Momentary Monuments: an introduction to Theatre of the Oppressed

Tuesday • October 24 • 7–9PM
at the Rotunda • 4014 Walnut St.
Free • donations accepted as well
Click here to reserve your spot

All monuments have a lifespan. People create them with a purpose and an agenda, and inevitably each will disappear. Many change during their existence, either due to exposure to the elements or through further human intervention. And these monuments also mark  changes in us as individuals, societies and nations.

Theatre of the Oppressed is built on games and techniques that make theatrical monuments (called "images") out of living actors. Unlike wood or stone or bronze, actors are immediately adjustable, meaning that we can make and change and dismantle our monuments in an instant. In this workshop, everyone will play both sculptor and sculpture as we make and remake the monuments we see—and would like to see—in this very moment.

This workshop is free and open to all. While it serves as an introduction to the theory and practice of Theatre of the Oppressed, people with more experience in T.O. will get a lot out of it. T.O. Philly will also be accepting donations to support our sliding-scale and scholarship fund. Contact "" for more info.

The photo above is of a monument to Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay. After the people ousted the dictator in 1989, artist Carlos Colombino proposed that the statue appear as if crushed between two giant concrete blocks. Here's a radio piece about it, produced by PRI's The World:

Free Tuesday Night Workshops in West Philly

October 10 + 24 • 7–9PM
The Rotunda • 4014 Walnut St.
Free for all • Donations welcome
Sign up for one or both here

T.O. Philly kicks off its fall 2017 program with a pair of free sessions open to anyone with or without experience working in Theatre of the Oppressed. Each workshop will incorporate T.O.'s embodied ice-breakers and theatrical games that are used by actors, activists, educators, organizers, and anyone else who works with groups. These games hone skills that we then combine to do the deeper work of Theatre of the Oppressed in rehearsing strategies for a new society.

In the October 10 session, Hariprasad Kowtha leads a workshop about contradictions and how they relate to community organizing. On October 24,  participants with work with Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews to make momentary monuments as a gateway for discussing what public monuments represent today, and what they could become tomorrow. 

Click here to sign up for one or both of these sessions. Each workshop is free. We will also be accepting donations for our sliding scale and scholarship fund that helps keep T.O. affordable for all. Hariprasad and Morgan will also be co-facilitating our 5-week Unpacking Race series starting in November.

Got questions? Email "" or call 267-282-1057 and someone will get back to you.

Unpacking Race • Fall 2017 Workshop Series

5 Tuesdays: Nov 7–Dec 5
Each session 6:30–9:00 PM
led by Hariprasad Kowtha and
Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
at the Rotunda • 4014 Walnut St.
Tuition: $45–$125 sliding scale

Limited space!
CLICK HERE to sign up.
Worktrade and childcare available upon request.

On Tuesday nights this fall we bring back our popular series on race and interrupting racism.  Over the course of five weeks we'll excavate this topic through exercises, discussions, and techniques from the Theatre of the Oppressed, and equip participants with things to read and do between sessions. Our aim is to unlearn systemic racism we’ve been taught throughout our lives, to heal from racial privilege and oppression, and to offer starting points for structural and personal change for ourselves, our communities, and our world. 

The Fall 2017 Unpacking Race Series is open to anyone who can attend all five sessions. Tuition is sliding scale: $45-$125, payable at the first session. Click here to sign up. You can also email "" or leave a message at 267-282-1057. Those interested in worktrade or childcare, please contact us by October 7.

Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed has run the Unpacking Race curriculum for Widener University, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, Circle of Hope, and at the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference, as well as several times as a public workshop in Philadelphia.

a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop
about moments and monuments

Saturday, September 23
11:00 am – 4:00 pm
(includes one-hour lunch break)
Part of Bodyworks
at Moore College of Art
20th Street and The Parkway
FREE—Click here to register

The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design present Bodyworks, a festival of performances, workshops and collaborative projects that examine the body as both material and tool in contemporary performance. Incorporating practices of dance, theatre, costume and sound, this exhibition brings together a diverse group of Philadelphia artists who use their bodies to engage viewers with their craft and create new spaces for social action, dialogue and representation.

As part of Bodyworks, T.O. Philly offers Occupy the Gallery, a public workshop that bridges the disciplines of visual and performance art through politics and improvisation. This workshop will shine a spotlight on the history and current dialogue around monuments, what they mean, why they're here, and how people interact with them locally, nationally, and globally. This workshop is free and open to all. Registration is not required, but we'd like a sense of how many people are coming. You can help with that by registering here.

Bodyworks is presented in conjunction with CraftNow, a citywide exhibition examining the fluid boundaries that exist between, among and surrounding varying practices in art, design and craft. Moore's Levy Gallery for the Arts in Philadelphia will transform into a multi-use performance space with a robust calendar of performances and community events—Click here to see the full roster.

BORDERLANDS: A Forum Theatre Event
with the Philadelphia Fringe Festival

Friday • September 8
Part of Asian Arts Initiative's
Hurry Up and Wait opening
1219 Vine St. Philadelphia
Art at 6PM • Performance 8PM
Friday • September 15
Studio 34 • 4522 Baltimore Ave.
7:30 PM show • Free

I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing...I will have my serpent's tongue--my woman's voice, my sexual voice, my poet's voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.” — Gloria Anzaldúa

Come break the fourth wall as Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed explores the personal journeys of immigration and homecoming from prison. Devised and performed by formerly incarcerated Philly women who have reentered society, Borderlands is a live Forum Theatre event where we blur the boundaries between spectator and actor.

Created and performed by Bambi Friday, Crystal Walker, Hariprasad Kowtha, Kilo Martin, Natasha Cohen-Carroll, Christian Hayden and Paloma Irizarry,  Borderlands has two performances in two locations: September 8th's show takes place in the theatre at Asian Arts Initiative and will be preceded by Hurry Up and Wait, a multi-artist show about migration in AAI's gallery with work by Pritha Bhattacharyya, Sanjana Bijlani, Melissa Chen, Yujane Chen, Maria Dumlao, Monica Kane, Caroline Key, Ahree Lee, JJ Lee, Hye Yeon Nam, Jermaine Ollivierre, Keven Quach, Yumi Janairo Roth, Rea Christina Sampilo, Catzie Vilayphonh, and curated by Adriel Luis. September 15th's show will be at Studio 34 in West Philly.

Note: Some tickets are available at the door although Fringe Arts' website says that the event is "sold out."

photo credit: Natasha Cohen-Carroll

Press for Borderlands:

August Workshop and September Performance about Migration

Saturday August 5, 2017
Boundaries & Intersections
A one-day workshop
facilitated by Paloma Irizarry 
and Hariprasad Kowtha
Studio 34 • 4522 Baltimore Ave

* Proceeds from this workshop support free Forum Theatre performances for the Philly Fringe. Shows are on September 8 and 15—More details soon!

Based on Gloria Anzaldzúa's seminal work, Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed is exploring the borderlands between work, home, languages, nation-states, and neighborhoods. Using the tools of Image Theatre—movement and stillness, acting and witnessing, observing and storytelling—participants will dive deeply into a study on personal boundaries and the intersections that lie in between.

Join T.O. Philly in a physical and interactive practice as we play games and create scenes designed to confront where each of us end—and where we begin.

Borderlands, Boundaries & Intersections ran for a full day on Saturday, August 4th, 2017. Those interested in booking a similar workshop can email "" or call 267-282-1057 to leave us a message.

About the Facilitators:

Paloma Irizarry is a Philly-based theatre artist whose work invites audiences to explore the elements of her identity that confound her the most. Recent creations include I See You See Me, a performance looking at the intersections and contradictions between objectification and sexual empowerment, and an interactive installation for One Way Red with the Medium Theatre Company. Her work for T.O. Philly comprises facilitation and curriculum design for Unpacking Race as well as the co-creation of Borderlands. Paloma will also co-direct our upcoming Forum Theatre project about migration for the Philly Fringe. 

Hariprasad Kowtha has dedicated his life to performance as a vector of identity and resistance. He sang bhajans with the South Asian community in Phoenix, Arizona, practiced Carnatic vocals and performed Bharathanatyam. He began practicing large and small group facilitation skills in early high school through the Unitown/Anytown camp program. He currently teaches yoga, meditation and movement at the Ahimsa House and at the Global Leadership Academy Charter School. He joined T.O. Philly for Image Theatre in 2014 and continued facilitating the Unpacking Race series in 2016.

Monthly Summer Workshops
on Saturdays at Studio 34

This summer T.O. Philly hosts workshops one Saturday a month in West Philadelphia. Each session kicks off the morning with a slew of group games that build skills toward the deeper techniques in the afternoon. Proceeds from these workshops will go support our Forum Theatre project on immigration premiering this fall. 

DATES: June 24 • July 15 • August 5
TIMES: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
(includes a one-hour lunch break)
PLACE: Studio 34 • 4522 Baltimore Ave
(the studio is air conditioned)

SIGN UP for one, two, or all three workshops 
TUITION: $15–$45 sliding scale per session
(No one ever turned away for lack of funds.
Worktrade and scholarships available.)
EMAIL "" to register

Saturday June 24 • 10AM–4PM 
RIFTS: A Workshop About
What Divides Us and What Unites Us
Led by Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews

RIFTS is a workshop about social and political differences that cause schisms between individuals and groups. Whether it's ongoing dynamics within a relationship, heated family talk around the dinner table, clashing opinions at work or school, or polarized viewpoints that divide a nation, the roots of these rifts have much in common. In this workshop we'll physicalize our experiences by using the language of theatre to dig up these roots in order to build the world we want.


Saturday July 15 • 10AM–4PM 
How Do We Facilitate and Difficultate
A training with Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews

Teachers, trainers, facilitators, organizers and educators of every sort are invited to come to this action-oriented think-tank with three key components: 1. Sharing and playing icebreakers and group games and strategizing how we can use them in what we do. 2. Reenact challenging situations that arise in our work, then use techniques from Theatre of the Oppressed to devise ways to surmount those challenges. 3. Delve into design and flow of whatever we do, be it a workshop, event, ongoing class, or direct action. You will leave this training with useful tools to make group work more productive and fun, as well as handy strategies for turning problems into solutions. 

Saturday August 5 • 10AM–4PM
BORDERLANDS: Boundaries & Migrations
Led by Paloma Irizarry and Hariprasad Kowtha

Based on Gloria Anzaldzúa's seminal work, Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, T.O. Philly explores the borderlands between nation-states, languages, neighborhoods, work and home. Using the tools of Image Theatre—movement and stillness, acting and witnessing, observing and storytelling—participants dive into a study on personal boundaries and the intersections that lie in between. 

To sign up for one, two, or all three workshops, email "" or leave a message at 267-282-1057. Each session has a suggested donation on $15 to $45—you can pay more or you can pay less. We also offer worktrade as an alternative to using money. Got questions? Please email of call us!

a workshop to benefit Project READ

Saturday, July 8 • 2:00–5:00 PM
The Adrienne Theatre
2030 Sansom Street
Led by Sarah Schieffelin
and Hariprasad Kowtha

Suggested donation of $0–$50 and/or items for Project READ's drop-in center (see list below)

Pre-register with an email to ""
and click here to read an article about this event!

The term "safe space"
has been scrutinized as a catchphrase of the privileged, an underpinning of political over-correctness, or as a pass to avoid uncomfortable situations. At the same time, the need for personal safety is a human right and one that all of us want for ourselves and those we care about. In this workshop we will use techniques from the Theatre of the Oppressed to unpack what "safer space" actually means and looks like.

  • How can we disagree safely? 
  • What are the impacts and advantages of existing in "unsafer" spaces? 
  • What are the fine points between feeling uncomfortable and being unsafe? 

Together let’s discover what practical action we can take toward creating safer space in our daily lives.

All proceeds from this workshop go to benefit Project READ (Restoration Education Arts Development) an initiative with a goal of creating safe places for girls between the ages of 12 and 18 in Liberia. Since 2014, Project READ has founded a female-run public library café, a makers' workshop space, and girls' drop-in center. In addition to cash donations, items needed for the drop-in center include: shampoo, facial cleanser, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, hand sanitizer, nail clippers, maxi pads, tampons, panty liners, underwear, body wash, pencils, pens, notebooks, crayons, colored pencils, and young adult books.

Introducing: The Listening Lounge

SERIES A on "WHITENESS" in 5 parts—Links posted below
Curated by Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews
Wednesdays April 19 + 26, May 3, 10 + 24
8PM at Studio 34 • 4522 Baltimore Avenue • West Philly
A free event • Snacks provided • Donations welcome

In the spring of 2017 we kicked off the Listening Lounge, a weekly radio hangout. where we listened to some podcast material on a particular topic and then talked about it together. This pilot series focused on the racial construction of "whiteness" from an anti-racist perspective. Each week's audio carried historical and current events into a discussion on the blocks, in-roads, and action steps toward dismantling racism.

Look for more Listening Lounges soon. And let us know if you're listening to what we've put together here by emailing ""

(and some extra things to hear on your own)

Week One • April 19

"The Architect of Hollywood
(99% Invisible #255) 

When Paul Williams was born in 1894, Los Angeles was a small downtown, surrounded by bean fields and orange groves, but it was changing and growing fast. Williams worked on all kinds of projects, including commercial and institutional ones, but he was particularly well known for his residential architecture. He designed a number of homes for Hollywood stars, including Frank Sinatra’s bachelor pad and a mansion for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The city gave Paul Williams a lot of opportunities he wouldn’t have had anywhere else in America at the time...although Williams still had to work harder than his white peers. 

"How Race Was Made" (Seeing White, Part 2)

For much of human history, people viewed themselves as members of tribes or nations but had no notion of “race.” Today, science deems race biologically meaningless. Who invented race as we know it, and why? *Episode features bonus commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika. 

EXTRA: "Reporting on Whiteness"
(Seeing White, Part 1)

The How Sound podcast interviews John Biewen about his Seeing White series for Scene on Radio.

Week Two • April 26

"Mummy of Hornedjitef"
(A History of the World in 100 Objects, episode 1)

Hornedjitef was a priest who died around 2,250 years ago, and he designed a coffin that, he believed, would help him navigate his way to the afterlife. Little did he know that this afterlife would be as a museum exhibit in London.

"Made in America"
(Seeing White, Part 3)

Chattel slavery in the United States, with its distinctive—and strikingly cruel—laws and structures, took shape over many decades in colonial America. The innovations that built American slavery are inseparable from the construction of Whiteness as we know it today. *Episode features bonus commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika. 

Week Three • May 3

"The Spelling Bee"
(from Snap Judgment)

What Davey Kim did in the eighth grade, when he went to the regional level spelling bee with his best friend, might be spelled R-E-V-E-N-G-E, and also S-O-L-I-D-A-R-I-T-Y. 
“All men are created equal.” Those words, from the Declaration of Independence, are central to the story that Americans tell about ourselves and our history. But what did those words mean to the man who actually wrote them?  *Episode features bonus commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika. 
Week Four • May 10

"Holes In My Identity"
(from the play, Hands Up 

Nathan Yungerberg was one of seven emerging black playwrights commissioned by New Black Fest to write a collection of monologues that explore the well-being of African-Americans in a culture of institutional profiling. Six of these monologues were adapted for radio by Judith Kampfner for the BBC. * Whole piece features five more stories, archival news clips and on-street interviews. Links:

"That's Not Us, So We're Clean"
(Seeing White, Part 6)

When it comes to America’s racial sins, past and present, a lot of us see people in one region of the country as guiltier than the rest. Producer John Biewen speaks with some white Southern friends about that tendency. *Episode features bonus commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika. 

EXTRA: "Little War on the Prairie"
(Seeing White, Part 5)

Many residents of Mankato, Minnesota grow up knowing next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event: the largest mass execution in U.S. history. In this documentary, one resident goes back to Minnesota to explore what happened, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it afterwards.

Week Five • May 24

"The Year Hank Greenberg
Hit 58 Home Runs"
(The Memory Palace episode 109)

While the Third Reich came to power in Germany and American Nazis rallied in their support all over the U.S., some Jewish Americans took antifascism into their own hands.

