Gather at the Delta

Participation Agreements

January 2024 Update:

 

The small-but-mighty Gather at the Delta team greets you wherever you are, and whatever may be passing through your world. You may not have heard from us in a long time, but please know the research and work around cultural transmission continues in the background: academic publication projects, research projects, and monthly conversations about happenings in culture, politics, art, and life. We decided as a team not to go the crowd-funding route, and regularly submit grants to produce new inclusive events. Even at this time, we await news of funding from our applications. In the meantime, we’ve remained active at the edge of our learning, and researching intellectual and cultural humility.

 

Gather at the Delta originated with the goal in mind to humanize each other in charged conversations about painful, or confusing issues in our art-producing communities, across different identities, ethnicities, cultures, lived experiences, socioeconomic classes, political paradigms, geographic placements, and worldviews. 

 

We believe in the worth of all peoples, even when they are acting out of their trauma, disorientation, distortions, confusion, and pain.  An examination of history reveals that violence perpetuates more trauma, viciousness, and violence; that unilateral condemnation or devaluation of a population is utterly unproductive and racist, and takes many painful generational “curse breakers” to bravely undo; that creating boundaries for those who are willing to enact harm or override the will of others is needed at times. Seeing each other’s humanity first should be primary. 

We aim to provide a practice-home for curiosity, exchange, mistakes, understanding, and intellectual humility. We gently ask visitors to our materials and events consider their relationship to compassion, competitiveness, attachments to prove anything or be right, willingness to engage and act with non-violence. We  hunger to listen meaningfully, and work hard to consider and communicate with patience and care, and above all—examine assumption, perceptions and embrace honesty. 

 

When we produced our first event in 2021, the guidelines below were shared with all participants who joined us. We sincerely thank our dance community for honoring these agreements and making the event a rich and healing space for growth. We offer the agreements forward again here, and will periodically, so that we can all remember why pausing to humanize each other enduringly matters.

 

Many historical and recent conflicts around the globe continue to divide friends and families, destroy lives, and devastate the voices and practices of cultural production and transmission we aim to understand and uplift. As individuals, and as a team we privately and professionally work towards non-violence and justice. Take care of your heart. Take care of each other. Don’t give up… we are evolving.

 

 

Participation Agreements

 

Document Authors: Donna Mejia – www.donnainthedance.com, Joanna Ashleighwww.joannaashleigh.com, Liz Azi www.lizazidance.com, Brittney Laleh Banaei – www.brittneybanaei.com

These participation agreements were originally created for an online event that took place on February 27th, 2021. There are some agreements that speak directly to the digital experience and exchange.

Vulnerability and confidentiality are an important part of all safe and brave learning environments. We invite you to review our requests for best practices that minimize harm and maximize mutuality and diplomacy. In alignment with the Arab American National Museum’s (U.S.A.) commitment to creating an arts sector rooted in justice, we are committed to ensuring a space that is free of racism, transphobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism, ableism, misogyny,
classism or other biases. Our expectation is that all visitors will honor these ethics.
(https://arabamericanmuseum.org/)

● The goal is to have an open discussion about the topic being discussed in all of its forms and complexities. We agree to work together to keep the conversation on this topic.

● We treat others with dignity and kindness at all times, whether we agree or disagree with their perspectives.

● In consideration of this event being a multilingual space, please do your best to avoid slang vernacular terms that will be difficult for interpretation, and we invite you to speak slowly and clearly for the benefit of our interpreters.

● We value different styles of participation and create structures that support multiple forms of creative voice and worldviews.

● We agree to take responsibility for the impact of words or actions, and apologize with generosity when needed.

● We encourage you to “Fumble Forward” (originated by Donna Mejia), which promotes taking an inquiry stance when you don’t understand or agree. Be curious and embrace research versus react mode. The idea of Fumble Forward seeks to promote exchange, and most importantly, hit the pause button on conventional
responses such as anger. To keep a space of inquiry open in a charged subject matter, participants will preface their public commentary by saying “I’m about to fumble with my words.” The community responds as a chorus with “Fumble Forward!” Confusion and questions are essential to learning and refining our collective understanding. For example perhaps a student is unsure of the terminologies needed to join a conversation.
Perhaps they are unsure if their questions
will be offensive. Perhaps they don’t have fully formulated ideas and opinions yet. For this colloquium, we will all agree to suspend judgement, lean in and help each other clarify through a process of corrective, delicate or clumsy verbal surgery. Fumble Forward allows us to stay open and speak from the heart with diplomacy, even if our voices are trembling and we can’t find confident, stable ground.
The concept of
Fumble Forward encourages diplomacy and fosters a learning environment where questions are welcome and we can diplomatically move towards true listening and communication.

