QC Family Tree’s Change Makers’ Rehearsal Dinner series is an opportunity for the community coming together to address a complex social problem in a creative way. By choosing an alternative way of addressing the problem- through art and creativity, we can come to an alternative and more creative solution. The May 2022 rehearsal dinner was themed around Cultivating Peace. This theme emerged from previous rehearsal dinner experiences.
At the September 2021 rehearsal dinner, we wrestled with the fact that property developers care more about profit than they do about people. We engaged in music making, movement, visual art, and storytelling and themes started to emerge. When we debriefed the rehearsal dinner, we noted that many people expressed a deep sense of despair and grief over the harm that is being enacted upon people for the sake of greed. Because of the grief we sensed, we chose for the next rehearsal dinner in January 2022 to focus on collective healing. At that event, we participated in centering, meditation, art making, and art critique. The rehearsal dinner helped us to move toward self care and individual healing, but we left feeling like we still had more to work through, especially around collective, social, political, communal healing.
The May 2022 rehearsal dinner was an opportunity for us to wrestle with and experience possibilities of communal healing….cultivating peace. Seventeen participants gathered at Wray Ward. We began with a check in question: “Where is a place that you feel a sense of peace?” People mentioned the beach, nature, at home, under the covers,and in the dark. After checking in, Katrina Cherry and Bunny Gregory facilitated an interactive and engaging visual art group experience addressing the questions, “How do we define peace? What does peace look like?” The artists facilitators led a mandala making experience using wooden circles and acrylic paint. Each person was able to practice mandala making and afterward, we reflected on the experience.
“Peace looks like a circle.”
“Peace is perfectly imperfect.”
“Peace is building from others’ ideas.
“Peace is talking to one another.”
Melanee Marshall, of Closet Creatives, prepared an experiential meal. She was asked to prepare a meal that helps us experience, “What does peace smell and taste like?” She explained that the meal preparation emphasized the fusion of cuisines from all over the world. The menu included: Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Orange Vinaigrette and Spiced Walnuts; Jerk Chicken Satay with a Peanut or Jerk sauce (depending on if you like it mild or spicy); Red Curry Risotto topped with Chili Lime Cashews
Southern Sweet Potatoes “Patatas Brava” topped with Kale and Black Eye Pea Stew - ( hot sauce(s); Dessert: Oreo Sushi and Donut Fortune Cookies; and Drinks: Mango Pineapple Aqua Fresca and Otai (Watermelon Drink). There were flags beside each dish. Each flag represents the country fusions of the dish and participants were able to guess the country’s flags as we enjoyed the meal.
“Peace tastes like fusion.”
“Peace taste sweet and savory.”
“Peace tastes like a flavor explosion.”
“Peace tastes warm and comforting like curry.”
Hoan Rahlan was tasked with helping us to artistically explore “What does peace sound like?
What does peace feel like?” She explained that as a Mom of a young child in a family-filled house, peace sounds like the lack of crying and a quiet moment. Hoan offered participants the opportunity to meditate by listening to the sounds of water while coloring lines and shapes. She encouraged folks to let the meditative sounds guide their exploration. Some participants listened and drew with their eyes closed. Others drew lines or explored smudging with oil pastels.
“Peace feels like the sun on my face.”
“Peace feels like supporting others.”
“Peace feels like perfect stillness.”
Helms Jarrell facilitated a moment of making connections. Helms brought all of the “data” that had been created from the evening- mandalas, drawings, response cards- to the center of the space and invited folks to make connections. One participant picked up a yellow-orange line drawing and saw a connection to the comfort of curry. Another picked up a mandala and recognized a connection to “perfectly imperfect.”
The goals of the Change Makers’ Rehearsal Dinner were that participants would engage in creative and experiential learning that resulted in deeper conversations. The hope was for imaginative solutions to emerge and that new relationships would be made. As always, we wanted to uplift local Charlotte artist leadership. We chose for our rhythm for the evening to be action, reflection, repeat.
At the end of the event, we took some time to see what folks thought about the event. We asked for feedback on what went well and what we should change. Using QCFT’s Measures of Impact report card, we were able to gauge whether we met our goals.
Folks left the experience saying:
“I liked the experience. I would like to try a wider variety of mediums and activities in the future.”
“Thank you for creating the space for me to contemplate peace in multiple dimensions with some of the purist souls I've ever met.”
“This experience provided a sense of collective meaning and transcended individuality.”
“This event solicited meaningful participation from everyone. Everyone had a role to play that honored their gifts.”
“This was an emotional experience. The event facilitated a balance between ‘heart space’ and ‘headspace’.”
What I love about the rehearsal dinners is that they are generative. Three days after the experience, I am still ruminating on the words that were spoken, the creative objects that were made, the food we enjoyed, and the environment we created together. Several things stand out. An eleven year old boy painted an image of himself on his own private peaceful beach. A forty year old man listened to the guidance of a wise woman and let go of inhibitions to draw a mandala, starting off with just one shape- a triangle- and letting it go from there. A twenty year old man left singing the praises of a red curry risotto he’d never tasted. The beach, the listening, heeding wise guidance, trying new things, singing the praises of a gifted community member. These are the things we take home with us. These are some of the things that make way for peace.