"On Interviewing A Racist" 
(from HowSound)

“What should be my mantra be as I sit in the car, my heart pumping, afraid of what I’m walking into and what might happen when I’m going to interview a racist?” Al Letson offers insight into talking to people with whom you don't agree.

EXTRA: "Chenjerai's Challenge" (Seeing White, Part 7)

“How attached are you to the idea of being white?” Chenjerai Kumanyika puts that question to John Biewen—and also to us—as we wrap up our first series of The Listening Lounge.

About T.O. Philly

Philadelphia Theatre of the Oppressed (T.O. Philly) is a network of people using the tools of theatre and popular education to dismantle oppression. Much of the work we do is based on the writings and teachings of the late Augusto Boal, who developed the Theatre of the Oppressed in Brazil over 40 years ago. We also draw upon other theatre games and movement traditions, as well as models of popular education like those put forth by Paolo Freire in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

T.O. Philly offers public workshops that individuals and groups can come to. We also work for organizations and institutions. We can tailor a workshop to whatever your group needs. You can see who we've worked with and what we've got coming up on this website's sidebar. Below are a few curricula that we regularly run. To bring a workshop to you, email "" or call 267-282-1057.

Theatre of the Oppressed
Intro, Intermediate & Advanced Workshops

We offer everything from single 90-minute sessions, to weekly classes and full day, weekend, or week-long retreats that cover the history, theory, and practice of Theatre of the Oppressed games, techniques, and traditions. These workshops cover the trunk of the Theatre of the Oppressed tree, with human sculpture-driven Image Theatre as a base for the interactive performances of Forum Theatre for which Theatre of the Oppressed is internationally known.

Games: Playing & Teaching

Whether you just want to play games or learn some games that you can play with others, we can do that! T.O. Philly has hundreds of games for groups of any size or age range that get us out of our heads and into our bodies, build trust and a cooperative spirit, and get at issues of social justice. Whether it's just for one or two hours, or one or two days, let the games begin!

Dis/ability Justice 

Many of Theatre of the Oppressed's games and techniques "dynamize the senses" by working in silence or darkness or with limited mobility. Since 2012, we've been using these techniques to address issues of ability and disability. In 2015 T.O. Philly supported work on a play about vision loss and dis/ability passing with a series of sessions called Blind Games. In 2016 we expanded some of those ideas into a broader workshop called Unpacking Ability. Facilitated by people on the dis/ability spectrum, these themes can run deep in just a couple hours.

Workshopping Gender

As our public discourse around gender and sexuality continues to change, the occasional workshop can help members of an organization or institution get on the same page. We offer everything from a "Gender 101" to more intensive sessions for groups ready to delve deeper into gender dynamics.

Unpacking Race 

In 2013 we rolled out a curriculum all about race and undoing racism. We offer a short workshop called "Engaging Courageous Conversations on Race" that gives the basics. The "Unpacking Race" module can be a multi-part workshop series, weekend retreat, or something that a group does over the course of many months. We also offer workshops on undoing racism specifically for people of color and/or white allies, including a session that identifies White Fragility.

Group Dynamics

Theaatre of the Oppressed is a also a tool for organizations interested in improving communication, colllaboration, workplace environment, and for better fullfillment of a group's mission and vision.

The Cop & The Rainbow

The Cop in the Head and the Rainbow of Desire represent the introspective branch of Theatre of the Oppressed with roots in psychological and internalized forms of oppression. We can offer these sessions as performance demonstrations, with audience members volunteering to step up onstage to be in a scene. We also run Cop/Rainbow as one-day or two-day intensives. These techniques are really meant to be done on an ongoing basis as they are about a group coming together to collectively disarm the cops in our heads and sort out a spectrum of sometimes conflicting desires so that we have more tools for contending with ourselves in everyday life.

Bring T.O. to you!

To book any of the above workshops (or others not on the list) email "" or leave a message at 267-282-1057 and someone will get back to you shortly.

