Open Space Session - "Creating a Grassroots Network"
2012 America Healing Meeting
Thursday, 26 April 2012
New Orleans, LA

The first gathering of working group members occurred at the 2012 America Healing Meeting in New Orleans, LA during an "open space session called - Creating a Grassroots Network. Note - during the 2012 AH meeting attendees were given the opportunity to propose topics for open space discussions. These open sessions were not a part of the official agenda.

Susan Glisson and Charles H. Tucker of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation convened the open space. In attendance were:

Al White
Charles H. Tucker
Gloria Stubbs
Jeanne Isler
Jennifer Henderson
Juana Guzman
Leroy Clemons
Lloyd Y. Asato
Martha Lee
Mee Moua
Michelle Di Benedetto
Mike Wenger
Reilly Morse
Robert Adams
Robin Toma
Ruben Solis
Susan M. Glisson
Tom Bailey

Notes from the Open Session.
Individual and agency names redacted.

*Redacted* are already mapping their networks and looking at how the *redacted* can close gaps between them. They will be happy to share that information.

There was a national racial equity working group working out of the *redacted*. How do we recreate such a network? Obviously there is a need. (Racial incidents etc have increased.) If we don’t act, the *redacted* will think they can do these things can get away with it. It’s not just racial justice in a tight focus, but in a broader context. The only danger is that national is a top-down approach. The concern to ensure the grassroots local level is engaged and considered and empowered.

Looking at strategic issues, in DC many racial equity workers are getting together regularly to build relationships. Need to think about how this network can help build those kinds of relationships? Tight relationships will keep what the right did dismantling from happening again.

Those of us who travel should go visit and sit in other circles. That would help. Start locally building relationships. Increase local circles and connect those circles.

We should map the area then structure it so that it is not a wheel and spoke model that will fall apart is one participant is removed.

This is not to duplicate services. it’s like a way to create a hospital system where all of our records are available. Is there a way to do this online? There is money out there for social justice. Is there a way to find a focal point where everything can be placed in a central location? Either virtual or physical? There is an org like *redacted* that will do tech for example.

This is lonely work. Gathering like these recharge me. I met a lot of people in Asheville, but I haven’t been the best at keeping up with the people I met there. How can we keep up with our allies?

As we begin a network, it is important to build a relationship. That makes something that lasts beyond the convening. How do we connect the local and National networks in conversation. What is the common structural issue that will help us address our issues. Getting me commit time out o my busy day has to he for a good reason.

Thinking about structure – we don’t need a huge body, but we need someone to maintain and manage it and we need to know where we go to hit it for info on all of us.

Once we are together, how are we going to change things on one issue that affects us. We must be realistic.

Relationship building is essential. Must create sense of trust. Finding out what we agree on is the priority. We have to ask people to the table, see what they want, their resources, before we bring them to the table and then create the network. When *redacted* created *redacted*, they spent the first period getting to know each other, telling each other’s stories.

Many communities want to jump into the work before creating the relationships. The *redacted* has a model that works for building relationships. In an organization like this, tackling *redacted* for example, using the talents in this room. He knows the people in this circle, he can call the people in this room if he needs info. Because he has that prior relationship, they will answer. That’s the key.

I rarely see entering relationship building with a plan for resolving conflict. We should establish that from the outset. That oversight has led to the dissolution of many groups.

Heard a lot of process statements, which indicates we’ve been in a lot of groups where that wasn’t taken care of. Good job. Question: What do we want? What role would a network fill? What do we want from racial healing? If we can answer the last one we can explain it to others. But if we can’t, we won’t be able to make it viable for anyone.

Have a circle a forum where an individual can feel his voice and story is heard and understood and respected.

A room where there is no fear. Just good will. No guardedness due to racial baggage.

*Redacted* said that she wanted be able to come as she is and be who she is in that space for a play date with no strings attached.

To have that circle and be in it when structure is built for the playdates with the mechanism for disagreement s spelled out, where we can give testimonials about what is happening and launch a counter offensive.

We know what needs to be done. She goes back to her community and has to deal with competing groups (for funds). But we have to rally supporters. The only reason the earlier coalition worked it was because the rules were hammered out in advance. To find a way to include racial equity and healing in the school curriculum for students as well as teachers and administrators.

It’s too easy to be alone. We need allies. I want a voice. I want power. I want to advance our cause, not just be at the table.

Have people who would come in help, provide assistance, and leave without taking away what they helped you create. Said *redacted* learned that they made no headway just working with *redacted*, they had to help their community. Technical assistance is advice without control. This will provide advice tools support without people trying to control them or taking their work.

Expand the definition of who’s doing the work in a way so that regular people not affiliated with groups can feel empowered to do something to improve their world.

Gets energized by these meetings. But it’s difficult to maintain these relationships. We have to apply to take time off work in many cases. Worried that we will meet up in a year and will have done nothing collectively since this meeting. Perhaps we should take a page from the Belafonte film and make an pledge to do something. Agrees the playdates are important and we should have them.

1. Relationship building - connect with frontline struggles and get their stories of pain and oppression out 2. do a collective analysis of what is out there. We assume something is out there, Find out what. 3. Trust and relationship building. This will give us an aerial view of the landscape.

Access to friends in this work. Technical assistance. But believes someone with resources should map all the practitioners in the nation, then pay for those in clumps to get together and get to know each other, then those individuals can reach out to the people in their areas.

Approach was used to battle hunger and poverty in the 60s. It works. We need language around linked destiny. We work against each other without realizing it. We need to find a way to work together to support our groups without injuring another, a racial lens.

Next steps

*redacted* suggested a follow-up meeting.
*redacted* suggested Skype or GotoMeeting software
*redacted* asked if there is a way to look at what has been done and see that is on our list
*redacted* is there a likelihood of creating a working group
*redacted* said if she comes back she wants a reason for it written down.
*redacted* asked if there is mini-group that we can use for discussion like an eblast or a list serve.
*redacted* said we will be getting together see who is in the circle, who else needs to be there.
*redacted* said that we need to focus on building the relationships and trust before building out. We should experience it to build a more solid coalition.

Working Group volunteers