A More Perfect Union Launches on A National Day of Racial Healing
What do you get when you bring together local artists sharing songs, rap lyrics and poetry about truth, respect and unity, and small, intimate table conversations centered around peace, justice and racial healing? Answer: You get an outpouring of folks from all walks of life culminating in a safe, welcoming space where people authentically share their lived experiences, hopes and dreams for a more perfect union!
On the heels of celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, on Jan. 22, 2019, Be Strong Families launched its first Art + Activism Event: A More Perfect Union Café in recognition of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s A National Day of Racial Healing. Be Strong Families hosted two A More Perfect Union (AMPU) Parent Cafés – one at Sip 22 Coffee Lounge in the Little Village community and the other across town at Sol Cafe in Rogers Park. The café in Little Village, a community with a rich and vibrant Hispanic presence, was facilitated en español, while the café in Rogers Park, a sprawling racially and religiously diverse community, was facilitated in English. In typical Be Strong Families style, we set the atmosphere to welcome everyone, with this twist of asking people to contribute their artistic talents, as well as lend their voices to the protective factor questions we have at all of our Parent Cafés. Some of the questions on the table included:
How does the way you wear your hair make a statement about who you are or what you value? How has this changed over time? (Resilience)
How do you deal with feeling different in ways that are not socially acceptable? (Resilience)
How are we stronger together? (Relationships)
How have your relationships with people of other religions changed the way you think about other religions? (Relationships)
Share a time when you’ve been proud of the way you responded to disrespectful/ignorant comments from teachers or helping professionals that no one else noticed. (Support)
What would it look like if the primary goal of prisons was to prepare people to be healthy and contributing citizens? (Support)
Throughout the Café, we offered the participants a moment of social media pause (before giving them a chance to post or tweet their reflection of the AMPU Café experience using the hashtags #HowWeHeal, #AMPUtruthandhealing and #AMPUAbrazandoDiversidad). In between rounds of conversations, participants were invited to step to the mic and perform uplifting songs, lead the group in a sing-along, and share empowering spoken word around the theme of racial healing. The performances were off the chain! The performances provided great balance and an organic way of framing the table conversations. Some of the themes echoed through the artistic performances included fear of differences, speaking one’s truth, acceptance and conversations on Love. The energy felt throughout the Cafés was one of authenticity and festiveness-typically rare for topics on this subject matter… but it just goes to prove that ultimately, we all want the same thing; we all want to live in a just world where difference is not shunned but celebrated and we can use our collective positive energy, talents and voices as a means to get there.
One highlight from the event was our closing activity for the evening. Participants were asked to share “one word” to sum up their experience of their first Be Strong Families Art + Activism A More Perfect Union Café. The responses were overwhelmingly refreshing! Participants expressed great optimism about our ability as a nation to heal from racial injustice and other social justice issues touched upon in the café, one community, one family, one person at a time.
If you want to sponsor an Art & Activism Event: A More Perfect Union Café in your community, contact Dena Chapman at email@example.com.
Article by Dena Chapman, A More Perfect Union Project Lead & Field Support Coordinator