Three Ways To Start Talking About Why Black Lives Matter

Right now, we are at a crucial tipping point in history. The senseless death of George Floyd last week brought to the forefront years and years of heartbreak and anger, which has swiftly swept across America. We’ve seen thousands come together throughout the world, rallying for racial justice and illuminating why black lives matter. Play for Peace has joined this movement, by listening to the stories and emotions of those who feel the pain of racial inequality, and by acting—using and sharing the tools we employ in our work to create a more compassionate world. 

Experiential education has allowed our clubs and communities around the world to learn important lessons around bringing people together and finding ways to create a more just and equitable world. Thanks to Play for Peace team member, activist, facilitator, and author Marilyn Levin, the three activities below from her book, Experiential Activities for a Better World, can help you start the conversation about why black lives matter in your home and in your world, and fight against violence and racism toward the black community. 

1. The Lesson: According to Marilyn, “The first step to creating the world that works for all is to be grounded in the reality that we have an amazing capacity to do things we don’t yet know we are capable of doing.”

The Activity: What is happening in the world right now may seem too big and too difficult to tackle. However, the Mind Power Activity is a great way to demonstrate that with your intention and focus, you can create something you didn’t know was possible. Watch as Marilyn explains how you can not only move objects with your mind, but also unlock your hidden potential and turn what might seem impossible or hopeless into action. 

Use this lesson as a reminder that you can create change in your community, even in small ways—by posting about racial injustice via social media, sharing ways to get involved and join the black lives matter conversation, and voting for change.

2. The Lesson: “We have the need to speak our experience and our truth, to be heard and have aware witnesses to the struggles and pain that has come from living in an oppressive culture. . . . We speak from this place to create release and healing,” she says. “We need compassionate, loving people to witness this healing while remaining clear about our goodness, our power and our capacity to heal.”  

The Activity: The Listening Pairs Activity is a mirror for what is going on in the world as we speak—listening to voices on the news, social media, and in rallies around the world, helps us understand the struggles and pain of others, and in turn, change our behavior. For this activity, each participant has a partner, with one person as the talker and the other as the listener. The listener cannot ask questions or offer feedback or advice—they ONLY listen. For two to four minutes, each person will take on each role, with the listener making sure to listen with rapt attention and really focusing on the talker. The talker must have confidence in the intentions of the listener and let out whatever feelings he or she has. Please start this activity with others who experience a similar level of oppression as you, as there is a history of highly oppressed people not being listened to that we do not want to perpetuate.

Through this listening activity, we can not only see the importance of listening to others, but the powerful impact of quality listening. Moreover, we not only see the importance of talking and offloading our feelings, but the importance of speaking our truth to others. According to Marilyn, “Each of us needs ongoing support to heal the oppressed and the oppressor within.” 

3. The Lesson: In her book, Marilyn writes that, “[A] piece of cultural conditioning that interferes with our ability to be our most amazing as a human community is polarization.” If you look at others as the enemy, judging and feeling negativity without fully understanding, it is damaging to you and your ability to be your best self. There are very legitimate reasons for oppressed people (and all people who are against the oppressive system) to have every human emotion possible, including justified outrage and the need for protection from people who would harm them. Thankfully everyday people are stepping up to express these feelings in ways that move us forward.

The Activity: In the Polarization Activity, you will use visualization to experience feelings of love followed by feelings of hate to notice how your emotions and body sensations affect your being. Watch as Marilyn walks you through the exercise.

“The point of this exercise is to remind you that your judgment and hatred of others is damaging to YOU,” Marilyn says. “It also reminds you that the love you feel for others can be a great healing force in your life.” Through this activity, we can learn to replace our own negative feelings and judgments with love and healing, in order to heal ourselves and the relationships we have with others.

Racial injustice is a complex issue, and these activities are not meant to be an easy fix to the hurt and pain so many people are feeling at this moment. Our hope, as an organization that utilizes experiential education to create compassion, connection, and community amid conflict, is that they can be a starting point for conversation and action, so that the movement to recognize that black lives matter causes the change that is needed in the world.

*To learn more about the power of experiential activities, click here for your copy of Experiential Activities for a Better World by Marilyn Levine.

**Cover photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash