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Knowing the Community: Sharing Activity (Introductory-Level) Objectives:

(1) Participants will learn the names of each person in the class, group, or community, as well as something about each person's background.

(2) Participants will have a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity within the group, while realizing that they have things in common with some of the people from whom they might have felt most distant.

Activity Description:

Participants should sit in a circle for this exercise if possible. The facilitator should hand out a list of items for each participant to share with the group. Items could include name/nicknames, ethnic background, where they are from and where their parents were born, which generation they represent in the U.S. for their family, and one custom or tradition their family practices. Give participants time to record some of their initial thoughts on these items.

Before you begin the exercise, instruct the participants to identify one or two people in the group who they do not know and to think about what answers they expect from those people. This part is not to be shared among group members, but can help people realize how they formulate ideas about people based on appearance.

Now you are ready to begin. It is important to tell the group that each person will be limited to about two minutes in order for everyone's voice to be heard. Once everyone has had an oppurtunity to share their information, ask the group to discuss what they have learned from the exercise.

Facilitator Notes:

(1) I would suggest that the facilitator begin this exercise in order to model the kind of information that should be shared.

(2) This activity can be emotional for certain people. The participants who find this emotional are often those who don't know a lot about their heritage, including those who been adopted. If someone seems to be getting emotional remind them that they only have to reveal what they feel comfortable revealing. If this doesn't come up organically in the conversation, raise it as an example of "privilege"--that the ability to trace one's ancestry is an example of privilege and the inability to do so often is a reflection of repression, oppression, or more systemically, imperialism.

(3) Certain themes usually emerge:

  • Even members of the same identity "groups" have very different backgrounds.
  • Often members of different "groups" have more similar backgrounds than they had assumed.
  • Diversity transcends "black and white."
  • Many people find out information which allows them to connect somehow with someone else in the group. (Last year, a member of a group I facilitated revealed that her mother's maiden name was "Gorski" which is my last name. We're still exploring the possibility that we're related.)

(4) Ask participants why this is an important activity.

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