clap freeze change history

we are doing a workshop during orientation called theater of the oppressed, based on Paolo Freire’s pedagogy, and one group acts out a skit about m’s experience of how she was the first girl ever picked for her little league baseball team (1974), and her coach called her to say maybe you shouldn’t play, you will mess up the team dynamic, but then she makes Allstars (1976), and the coach calls again, maybe you should sit out this game, m.

but the point of the workshop is that now all of us are watching the skit and we can clap and freeze the action, to switch places with one of the actors and turn the oppressor around.

someone claps in, switches places with the coach and says

m, we are so happy to have you on the team, we fully support you here!

oh really? m says, I thought the other coach said that i couldn’t play.

he was wrong, the new actor says. he was very wrong.

as more groups act out other skits depicting personal stories of small oppressions, in classrooms, in offices, from childhood we get into a groove of clap freeze change history and now everyone wants to clap in to right the wrongs, and some of the improvised more empowering dialogue makes us laugh.

afterward people share what was hard and what was easy, and we talk about lessons in responsibility. not always up to the authority to correct an oppressive action. hard to do it in the moment. easier to challenge a bigoted stranger. harder to challenge a misguided friend.

 

half unfurled

when the fourth grade girls all swarm in to hug me goodbye just as their teachers are shepherding them onto the bus home after lunch and
one of the girls who had been holding my hand the entire walk from the dining hall says she will never let go, but then she does, and they wave from the bus steps and wave from their bus seats and the engines start and we wave back from the driveway
until the bus pulls out and the wheels turn on the gravel and round a corner, and the trees with their pale green leaves wash them out of sight.

listening to nd practice the ukulele from his room
and kw sneeze from her
nook under the stairs
and hs out by the fire pit putting out the
last of the embers after his grilled steak dinner,
and the rest of them upstairs muffled laughing and moving
chairs, while i sit
still
on the couch near the front door, writing these words.

the cloudy chill that feels like spring is
momentarily
suspended in the half unfurled fiddleheads, and the unopened dandelions
and the one apple tree near the library with blossoms still clasped, hesitating to extend its petals to the world.