City Love

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Workshop on Positionality at Swarthmore - A Cypher is a Peace Circle


Posted by Swarthmore Intercultural Center on Thursday, March 24, 2016

We had the fortune of sharing a workshop at Swarthmore last month with some amazing students.  We were asked to focus on positionality and intersectionality - basically thinking about power dynamics that result from the ways we all see the world and one another differently as a result of our own race, gender, social class, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, language, and the power structures of our society.  It's like we each get a pair of special hologram glasses according to our overlapping identities, and it shapes all of our interactions because of what we can and can't see about ourselves and others.  

We've all got our blindspots, and some of us are likely to have a frightening number of blind spots because of the privilege we live in and the way society favors certain identities.  How do we take care of ourselves and our community in the face of microagressions? How do we then empathize with and call someone IN when they say or do something hurtful from a place of ignorance?  This was the work we were fortunate enough to dive into with these inspiring and thoughtful students.

We drew on the power of a hip hop cypher as a peace circle during our workshop.  Peace circles are rooted in indigenous ways of knowing that developed naturally and independently in various forms throughout the world and are gaining great momentum as tools for modern restorative justice efforts.  A circle is an inherently healing form, because there is room for all, and everyone sits as equals.  In peace circles everyone has a chance to speak, which naturally develops equality, respect for all voices, and each person's capacity for self-expression.  

Caselli has been practicing QiGong meditation for 6 years, and has heard again and again about how when you meditate in a circle with others it forms a "cauldron" or dan tien in the middle of the circle where the trapped 'negative' emotions you release can dissolve and neutralize.  That's how it felt.  Whether first-time rappers, novices or seasoned veterans, everyone shared verses about micro aggressions and it all dissolved in the middle.  We all felt the love.  A cypher is a peace circle.