● We acknowledge, remember, and explicitly state the emotional labor involved in educating about issues of race, racism and White supremacy and ensure that the responsibility does not solely fall on underserved, undersourced, marginalized identities, MENAHT, and BIPOC citizens to educate others about these issues.
We encourage all to consider your “positionality” to our subject matter before assuming to speak for or speak to issues outside of your own birth identity. As you grow in understanding, please take responsibility for your own education on cultural practices and world views not native to your own birth culture. Members of
disenfranchised groups are not always able to provide tutorials and orientation sessions while managing their own distress and marginalization. If they choose to, please note it as an act of generosity. It is not uncommon for members of any group to experience “ambassador fatigue.” Please don’t take it as a personal affront.

● We listen to different points of view and opinions respectfully and authentically, but avoid false politeness and false consensus.

● Communicating positive intent to build trust amongst participants and presenters means we always offer to contextualize our comments and questions to maintain safety if possible. Examples of contextualizing questions or comments:
○ I know we see things differently but I really want to hear what your thoughts are about this. Would you be willing to please educate me on your perspectives and experiences?
○ I’m going to fumble with what I want to say, but could you please bear with me while I ask you a question? I’m keen to learn more about this.
○ I wish to speak with you about a difficult topic, but I’m hoping to get past that discomfort, and work towards mutual listening, and understanding with you.
○ I’m not comfortable with what is happening here, and talking to you about it is very important to me.

● Avoid oversimplification by adhering to a single narrative on any issue, remember there are exceptions to every story and, frequently, multiple truths to consider. Please remember that cultural groups will not have homogeneity in their responses to an issue. Individual temperament and life experience can lead to a variety
of survival strategies against stressors at both a collective and individual level.

● Different communities may require different answers and customized considerations for their circumstances so let’s avoid universalism… it diminishes the beauty and value of differences we aim to celebrate.

● We intervene and request a pause when harm is underway, in the moment.

● Please remember to use inclusive (or neutral) language when addressing the group. We respect individuals’ inherent right to self-define and identify. We also respect an individual’s identity to be fluid, or in a state of change. Please use gender neutral language when addressing the group.
○ Examples: instead of “hey guys,” please try “hello friends” or “dancers” or “everyone”

● To challenge the social media culture of suppressing questioning, abrasive, uncooperative, menacing, harassing, rigid, abusive, uncaring, apathetic, insulting and cruel behavior, anonymity is not allowed at this event. The presenters and participants will share equally the risks and benefits of conscientious conversation
together. For safety, if you wish to ask a question or comment with privacy for your identity, please direct your question in a private email. Bullying and hate speech are not permitted. Any violation of this agreement, or efforts to dominate or bully another in our digital colloquium will result in being muted and booted from the event.

● Gatekeeping and tone policing are terms frequently used to tell people of color how they should be reacting or responding to the acts of oppression directed towards them. Please understand that resistance to acts of discrimination have often required disruption and challenges to what is considered normal.

● Please speak only for yourself and your life experiences. If you make a comment about someone’s identity without their permission, it has the strong possibility of creating a microaggression.

● Grief and emotions are permitted, abuse and insults are not.

● Body politics: please do not assume we all share the same notions of gender, masculinity, femininity, attractiveness, etc.

● Please remember your modeling and behavioral choices may sow seeds of insight and possibility within someone that bear fruit long after the encounter. We recommend an open heart and thick skin!

 From the September 27th, 2021 digital event specifically:
 

● Our event does not seek to be the final or authoritative platform for a global art community of practitioners. We do aim to provide a constructive, non-biased container for equitable exchange and helpful resources. We invite you to continue the conversation in your own community, and warmly welcome you to share your insights and perspectives as generously as you have received them here at GAD.

● Please note that not all attendees at this event are practitioners or supporters of transcultural fusion dance, and you may encounter viewpoints that differ from yours.

● Transcultural Fusion Dance (TcFD) is an umbrella terminology that can refer to any deliberate dialogue and fusion of more than one cultural source. As our adoption of this terminology expands, we may find other dance communities (beyond MENAHT source inspirations) allied in membership and use of the description. We applaud this, and invite you to always describe your own dancing with specificity for the cultures, nationalities, and distinct tradition employed in your choreography and expression.

● Several of the events in our schedule intentionally will not use a chat window. For this part of the event we encourage you to relish in deep listening and reflection time while encountering the curated information in this program. You will have the opportunity to complete a feedback survey at the end of the day, and this is an excellent opportunity to register your questions and reflections for the next installation of this event, which will occur October 4 – 10, 2021, Sponsored by the University of Colorado Boulder.

Thank you for your attention and participation.