On January 29th, 19 people gathered for the Change Makers’ Rehearsal Dinner: On Collective Healing. The purpose of the event was to engage in sustaining practices of healing. Our hope was to begin building a healing justice framework that values holistic wellbeing, integration, and connectivity for the common good. The goals of the event were:
Shamaiye Haynes started off the event by welcoming folks and helping them orient to our time together. She shared that the overall purpose of Change Makers’ Rehearsal Dinners is to rehearse the change we want to see in the world and to do so in creative ways. Shamaiye offered one promise to participants: “We will not solve all the world’s problems tonight and we may, in fact, mess up along the way. We are here not to get it perfect, but to practice possibilities and to process complex issues through creativity and connection with one another.”
Placing her Grandmother’s cloth, a cornucopia representing abundance, and lighting incense, Sherry Waters offered healing elements and words of blessing to consecrate the space for healing. Following the opening ritual, Katty Strickland led the participants through a guided meditation session. Zooming in from quarantine, Katty offered words of healing and quiet moments of present moment awareness. Dara Cobb Lewis shared a meal chosen with healing intention. Participants shared stories and connections while enjoying the wholesome meal.
Participants were invited to listen to a musical selection, entitled “Justice,” featuring Dawn Anthony and the Carolina Social Music Club. While listening, they reflected upon what kind of healing element they sensed they needed. After the song, participants were invited to approach the “Apothecary” to receive what they might need. Boxes labeled with healing elements - such as vision, light, hope, beauty, and wisdom- lined the cabinet top. Inside of each box were the materials Helms Jarrell prepared for use during a guided process of creating a collective art piece. During the guided art process, participants explored using different materials to create a mixed media piece that represented the elements of healing they needed.
To round out the event, Katrina Cherry and Shamaiye Haynes facilitated Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process with participants. Participants shared what was meaningful, evocative,interesting, exciting, and striking in what they had experienced. Participants and facilitators took turns asking questions of one another. The Critical Response Process offered a framework for exploring more deeply on collective healing, the art process, as well as the art piece Katrina presented.
Participants reported that the Change Makers’ Rehearsal Dinner offered strong ideas that were expressed with clarity; that there was a clear sense of purpose for the event. They also said that the event facilitated a balance between “heart space” and the “head space.” Participants agreed that the event provided a sensory experience; vivid sensations deepened their experience and heightened the potential for change going forward.
After the event, QC Family Tree staff took the time to evaluate the event. We agree that the space and set up of the event was very well suited for our purpose. The Ophelia Garman Brown teaching kitchen provided a beautiful and comfortable setting for our gathered group. We were thrilled that the people who attended the event seemed to enjoy their experience and that they left saying good things.
There are elements that we would like to add to the next Change Makers’ Rehearsal Dinner. We would like to bring back the Resonance Pause. In September, our event included times to pause and write down what is resonating. We hope to bring that back in the future, as it provides helpful input and data. Other improvements we hope to add are: facilitator participation in the planning process, clear statements of purpose and theme, and deeper intention around universally hospitable language for all who may gather.
We realize there is still more to explore on the topic of collective healing. At the March Change Makers’ Rehearsal Dinner, we will engage in an even deeper dive into politicized healing. We will explore the belief that healing is political and that politics can be healing. We hope to unpack the framework of heal, create, and dismantle and to discover ways in which we might be active participants in social, community healing.
Zeb, Greg, Ashley, and Rolanda contributed to this collective art piece. The foundational healing element of this piece is “Hope”. After the event, we noticed the resemblance of feathers within the piece- in the shape of the thread and the feathered effect of the layered paper. We were reminded of the Emily Dickinson poem that begins, “Hope is the thing with feathers….”