Seminar V: A Recap
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Posted by: Rachel Rana
Seminar V was focused on storytelling and story hearing and how those stories can make visible the invisible, complicate our understanding of issues and each other, broaden our sense of who and what leadership is, and more fully inform us of our shared history and experience. The weekend was full of the voices of those outside our circle schooling us on many different lived realities. Fellows spent the past 4 months creating documentaries to bring stories of North Carolinians, citizen experts, to illuminate adaptive challenges and opportunities. There were 11 documentaries in the form of video, audio, narrative and photos. All of that information will be explored further as we continue our work with the Fellows. The stories ranged in focus from issues like human trafficking, small business ownership by new immigrants, single motherhood, youth sports and racism, being gay in rural North Carolina, leadership in small town NC, community dialogue in Charlotte, and more.
We also had the opportunity to sit at the feet of a tremendous leader in North Carolina. Dot Redford is the courageous historian, activist and overall force of nature who made Somerset Place a reality. Over twenty years she transformed a state-owned historic plantation that showcased only the home of the white owners, to one that showcases the lives of the enslaved people who lived, worked and died there. By reconstructing buildings, and unearthing the day to day realities of the enslaved people she “eliminated the option of not seeing them.” A self-described “compulsive researcher,” Ms. Redford is a brilliant and enormously valuable voice of justice for our state. We recorded her talk with the Fellows and will make it available to you. The Fellows experienced the interpreted tour of Somerset following our time with Ms. Redford. This is an important experience of hearing the true history of North Carolina, and one that we have done with the Fellows with almost every class since the 03-05 class. If you have not been, we recommend the experience to you.
Throughout the first four seminars, Fellows explored systems of structural power through race, gender, sexual orientation and religious identity. In Seminar V, fellows explored their class identity and how classism operates structurally in our culture. Fellows explored how their individual class identity informs their leadership, and how they can recognize and interrupt systemic oppression with regard to class. As we worked to highlight rural leadership in North Carolina, three Friday Fellows from the region joined with two local leaders in Columbia, NC to talk about their experiences leading in Northeastern North Carolina. Mavis Hill (03), Randy Foreman (03), Brownie Futrell (95), Jana Rawls, and Chip Jones were incredibly helpful in uncovering the particular leadership challenges for their communities, and the disproportionate effects of statewide policies on the people in poverty-ridden rural communities. It was an incredible conversation. Our own rural leaders from the class joined in on the fishbowl conversation. They are Annette Clapsaddle (Cherokee), Mark Wells and Jen Nixon (Reidsville), and Peyton Holland (New Hill). It was powerful to hear their voices amplified among their overwhelmingly urban peers. They have particular wisdom that is often silenced. Through the conversation the Fellows talked about “place-ism.” Just as other identities are subordinated, rural people are pathologized and invisibilized in our culture. We will explore this further as we progress in the program.