Using storytelling exercises and relationship building strategies, we’ll identify how these particular perceptions affect our ability to build the trust and solidarity needed between people of color across groups for solving community problems and achieving social justice.
July 21, 2011
From 9:00AM to 12PM
At Third Sector New England
89 South St. 1st Floor (Community Room)
Boston, MA. 02111
Sponsored by NIAAS (Network of Immigrants and African Americans in Solidarity)
NIAAS participants engaged in a rich and lively discussion about perceptions of homeownership vs. renting among African Americans and immigrants of color. This topic was a follow-up conversation from the May 2011 session with activists Mel King and Vanessa Calderon on what the organizing histories of Tent City and Villa Victoria can teach us about what’s needed for today’s movement building among communities of color in Boston.
We used a narrative power analysis tool developed by SmartMeme (www.smartmeme.org), a communications strategy group for social change groups. We applied some basic elements of a story (conflict, characters, foreshadowing, and assumptions) to perceptions that we hold about homeownership and renting, particularly in communities of color that faces high rates of foreclosure, unaffordable rents, and gentrification. The story-based strategy approach is not intended to be a replacement for traditional organizing and movement building, but rather a set of complementary tools made all the more relevant by the contemporary cultural context.
The challenge of the exercise was to focus on meaning, and not truth or fact. When we think about stories, it’s about how we feel our emotions, our culture, and history – not about statistics. What motivates people to act or think are how stories are told and what meaning people make of these stories or these narratives which function as a “meme”, or cultural units of memory that get reinforced through messages. We discussed how:
- Memes are everywhere, from personal mannerisms and collective ritual to the advertising slogans and political jargon that dominate the media.
- The concept of the meme as an analytical tool and metaphor is useful for understanding the contemporary context of narrative power.
- The right meme CAN help our organizing become exponentially more effective.