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Key Questions:

  • What do we mean by “transformative”?
  • What do we mean by “critical awareness”?
  • What is the relationship between critical awareness and empathic, compassionate connection?
  • How does the way we “frame” the world––the most basic and most often unconscious assumptions we hold––shape the strategies we chose and the way we work for social justice?
  • How can holding both critical awareness and a compassionate, non-judgmental world view help us move toward transformative social change?

In this session we explore how understanding the ways that social, political, and economic structures and systems impact particular communities––and so, individuals who are part of those communities––and shape how we experience ourselves and our relationship to the dominant culture. This understanding is essential for deep empathic understanding and connection with individuals who’s community, family, and personal experience have all been profoundly impacted by these systemic structures, both historically and in our present context. Without this critical understanding, our empathic imagination and capacity to connect fully is limited to the circumference of our own experience, and circumscribed by the privileges that have defined and delimited our own experiences.

In this session we will examine and apply this framing as we practice integrating two essential capacities: 1) our understanding that systems and structures exist that have and do serve to uplift some communities while harming others, and that this is an integral and meaningful part of our collective and individual experiences that marginalized communities and individuals long to be seen, understood, and to matter to those with more privilege and power; and 2) our understanding that to transform existing, harmful, systemic structures––and we who inhabit and participate in them––we must apply an alternative view of the world that is not based on a moralistic right/wrong framing, but instead on a compassionate frame based on the understanding that all behaviors are attempts to meet human needs, and that this understanding must be the basis from which we seek to find more life-serving strategies to transform our world.

Lead Facilitators: Edmundo Norte, Jihan McDonald