series of steps it goes through. It starts with step one, when the stimulus occurs. Then it moves through steps two and three (2: stimulus triggers intrapersonal roots, 3: intrapersonal roots form a lens through which the facilitator makes meaning of what he/she is experiencing) to step four, where the facilitator sometimes realizes he/she has been triggered. This is where the facilitator reacts to the stimulus physically, hence the reason this is really the first chance he or she has to realize they've been triggered. In steps five and six, the facilitator reacts to the stimulus by first being influenced by what they made the stimulus out to be, and then they actually react by saying or doing something. Step seven, the last step, is that the facilitator's reaction may be a trigger for someone else. This is, I think, one of the best reasons to know our triggers ahead of time. If we know immediately that the word "____" triggers us, we can react in more productive ways that are equivalent to our social justice goals. Instead of reacting with anger or fear, we can react with compassion and love instead. In this way, all participants feel respected for what they bring to the table.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: What Ticks You Off?

Everyday, we are faced with so many things that can either make us extremely happy or send us spiraling out of control. Usually, it doesn't take much. What am I babbling about you may ask and I will tell you. Its TRIGGERS! Knowing what triggers you and the people you are around can make all the difference. 

As a future educator, understanding and working through my own triggers will not only help my students but this will also allow me the brain space to realize other peoples triggers while de-escalating an issue and also creating a dialogue that is healthy and conduces learning.

Did you know that there are ways to acknowledge and obliterate triggers? Well, there are and many of them you already know. The most common is is to put your own feelings on the back burner and listen to others. Then, gather up your empathetic feelings and get to the bottom of the issue.

I know this is better said than done but if we all try, each one of us can identify triggers and work through them.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Developing and Sustaining Effective Cofacilitation Across Identities

Chapter 6

Okay, chapter six was pretty interesting. It dealt with how to build the cofacilitation relationship, and how to nurture it. There was a lot of small stuff I didn't know, but there were a few big takeaways too. The first is that this relationship takes a LOT of work to build and nurture. There have to be repeated discussions across multiple identities as you find out which facilitators identify as what, and why. I hope to build and grow my relationship with Ali in the same way the two women who wrote the chapter build theirs.

My second takeaway was that you not only have to accept other people's different opinions, but you have to fully embrace them. You have to try to stand in their shoes and see things from their perspective. It's not enough to listen and understand, you have to try and put yourself in their shoes. This is sometimes hard for me, so it will be a challenge to try and put myself in other peoples' shoes and be there to feel what they feel.

I also took away that this relationship should be a collaboration. We need to work together and hone our facilitator skills together. If one of us needs to work on something, BOTH of us need to work on that something. We can do some little bits and pieces of work separately, but the bulk of it will be done together. It will help us, I think, to be a solid we instead of us being he and I. And we have so much diversity (white, black; woman, man; older, younger).

Ali's mini biography.

hey Yal!!!!! I'm Ali M. Davis. I am currently a third year at the University of Cincinnati majoring in Anthropology and African Studies. I am 28 years old and plan on graduating in the winter of 2015. Even though I love to learn, I am ready to become ALUMNI!!! LOL! This year, I am going to take advantage of all that college life has to offer.

So, I love quotes from movies and old books. I really love to read, sleep, eat and watch documentaries. Some interesting facts about me are that I am a Trans-man of color and I am the most proud of that identity as it has always been there but only newly nurtured into the world outside of my head. I love to travel. My most recent endeavor landed me in Tanzania where I completed a mini ethnography about the life of LGBTQA in an overly oppressive regime.

Currently, I am a RAPPORT Facilitator with Julie N. My RAPP experience starts in RAPP XXVI where I was fortunate enough to meet wonderful people and build friendships that only get stronger with time. My goal for this school year is to learn through teaching and to teach from what I have learned.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Introduction - Julie Nemitz

Hello everyone. I wanted to make a quick introduction. My name is Julie Nemitz, and I'm a third year IT student. I'll try to keep this short, but I tend to like to talk. I'm sorry in advance if I'm too wordy!!

I'm currently working for a living, and it feels really good. I'm co-oping at Siemens PLMS, here in Cincinnati. (It's actually located in Milford, which is a decent distance away.) PLMS stands for Product Lifecycle Management Software. The company has created a program to manage a product's lifecycle so you can put all your lists and everything in one spot. The product is called TeamCenter. (Some of you may have used it, especially if you're in engineering.) We (the other co-ops and I) are helping Siemens personalize the program for its own use. We're Java Programmers. For me, it's a lot of fun.

