An Arts Workshop in a
Poor Rural White Community

Last week I traveled to Washington State (USA) to lead an arts workshop in a poor rural white community—a community that voted overwhelmingly for the current president of the United States and in which many do not vote at all because they are incarcerated.

I learned about the harshness of homelessness, police brutality, and mass incarceration. I learned that Queer female and Trans raised-poor chaplains are doing organizing and relationship building that counters the recruitment of inmates to white supremacist organizations. I learned that belonging to a racist gang is a way to survive in prison and often the only system offering support when an inmate leaves. I learned how, despite racism, poor white folks are building relationships with former Black Panthers [members of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary organization most active in the 1960s in the United States that worked for protection of and justice for African Americans] and undocumented Latinx people and recognizing their shared economic oppression.

It became clear to me that to solve our planet’s problems we need poor people leading at the center.

We did something called a “story circle” (taken from Appalachian-based Roadside Theater) in which people sit in a circle, decide on a theme, and then each share a story from their lives. What they say is confidential. They listen to each other without comment or advice and speak without thinking ahead about what they might say. We did three circles of five people (basically support groups). The prompt was, “What is a truth that needs to be told in your community?”

After the circle people created art inspired by what they felt from listening and sharing stories. Two of the groups merged to create a theater piece, and the other group did a mixture of individual paintings, songs, and poetry.

I noticed a connection between the effects of state violence on this white community and the impact of war and the Partition of India and Pakistan on my family. [The Partition was the separation of India from Pakistan, in 1947 at the end of British colonization, which created massive displacement and violence.] I gained insight into how to be more tender with my mother.

Anu Yadav

Washington, D.C., USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of artists

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00