Richmond's Hidden History
The first stop on the Richmond, Virginia, Unity Walk is St. John's Church, which is located on a former Native American graveyard and later became the 1775 site of Patrick Henry's “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech. Today the church provides a setting where volunteers re-enact a slave rebellion and subsequent lynching.
The Unity Walk, a tour of Richmond's historic monuments and locations, brings participants into direct contact with parts of the city's history that have been buried by centuries of guilt and grief.
The walk, which had been an occasional ad hoc event organized by a local group called Hope in the Cities, has just recently been given the official blessing of the Richmond City Council. A city-appointed commission will name historical sites and make the Unity Walk an annual event.
One of the sites the city council intends to officially recognize is the Manchester Docks, one of the busiest American slave-trading ports between 1680 and 1780. Participants in the walk visit the docks and buildings that once housed jails where the Africans who were brought into the country were taken to await auction.
Before the research done by Unity Walk organizers, the history of the docks was folklore that only the community's Black members talked about.
“The Unity Walk gives people a sense of the horrible hypocrisy of people who so forcefully proclaimed their own liberty while denying other people theirs,” says Reverend Ben Campbell, who organized the first
Unity Walk in 1993.
The Unity Walk and the naming of sites like Manchester Docks is part of the process of reclaiming and coming to terms with Richmond's history, says Campbell, whose family has lived there since 1767.
“The story that school children learn about Virginia is that 14 or 15 nice English gentlemen got together and said that they believed in freedom and didn't want a king.
“That vision of Virginians and America bears little relationship to reality. This was a mean place; 900 of the first 1,000 White settlers died in the first three years,” says Campbell.
The Unity Walk is breaking through silence, shame, and misinformation over Richmond's history in both Black and White communities, according to Campbell.
“There's a lot of mutual discovery going on; now at least we can see where our racism comes from.”
Toy Gun Trade-In
In 1997, elementary school princi- pal Jim Nodeland was shot in front of his Dallas, Texas, students during a robbery. Several months later, he showed his students that even kids can do something about the violence that is so central in their lives.
Nodeland arranged for a
violent toy trade-in. About 200 children exchanged their violent toys –
including toy tanks, GI Joe dolls, toy guns, and army soldiers – for
certificates of appreciation and Dallas Peace Center coloring books and
Nodeland and the Dallas Peace Center's efforts are part of the growing number of violent toy trade-ins across the country.
Schools, community groups, and churches organize events as both a statement against violent play and an opportunity for some fun alternatives. The toys collected at the trade-in are made into a peace sculpture or placed around a peace pole. Nonviolent games are a centerpiece of the events. Best of all, the kids learn that their actions can have an effect on the atmosphere of violence that surrounds them.
For more information, contact the Lion and Lamb Project, 4300 Montgomery Ave. Suite 104 Bethesda, MD 20814; 301/654-3091; Web: www.lionlamb.org. Also check out the Dallas Peace Center home page, www.dallaspeacecenter.org
South African Scenarios: Is there a future for apartheid?
In the early '90s, South Africa was at a turning point. Nelson Mandela had been released from prison and key anti-apartheid groups had been legalized, but it was still unclear whether a peaceful transition to a multiracial democracy could be negotiated.
The scenario process,
described below, helped a group of key leaders work together to
understand some of the difficult political choices that would be
required to build a positive future for the country.
The “Mont Fleur” scenario exercise, undertaken in South Africa (1991-92) brought together a diverse group of 22 prominent South Africans – politicians, activists, academics, and business people, drawn from the Conservative Party and National Party on the right through to the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress on the left. Their purpose was to develop and disseminate a set of stories about what might happen in their country over the decade of 1992-2002.
The scenario team met in a series of three-day workshops at the Mont Fleur conference center outside Cape Town. After considering many possible stories, the participants agreed on four scenarios that they believed to be plausible and relevant to South Africa's future:
• “Ostrich,” in which a negotiated settlement to the crisis in South Africa is not achieved, and the country's government continues to be nonrepresentative
• “Lame Duck,” in which a settlement is achieved but the transition to a new dispensation is slow and indecisive
• “Icarus,” in which transition is rapid but the new government unwisely pursues unsustainable, populist economic policies, and
• “Flight of the Flamingos,” in which the government's policies are sustainable and the country takes a path of inclusive growth and democracy.
The group developed each of these stories into a brief logical narrative that formed the basis of a 14-page report, which was distributed as a 30-minute video and an insert in a national newspaper. The team then presented and discussed the scenarios with more than 50 groups, including political parties, companies, academics, trade unions, and civic organizations.
The approach was indirect and the results subtle: The participants did not agree upon a concrete solution to the country's problems. They reached a consensus on some aspects of how South Africa “worked,” on the complex nature of the crisis, and on some of the possible outcomes of the current conditions.