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 1: Learning to Love Discussing Race

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
Prior to our first session, watch Jay Smooth's short talk, "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Discussing Race". Jay is the host of Underground Railroad, New York's longest running hip-hop show, and also has a video blogger about race. This video sets the tone for how we'll be approaching our own process in Unpacking Race:

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 2: Courageous Conversation

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
In Week One of our Fall 2016 Unpacking Race workshop series, we got to know each other, defined race and ethnicity and shared some of our experiences through movement and discussion. The definitions we used:
Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation or history, ethnic classification, and/or the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time. Scientists agree that there is no biological or genetic basis for racial categories.

Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical location. Members of an ethnic group are often presumed to be culturally or biologically similar, although this is not in fact necessarily the case. Examples of ethnic groups identified in the U.S. are: Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American; Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese; Cherokee, Mohawk, Navajo;
 Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican; Nepali, Indian, Pakistani; Polish, Irish, and French.

Racial and Ethnic Identity: An individual's awareness and experience of being a member of a racial and ethnic group; the racial and ethnic categories that an individual chooses to describe themselves based on such factors as genealogical or ancestral heritage, physical appearance, cultural affiliation, early socialization, and personal experience. Puerto Ricans, for example, may be racially European, African, indigenous, or various blends, yet they refer to themselves collectively as Boricuas. Despite color differences, Puerto Ricans share a culture which shapes food, language, music and customs.
These are adapted from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, (Routledge, 2007).   

As we move the discussion of unpacking race into unpacking racism, here are a few things to watch, read, write, and reflect upon: 

1. WATCH this clip from comedian Aamer Rahman:

2. READ Audrey Smedley's short essay, "The History of the Idea of Race...and Why it Matters", detailing the history of race in the United States.

3. ALSO SEE this history of race in the U.S. as covered by the documentary, Race: The Power of an IllusionWatch the first part here. Seeing the first part may compel you to watch the rest, so here are links for Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4.

4. JOURNAL about race. When you notice something in your life that relates to race, write about it. While we can learn lots from reading, talking, performing, and engaging in workshops about race and racism, making time for self-reflection is also essential. Your journal could be a daily practice, or a few times a week, or maybe you've always got it with you, ready to jot down your thoughts about race as they occur. No matter how you do it or how often, keep a race journal. 

AND FINALLY, Here are the Four Agreements of Courageous Conversation that T.O. Philly uses when doing this work:
  1. Stay engaged:  Staying engaged means “remaining morally, emotionally, intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue.”
  2. Experience discomfort:  This norm acknowledges that discomfort is inevitable, especially, in dialogue about race, and that participants make a commitment to bring issues into the open.  It is not talking about these issues that create divisiveness.  The divisiveness already exists in the society and in our schools.  It is through dialogue, even when uncomfortable, the healing and change begin.
  3. Speak your truth:  This means being open about thoughts and feelings and not just saying what you think others want to hear.
  4. Expect and accept non-closure:  This agreement asks participants to “hang out in uncertainty” and not rush to quick solutions, especially in relation to racial understanding, which requires ongoing dialogue. 
Adapted from Glenn E. Singleton & Curtis Linton, Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. 2006. pp.58-65. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 3: Mapping Racism

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
After defining race and ethnicity in last week's Unpacking Race workshop, we talked about racism and shared the following definitions:
Institutional Racism: A system of advantage based on race and supported by institutional structures, policies and practices that create and sustain advantages for the dominant white group while systematically subordinating members of targeted racial groups. This relative advantage for Whites and subordination for people of color is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms, and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.
Individual Racism: The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate institutional racism. Individual racism can occur at both unconscious and conscious levels, and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of Whites.  
Active Racism: Actions that have as their stated or explicit goal the maintenance of the system of racism and the oppression of those in targeted racial groups. People who participate in active racism advocate the continued subjugation of members of targeted groups and protection of “the rights” of members of the advantaged group. These goals are often supported by a belief in the inferiority of people of color and the superiority of white people, culture, and values. 
Passive Racism: Conscious and unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and actions that support the system of racism, racial prejudice, and racial dominance and contribute to the maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence, discrimination, or an ideology of white supremacy. 
These terms are from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, (Routledge, 2007).

