By Akaya Windwood
I recently facilitated a community meeting organized to address a spate of violence in a neighborhood here in Oakland, California. Roughly 200 people showed upÃ¢â‚¬â€young people from the streets, grandmothers, school teachers, community activists, neighbors, and politicians. The gathering crossed lines of class, ethnicity, religion, gender, and race. There were many emotions in the room: grief, fear, hope, hopelessness, skepticism, sadness, and even some optimism.
As we began the meeting, I asked people to agree to be kind rather than nice. Truthfully, I was a bit hesitant to ask for this agreement, thinking that people would interpret it to mean that they couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say what they needed to say or express Ã¢â‚¬Å“negativeÃ¢â‚¬Â feelings such as anger, outrage, or distress. I took the risk of asking for the agreement anyway, and was met with a big Ã¢â‚¬Å“yesÃ¢â‚¬Â from the group. Everyone was tired of the old pattern of blaming and shaming, of finding fault with one another, and we needed a way to say difficult things without feeling hobbled by politeness.