More specifically, they agreed that, given the prevailing circumstances, certain strongly advocated solutions could not work, including armed revolution, continued minority rule (Ostrich), tightly circumscribed majority rule (Lame Duck), and socialism (Icarus). As a result of this process of elimination, the broad outline of a feasible and desirable outcome emerged (Flamingos).
The simple message of Flight of the Flamingos was that the team believed in the potential for a positive outcome. In a country in the midst of turbulence and uncertainty, a credible and optimistic story makes a strong impact. The Mont Fleur team gave vivid, concise names to important phenomena that were not widely known, and previously could be neither discussed nor addressed.
The process was not a formal, mandated negotiation. Rather, it was an informal, open conversation. Building scenarios can be creative because the process is “only” about telling stories, not about making commitments. This allows people to discuss almost anything, even taboo subjects.
Negotiation tends to focus on finding ways to narrow or reconcile differences among participants. The Mont Fleur process, in contrast, only discussed the domain that all of the participants had in common: the future of South Africa. The team then summarized this shared understanding in the scenarios. The aim of such non-negotiating processes is, as Marvin Weisbord, an organizational consultant, has stated, to “find and enlarge the common ground.”
The scenario process is inclusive and holistic. A story about the future has to be able to encompass all aspects of the world: social, political, economic, cultural, ecological, etc. Moreover, the process of telling several stories encourages people to surface and listen to multiple perspectives. In discussing a fundamentally unpredictable future, there is no one truth; this accords respect for the points of view of all of the participants (in a conflict, one or more parties is usually not being heard) and it allows everyone to see more of the world.
One of the premises of scenario thinking is that the future is not predetermined, which means that the choices we make can influence what happens. In a situation where people feel swept along by overwhelming, inevitable currents, this is an empowering world view. During its transition, South Africa was haunted by apocalyptic visions; the scenario stories helped people rationally think through their options.
A scenario process can facilitate shifts in language, thinking, and action. Each of these reframings provides a more constructive basis for working on difficult issues.
Adam Kahane is a founding partner of the Centre for Generative Leadership. Adam served as the facilitator for the Mont Fleur scenario project and has since led similar processes in Canada, Cyprus, and Colombia. Centre for Generative Leadership L.L.C., 205 Willow Street, Hamilton, MA 01982 USA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nobody knew what the journey was going to be like or how it would end,” a University of Michigan student says about one of the school's classes. “Eight White students, five African- American students, and two Asian- American students showed up to class at the beginning of September to discuss racism.”
They are called intergroup dialogue classes, and those who sign up for them can find themselves discussing social identity and socialization, exploring stereotypes, examining institutional structures of privilege and oppression, and addressing specific issues of social justice.
“Students find dialogues are safe places to question and explore differences and similarities among and between various groups,” says co-director Teresa Graham Brett. Besides people of color/White dialogues, students can participate in dialogues between women and men; Blacks and Latinos; lesbians, gays, bisexuals and heterosexuals; Christians and Jews; and other groups.
The dialogue groups meet once a week for two hours throughout the term and are facilitated by students who have been trained by faculty and program staff. The last two weeks are spent learning about how to build alliances across racial boundaries.
As one student says, “I've made a commitment to the members of my dialogue group to continue my growth and development. I've agreed to educate other people I come in contact with about the importance of communicating our feelings concerning racial issues in the US. It's not only about skin color; it's about money, religion, sexual orientation, gender. ...We have a lot of work to do, but we have to start
MONITA T. DANDRIDGE
Monita Thompson Dandridge is the program associate for the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor's Program on Intergroup Relations, Conflict, and Community. Web: www.umich.edu/~igrc
Have you ever wished you could bring a Nobel laureate into your classroom? Log onto the PeaceJam Foundation Web site, and they'll show you how.
Initiated by Colorado teens in 1996, PeaceJam has held a series of conferences around the world, providing an interactive forum for teens to discuss peacebuilding with Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, the Dalai Lama, and others. Their goal is to create “a new generation of peace makers.”
The kids who attend the PeaceJam conferences aren't the only ones to benefit from the wisdom of these global leaders. After each conference, students from a wide range of ethnic and national backgrounds work with PeaceJam volunteers to create comprehensive lesson plans that bring the teachings of the Nobel laureates to classrooms around the world.
The lesson plans, which are available on the PeaceJam Web site, include speeches by the Nobel laureates, biographical and historical background information, interviews, and creative activities.
Contact PeaceJam Foundation, 2427 West Argyle Place, Denver, CO 80211; 303/455-2099; Email: email@example.com; Web: www.peacejam.org
That means, we rely on support from our readers.
Independent. Nonprofit. Subscriber-supported.