We posted these four definitions on each side of the room to create an intersectional map of racism, marked with an active-passive X-axis and an individual-institutional Y-axis. We then mapped examples of racism that we'd experienced in the media and our own lives, both currently and historically, by putting our bodies on the grid. Sometimes we walked or stood, other times we sat in chairs, and then used the chairs to add a Z-axis to show visible racism (standing high on the chair) to invisible racism (ducking underneath the chair) and everything in between. The question arose, "For whom is this passive and invisible? And for whom is this visible and active?" We then worked in small groups to create theatrical sculptures and human machines that illustrated these systems of racism.


Longtime activist Judy Vaughn has said, "You don’t think your way into a different way of acting; you act your way into a different way of thinking." This is the spirit of Theatre of the Oppressed, and the spirit of this week's media materials:

1. HEAR Ericka Hart's speech from the Philadelphia Women's March. GO Magazine describes Hart as, "a Black femme, breast cancer survivor and sex educator who spoke about who this march was for and how we can all learn to create more intersectionality in our feminist movements." Be sure to read the first paragraph of the transcript, as it didn't make it onto the audio here.

2. LOOK AT "The Problem with 'Privilege'" by activist scholar Andrea Smith. In this essay, Smith explores "the structuring logics of the politics of privilege. In particular, the logics of privilege rest on an individualized self that relies on the raw material of other beings to constitute itself." Read through the first section, and then journal about it before moving on.

3. READ Michelle Chen's article about race, disability, and public education, published by Al Jazeera. Chen's short editorial intersects these strata with those of age, class, family status, language, access to healthcare, eligibility for employment, and a cycle of disciplinary action that escalates from school suspensions to arrests and prison sentences.

4. GIVE A LISTEN to this first part of the "Who Is This Restaurant For?" radio series, in which journalists Kat Chow and Dan Pashman discuss race, food, and neighborhood socioeconomics with proprietors and customers at three Washington DC restaurants:

5. DRAW AN INTERSECTIONAL MAP in your race journal. When you notice something in your life that relates to race, plot it on the map, and then write about it. You can plot things as they occur and then write a little about each, or choose a few incidents to expand upon more extensively. What does placing a situation on this map reveal? What's left out? What would you add or change to the structure of this map? No matter how you do it or how often, add mapping to your race journal.

Unpacking Race March 2017
Week 4: Intersectional Solidarity

In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
After unpacking various systems of racism in last week's Unpacking Race workshop, we talked more about intersectionality and solidarity via these definitions: 
Intersectionality: “Various ways in which race and gender and other identity markers—such as language, age, class, national origin, sexual preference, ability—interact to shape people’s individual and collective experiences... The intersection of racism and sexism—and other structural oppressions—factor into people’s lives in a way that cannot be captured wholly by looking at the race or gender dimensions of those experiences separately.” — Kimberle Crenshaw 
Solidarity: “Meaningful resistance to dominator culture that demands in all of us a willingness to accurately identify the various systems that work together to promote injustice, exploitation and oppression... There can be no love where there is domination. And any time we do the work of ending domination, we are doing the work of love.” — bell hooks

Some exercises we used to explore intersectionality and solidarity included Person to Person, Gravity Statements, and The Three Wishes in which Images of Oppression can be modified toward becoming Images of Liberation. These techniques lead us into this week's journaling assignment.


1. WATCH this short animation about microaggressions:

2. LOOK AT this video "Stop Being An Ally" recently published by This Matters. What are ways that this video challenges you? What are ways that you rise to these challenges?

3. READ the articles about some spaces and communities to which people can bring anti-racist dialogue and organizing:

4. JOURNAL about race. Additionally, try following one or more of these prompts:
  • REFLECT on the Image Theatre we made. Which scenes or characters were familiar to you? How realistic or fantastic (fantastic meaning "in the realm of fantasy") were the edits that people tried? How could these dynamizations be applied to the real intersectionalities of race in the wider world?
  • INTERSECT race and another stratum. Write about each as it relates to you. How are these similar? How are these different?
  • GRAVITATE a statement or idea by writing it in the middle of the page, and then draw a circle around it. Where are you in relation to it? Where have you been in the past? Where would you like to be? Where do you see others? Plot these as points nearer or further from the initial idea and write about each. Do your words fall toward the idea? Away from it? Do they circle around it? Do they form new ideas that have their own gravity?