I also work here at UC, for RAPP. So far, it's been a lot of fun. Ali and I are the cofacilitators of RAPPORT (Racial Awareness Pilot Program Ongoing Racial Talks). I can hardly wait for the first planning meeting!! Hopefully, we'll all have some great ideas and be able to put together a wonderful year. We're working with Brice and Tristen too, so that'll be fun. I'm so ready for the first meeting!!! I miss all my RAPPmates. (I was in RAPP XXIX, and I miss the days when we had regular meetings.) I got into RAPP partly because of Brice, so I owe him a big debt. One of my goals this year is to make new friends. Another is to become more cognizant of my privilege, because I'm not always aware of it. Another is to help others be cognizant of their privilege (and the areas where they AREN'T privileged). I want to work closely with Brice and Ali to deliver on these goals. And I'm sure there'll be more.

In my free time (as if I have much), I enjoy gaming (one MMORPG called Dekaron which used to be Two Moons and a lot of console games(I have a PlayStation, GameCube, and X-Box 360) of which most are Survival Horror. I know, I don't look like the type. But the more monsters I get to kill, the happier I am). I also like to read (mostly fantasy and thrillers), watch football (I follow a third of the league, and trying to keep straight who traded whom is a lot some days), cross stitch (mostly large pieces), and talk or chat with friends.

I also like to interact with my family. I have my mom still living (my dad died in 2010), and I have a brother and sister in law I'm very close to. I dogsit his dog whenever he goes out of town. He has a boxer named Vin. (I'll get a piccy of him later on so you can see how cute he is. My mom and I have a running argument about it. She thinks he's ugly,lol.) And I have a cat, Yes Dear, who's pictured. She's the most loveable thing I've ever had!!! Unfortunately, she rules the roost with an iron paw. And man, I've learned since I started working that when she wants attention, she wants it NOW!!! I also have two good friends in Columbus I may talk about (Julie and Dawn) and one in England (Vicki).

Okay, I'll leave you with that for now, but I'll be back over the weeks as I learn new things and hopefully share those lessons with others.

Friday, September 5, 2014


My name: Shawnee Haslon

Contact info:

My Bio:

I am a Senior, majoring in Psychology. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, and I graduated from Hughes Center High school. My freshman year here is when I first learned about RAPP, so I made it my mission to eventually apply. I was a member of RAPP XXVIII, and I have been a part of the RAPP community since then. Joining RAPP was one of the best decisions I've ever made. RAPP enriched my college experience, and helped me become a better person. When I'm not studying for classes, I'm reading a book. I love to read, and write also (fiction), it's one of my passions. I don't watch much TV, but I love YouTube. If I could get paid to watch hair care videos, my life would be made. Healthy hair care is another one of my passions. I also love sports, especially basketball (the NBA to be exact), CELTICS, that's my team! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014


My name: Tristen Hall

Contact Info:

My bio:
I am a second year Psychology and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Major. I am proudly from Cleveland, Ohio, so yes, I am a fan of all Cleveland sports' teams. This is my second year being involved in RAPP after participating in RAPP XXIX last year. I am very fond of the RAPP program, and I think that it has helped to shape and give a purpose to my time here at UC. Around campus, I am also a part of the Turner Scholars program and the STARS program. In my spare time, I thoroughly enjoy shopping and binge watching shows and movies on Netflix. I also love to cook, almost as much as I love to eat!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Went Well: Reflections on Reflecting

Written for and originally posted at ACPA Commission for Social Justice Educators' blog.

In the many years I worked in social justice education through the University of Cincinnati Racial Awareness Program (RAPP), I’ve been grateful to work with committed and passionate student workers and AmeriCorps Public Ally apprentices. All of these have worked both in co-facilitating educational dialogue programming as well as the administrative work necessary to make these programs run.

Regular meetings, usually weekly, that include both task-oriented work and developmental conversations are part of our supervision routine.  Over the last four years, I’ve made a regular habit of structured reflection time where we look at specific tasks the person or we together completed and explore two key questions:

  1. What went well in the process?
  2. What is something worth remembering from the process, maybe something great we want to remember to do again or something new it inspires us to try?

