November 6 – K(no)w Voice, K(no)w Power

K(no)w Voice, K(no)w Power was a kinetic conversation on the power of persuasion, empathy, and compassion, which took place on Nov 6, 2018. Inside 16 Park Community Center, a green line split the room in two. The audience was prompted to align themselves on the line depending on their beliefs of a dichotomous prompt. The line served as a scale, there was a far left, right, and in between. The one rule was that you could not stand on the line. A quote from Robert F. Kennedy’s speech was read aloud followed by a prompt. Following the prompt, the audience would arrange themselves along the line and then discussion would begin. The audience was reminded that the room was a safe space, there is no right or wrong answer, and the prompts are meant to spark discussion.

 

Quote: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some very sad news for all of you. Could you lower those signs please?”

Prompt: In time of turmoil, is it better to speak up or be silent?

The first prompt of the night sparked interesting discussion. Most of the audience quickly put themselves on the far side of ‘speak up’ with the exception of two people that aligned themselves with ‘be silent.’

Audience Discussion: One man explained that his work as a first responder has taught him that to be silent means to take a step back, assess the situation, and then use your voice if he needs be. He said that speaking up in turmoil can often result in even more turmoil. His comment prompted the discussion of what it means to be silent. Many from the other side of the room thought that being silent could also mean doing nothing or complacency with injustice.

 

Quote: “For those of you who are black, considering the evidence—evidently is that there were white people who were responsible, you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.  We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization—black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another.”

Prompt: Is my fate linked with those who share my values or those who share my demographics?

Audience Discussion: This prompt created a lot of moving around following attendee’s initial move and after extensive discussion, many decided to shift their positions. At the beginning, the room was split. Many expressed the desire to have their fate determined by their values as opposed to demographics, but unfortunately the opposite is often true. One woman gave the example that because she is a woman from a minority, her pay is less than what it should be and less than what it would be if a white man was in her position. The audience’s consensus was that we all wish for our values to be the determinant for fate, but in reality it is our demographics that play the larger role.

 

Quote: “My favorite poem, my favorite poet, was Aeschylus.  He once wrote:  ‘…even in our sleep, pain which [we] cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’”

Prompt: Should faith inspire a just response or righteous anger?

Audience Discussion: This prompt created a lot interesting responses and left many deep in thought. Initially, the majority of the audience seemed to move toward the ‘just response’ side of the room. A number of people explained that it is hard for anger to produce productive outcomes. Many thought that it was righteous anger that led to the Crusades and bloodshed throughout history. On the other side, others thought that anger catalyzes action. Anger is what motivates people to get off their couch and act.

 

Quote: “For those of you who are black and are tempted to filled with, be filled with—hatred and distrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people…I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling.  I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.”

Prompt: Is protesting necessary to have your voice be heard or to promote agitation?

Audience Discussion: It took the audience a few minutes to come to a conclusion on this prompt. Collectively, we defined ‘agitation’ as an unrest or commotion. With this definition, many agreed that to provoke change, something had to happen to spark the movement or action. And the spark that catalyzes action can be agitation. Although many agreed that having your voice heard is important, many concluded that action is more important. If having your voice heard is not followed up with action, there is no progress.  

 

Quote: “Martin Luther King…dedicated his life…to love…and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort.  In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of nation we are…and what direction we want to move in…

Prompt: To connect as a country, do we need stronger values or stronger laws?

Audience Discussion: The majority of the audience moved towards the ‘stronger values’ side but after conversation, many moved closer towards ‘stronger laws’ side of the room. One woman argued that although values are important, they are not tangible like laws are. Strong values do not protect people and cannot provide safety to those who need it. Some attendees then explained that when they said they think stronger values are better to connect the country, they were talking about values that aligned with their own. Opposing strong values have divided the country and we see that in abundance today with bipartisan politics and gridlock in lawmaking.  

 

Quote: “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice for those who still suffer within our country whether they be white or whether they be black.

Prompt: Should empathy create activism or compassion?

Audience Discussion: For many, this was prompt did not require much thought. But after hearing the perspectives of a couple audience members, there was a little shifting in positions among the audience members. Most initially thought that empathy should create activism. Others thought that what comes from empathy is first compassion, then activism. Their belief was that activism is a product of compassion rather than empathy. In the end, the room agreed that in the end, empathy should create activism.

 

K(no)w Voice, K(no)w Power was an evening of deep and meaningful conversation between a diverse group of individuals. A highlight of the evening was when a woman provided a quote that was written anonymously on a blackboard in a room she was teaching in. The quote read, “Justice is what love your neighbor looks like in public.” For her, this meant taking the Commandment and making it an action. “Love your neighbor” means much more when you advocate for them and fight for their rights as well as your own. Another woman a couple feet away walked over and immediately hugged the woman. The moment was reflective of the dialogue that was created that evening.

 

K(no)w Voice, K(no)w Power was a part of the Spirit & Place Festival and was presented by Indiana Historical Society, Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, Desmond Tutu Center, and IUPUI Office of Intercultural Literacy, Capacity, & Engagement

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