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Session Six Activities

Before We Were White

Below is the activities portion of your session six homework assignment for White Awake's 2021 Before We Were White online course.


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Activities for Session Six

The activities portion of your homework will emphasize not only this window of Resistance, but also exercises to bring closure to the work of this class. You may want to look over the entire assignment, but save the activities designed to bring closure to the work of the class for after the final session is over.

We also invite you to consider whether there are practices that you might want to continue or draw upon after your work with the course ends, and how they might be integrated into your life going forward. Finally, we ask you to consider the solidarity-based movement work you may be doing, or want to be doing, as you bring the energy of this course out into your life. Notice that at the end of this section is a new a third activity, focused specifically on the outward focused work of social change.

Feel free to work with the activities listed here in whatever order works best for you. Keep in mind that we never intended for everyone to engage in all of the activities we listed – but rather tried to give multiple possibilities, such that each of you could find something that would resonate and support your work in the course. Some time after the course is concluded, we will send you all a PDF document that compiles homework assignments and follow up resources (minus links to session recordings, which you can access via this participant page for a minimum of three months following the final session). This compilation could be helpful if you want to consider activities you didn’t engage in during the course that you might want to consider in the future.

Outdoor activity

In this final week of the course, we hope you will visit your outdoor spot and work with whatever activities have been most meaningful to you in this place: experiencing this place and its inhabitants through your senses; grounding, such that you release what feels too much to contain and receive back the pure, vital energy within it; deliberately reflecting on the aliveness of everything, and your position within an intra-species community; offering a gift and leaving a gift.

Resistance & Self Determination

Given this theme of Resistance & Self Determination, you might return to the activity in Session Three in which we encouraged you to consider the human ancestors of this place. How did they fight for their own survival and self determination? Are there any concrete steps you can take to further this struggle? How can you acknowledge their efforts, honor them, or even build upon them in your own life? What have they preserved that you, today, benefit from? How can you give back?

It can also be helpful to take time, in this outdoor spot, to recount stories of your own ancestry (whether general, cultural ancestry, or a specific family story) in which the people who came before you struggled against oppression (their own or others), and for self determination (their own or others). You might consider the different species, and natural elements, as a small community who can bear witness to these stories, and encourage you in building on their legacy in your own life.

Bringing closure to the work of the course (could save for after the final session)

Finally, an important piece of bringing closure to your work with this outdoor spot in the context of this class would be finding a way to meaningfully thank this place (and the inhabitants there) for supporting your work in the class. Whatever your relationship to this place is, going forward, we hope you will bring a special offering (whether an object, song, or bird seed! ;)) to commemorate the role this place has played in your work in this course, which is coming to a close.

You might also note whether there are any activities you have engaged in here that you might want to continue, as part of a regular practice going forward.

Ancestral altar

Window of Resistance & Self Determination – our white or European ancestors

Drawing upon the trance we did with Katrina Messenger during the fifth live session, we encourage you to start with the stories you’ve explored in the study portion of this assignment. For the purpose of this activity, we are encouraging you to connect not just with your specific family, but also with larger groups to which you have a connection (by region, ethnicity, or as part of the general category of folks who are or whose descendants would be categorized as white; in this regard, this activity is different than the meditation Katrina led us through, which specifically relates to your family members.)

Pick a few of the stories or facts you’ve learned about specific individuals, or groups of people, at different points in history. Pick the individuals or groups that you feel an affinity for at this time, for whatever reason that may be. One by one, use your imagination place yourself within a group, or an individual, and notice the motivation you perceive. What did they resist? How did they defend or assert self determination (for themselves or others)? What fueled this activity? What sustained them? What can you learn, or draw strength from, today?

Window of Resistance & Self Determination – “The Other America”

You may choose to expand upon this portion of your study by reflecting upon multiracial movements for social change which compose the “Other America” that David described in his recorded talk. (If you are not from the United States, you will want to considered parallel histories from where you live.)

Pick 2-3 leaders of groups who you look up to. Consider how William L. Patterson encouraged Anne Braden to join “The Other America,” or what Chris Crass expresses in this portion of a talk we’ve archived on the White Awake blog. 

What does it mean for a person of color to say “our leaders are your leaders, too?” Are there leaders of color you want to be in relationship with as teachers or role models in your life and in your work for social change? What shifts when you allow yourself to see these folks as your leaders, “too” – rather than (perhaps) as being a source of guilt or shame (in that you have a relationship to white ancestry that oppressed them and the groups they represent)? How can you be in a relationship with diverse leadership that respects the differences between their social position and your social position, while maintaining a healthy sense of solidarity and common purpose?

You might want to light a candle, burn a stick of incense, or place a gift of food (or other object) onto your altar specifically for these ancestors of resistance & self determination who represent a larger legacy larger than that of our white (or European) ancestors alone. You may ask for their help and direction as you integrate the work of this class into your personal life, and consider how you are best positioned to continue the work of resistance and self determination in these times.

Bringing closure to the work of the course (could save for after the final session)

In addition to work with the window of Resistance & Self Determination, you might simply want to reflect what you have put together, what your experiences with this altar have been, and whether or not you want to keep this altar in place after the conclusion of the course.

If you decide you want to dismantle the altar, we invite you to consider the date and time you will do so, and carefully prepare. What will you do with the objects? Do photographs go back into an album or memento box? Can natural elements be returned to an appropriate outdoor location, or placed into a compost? How might you “bless” them as you remove them and return them (or release them) to different places? Can you sing for them, burn incense or smudge them with an artemisia plant? Something else?

You might also find that you want to keep the ancestral altar in place, but that it would be refreshing or support closure for you to change something about it. We invite you to trust your intuition in this regard – some objects you may want to remove (in which case you might look to the guidance above about doing so ritually and with heart). Others you might want to dust off, otherwise purify, or rearrange.

As you consider the altar itself, we hope you will also reflect on the activities you’ve engaged in with this altar as well. Are there things that resonated with you, that you might want to continue, repeat, or otherwise deepen your relationship to? Are there activities you didn’t have time for, or didn’t feel ready for, that you might want to try out at some later date? If so, when? Or under what conditions?

Overall, we hope you will approach your altar space with thanksgiving, also making time to thank your protective guide and/or any ancestors who you’ve been able to commune with via this practice. You might want to prepare a small meal for your ancestors and leave it for them on the altar overnight. It might occur to you to offer some other type of gift, and/or engage in some type of activity that celebrates the relationships you’ve cultivated here. You might also ask yourself, how can these relationships be nurtured or maintained?

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