Recording responses to the latter question generates a long list of “Lessons Learned” over the year that accumulate at the end of our agendas and are the basis for blog posts the students write. Initially, I asked people to write one post at the end of their tenure; for the last year and a half I’ve asked them to write the posts regularly to share the many things they learn/re-learn/are learning over time.

I started with the first question of “what went well” because nearly every person who’s worked with RAPP in a co-facilitator role has had one overdeveloped skill: Describing what they think they did “wrong.” Our ability to acknowledge things that went well and things they do well was sorely underdeveloped.

Until last year, I’d kept this practice reactive. We always reflected afterward. Outside of structured full staff trainings, I only brought in models & articles to discuss after I identified a deficit in knowledge/skills I wanted us to work on.

This past fall, a student worker Brice & I embarked on a journey together to be proactive around this work. We started with The Art of Effective Facilitation: Reflection from Social Justice Educators, edited by Lisa N. Landeman.

I’d previously bought copies of this book for all the student co-facilitators in our programs but had only engaged it in pre-service training. Throughout the fall, Brice would select a chapter from the book for us both to read, we’d read it between meetings, then discuss it at the meetings. Occasionally, Brice would create an activity for us to do together based on the reading.

Inspired by this as well as our disagreements around his skill as a facilitator (I think he does well all-around in the many roles we fill as facilitators; he did not), I pulled out “Effective Facilitation: Self-Evaluation Checklist” by Dr. Kathy Obear. Rather than rush through all the dozens of skills in one go, I thought it’d be useful for us to give them time.  So, three or four times a month, we’d discuss just five of the skills at a time.  We’d each rate ourselves on each skill and discuss ways we did them, times we hadn’t, ways that the different work we did used the skills in different ways, and how we saw each other demonstrating the skills.
March at ACPA Nat'l Convention, Brice & Rebecca (center)
 got to talk with Kathy Obear (left)

I’d previously used this same list, but as a whole in one meeting or spread over at most three meetings.  Breaking the piece up over time like this has given us a chance for deep reflection and created a regular opportunity for feedback and reflection. I’ve since used this spread-over-time technique with other student workers, while still using whole articles, chapters, and videos as before.  For example, a student worker and I are going through the Code of Ethics for Antiracist White Allies point by point in preparation for our work with RAPP’s summer intensive on racial justice.

Recently, Brice & I reflected as described in the beginning of this post on the process of taking several months to work through the self-evaluation checklist. In many ways, this post is our Lessons Learned blog post.

If you asked me before I started working with RAPP how important reflection was, I would have said not so much.  Now, after working with RAPP, I know it to be extremely important. Though I practice these reflections in the realm of social justice education, I can see their application being useful in any field of work. The exercises  and blog posts we worked on over the course of the year boosted my confidence, reinforced my skillset, and gave me a framework for my own student workers (someday).

I remember when we began reading “The Art of Effective Facilitation.” I was thinking it would be some magic tome that would finally prepare me to do what I had always dreamed of doing: being a facilitator. The book did teach me some new things, but what it really did was reinforce how much I already knew. I was already a facilitator!  The same can be said about our discussions around Kathy Obear’s checklist. I remember going through the list five skills at a time and being shocked at how many I had successfully demonstrated. We reached the end of the list and I thought, “That’s it?”

As Rebecca highlighted above, I excelled at pointing out my faults.  I am my biggest critic, but I don't often take the time to analyze my mistakes. These mistakes become opportunities for growth once given the time to reflect. Similarly, I rarely take the time to appreciate the good work I have done. Through facilitating our 9-month social justice program, I have seen breakthroughs in the RAPPers and in myself. Being able to highlight these breakthroughs in the RAPP blog boosts my morale and hopefully that of the reader as well.

All of this reflection has been invaluable to my growth as a student, facilitator, and aspiring professional.

Brice is one of 15 recipients of the RAPP Social Justice Peer Educator Certificate
this academic year, the curriculum of which is built around this idea:
I exemplify social justice education when I commit to continual self-reflection
& intentional development work as a social justice educator.

Brice Mickey has been involved with RAPP since 2010. He is currently a senior at the University of Cincinnati majoring in Information Technology. He has also served as the 9-month co-facilitator for RAPP XXVIII and XXIX.

Rebecca Lehman has been involved with RAPP since 2006. She is currently transitioning out of the role of Program Coordinator for the program and is excited to see where she goes next.