"Students put together a forum for approximately 150 participants
at the Kennedy School. They raised the money, organized the panels,
and did all the publicity. The subject was Rethinking Race and
Power to Build Multiracial Coalitions. Although the formal panels
were conventionally organized, the students invited community
activists and spoken word poets, including high school students
from Freedom Academy, to re-enact the ideas in less academic language.
Audience members did not just sit passively to listen to speakers.
They joined small groups to perform role-plays that enacted the
themes of the conference: the strengths and weaknesses of coalitions.
"The audience was invited to participate by forming a huge
semi-circle. They were introduced to exercises involved images
of the word "power" in both its oppressive/controlling
dimension and then later in its collaborative/generative potential.
Groups of 4 - 6 people (mostly strangers and quite heterogeneous)
created physical images (with their own bodies) of power. One
group stood in a semi-circle of people linked hand to shoe. This
was a graphic demonstration of helping behavior but it was also
unstable as everyone was standing on one foot (a fit metaphor).
My group, including a high school student, a dean of students
at the Kennedy School, a former K School student, now an Asian
American community organizer, and a black K School Fellow, created
a merry go round in which we each joined one hand and rotated
slowly, leaving the other hand free to pick up new members. At
the suggestion of the high school student, he moved in the same
direction as the rest of the group but walked backwards to signal
the existence of dissent and diversity within our group. The exercises
crystallized the more abstract themes of the panels in ways that
truly resonated with the audience."