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Exploring race, power and privilege with Trupti Magecha 

In June, HUMMUS will organize the second edition of the Masterclass: A Creative Approach to Race, Power and Privilege in Mechelen. It promises to be a transformative space for new insights, growth and the opportunity for a heartfelt experience about what we need to do to tackle social injustice. In preparation for this masterclass, I had an inspiring conversation with the facilitator and dear friend Trupti Magecha (director of deep:black). We spoke about the impact and necessity of this kind of work, how challenging and uncomfortable it can be, and about the bravery it takes to explore this within yourself and within groups. 

Each of us has a role to play in creating a better world for social justice

Trupti Magecha

Trupti: “Deep:black is a social enterprise that offers space and creative tools to explore subjects that can be challenging. I began working on the subject of race, power and privilege during the lockdown of 2020. We were looking for a way to respond to the murder of George Floyd and the lively Black Lives Matter protests around the world. As a team, we were trying to work out what we could contribute to this conversation. Our first commission in this field came from the KSH University in Munich, who asked us to create something in an online forum. We developed ‘Race, power and privilege’ originally as one seminar of online modules in which trainees consider their role in systemic racism, how it impacts their sense of self, how to move towards anti-racism practice and really start to unpack some of the less-examined aspects of racism. The intention is to acknowledge that yes systemic change needs to happen and each of us has a role to play in creating a better world for social justice, but that can only begin once we have examined ourselves. It begins, like all of our work in deep:black, from the inside out. That is what I would like to offer when we come to do this work in Belgium.” 

Fanny: “I recognize the movement from the inside out. That is also what we teach in HUMMUS. It all begins with self-compassion before you can be compassionate with somebody else and their identities. The starting point of deep democracy is the importance of hearing all the voices. Obviously, sensitive themes such as oppression, discrimination and racism come up when you talk about minority and majority voices in a group. We have some ways of dealing with that in deep democracy, by creating safe and brave spaces to talk about it. However, I really think deep:black can bring an added value to this masterclass by working with creative ways of dealing with it. Creativity brings in another level of consciousness. We must acknowledge that our usual verbal ways of working are already a way of the dominant culture coming in. Bringing in other ways of communicating and becoming conscious is a more inclusive way of dealing with these topics. As human beings, we have our minds, bodies and hearts. We need every channel of our human being to bring consciousness about these embodied, inherited, systemic ways of oppression. And that is why I am so delighted to welcome the creative approach of deep:black for this masterclass.” 

Trupti: “As an art psychotherapist, I belief that this embodied relationship with being creative can be really useful to enable us to touch different parts of ourselves and integrate our whole self. I actually just finished delivering this work in London in a psychotherapy training. There was an incredible awareness of the depth within which we held this work that felt really different. Someone told me: “Intellectually I understand, and for over a decade I’ve been deeply committed, but what I realize now is that I was deeply committed in my mind. The way that we are doing this work here enabled it to fall into my heart.” For me, that is what true social justice work needs. It needs for us to commit with our whole selves. I hope we will bring some of that heart work to the masterclass in Belgium. During the training, we also worked with concepts such as white superiority. People from the global majority considered that if the white people in the room had to challenge their sense of superiority, it was their job to work on their sense of inferiority. What do they do to make themselves feel small? What I know about this work is that it is an incredibly powerful and dynamic, transformative experience.” 

Fanny: “I think that the idea that it is going to be a transformative space, even for the one-day masterclass, is something I would love to hold onto. I even had a bit of a similar experience with a very heterogeneous group of health workers, with people from the global majority and white people who were mostly from Flemish descent. They had some questions about cultural frames of reference and their patients’ so-called strange behavior. I do not like this ‘othering’ of people’s cultural reference frames, so I first started with talking about how we would describe Flemish culture. The Flemish cultural ideas and biases are entrenched in how we organize our health system. I brought a little piece out of my book about the five typical threads of Flemish culture, the wounds of Flanders as I call them. One of these wounds, for example, is the collaboration during the Second World War. For the white people from the group, these topics brought up a lot of resistance and disbelief, but also recognition that it was very uncomfortable. The people from the global majority told me that they found this so interesting and even liberating since it is never talked about. This starting point enabled us to turn around the way that we normally organize our intercultural communication and have a deep conversation about it.” 

Trupti: “I think we have had a lot of conversations recently about what a painful, messy subject this is. I wish I could find a way for it to be nice, neat and tidy. I am really open to hear ideas, but so far I have not found a way to have these conversations without it feeling challenging and uncomfortable. Moreover, I think that we need to acknowledge that our ancestry and heritage is like that. It is messy, painful and sometimes even shameful. We all carry that burden of our heritage. A very fabulous book of a woman for whom I have a great deal of love and admiration talks about the burden of heritage and generational trauma that we all carry. The invitation is that if we can use these spaces to begin to do some healing work, perhaps we hand down a little less

No mud, no lotus

Thich Nhat Hanh

Fanny: “I think that is my main mission with this as well, that in each group we work with we can bring a bit of healing and therefore not pass it down to the next generations to come. I always comfort myself with a sentence of Thich Nhat Hanh. He says, “No mud, no lotus.” This work specifically is muddy, messy and uncomfortable. It is not always going to be as safe a space as we might want it to be. We need some bravery to go through these kinds of processes.” 

Trupti: “For me, safety is kind of questionable. Safe with who? Safe from what? As somebody from the global majority, I find it really heartening and uncomfortable to confront my difference. My difference is always there. It is not about whether I am bringing it, but about whether I am willing to have a space where I can talk about it. I cannot always acknowledge those differences in my everyday interactions. To be able to name it, I find liberating. And to be with people willing to name their differences too, I find liberating. I think that is a powerful invitation.” 

Fanny: “Last time we had you here for the masterclass, a lot of people agreed that it was very empowering for them personally. At the same time, it brought them a lot of anchors that they could bring into their own courses and own facilitation work to also liberate the voices of the people they have in their groups. That is the double layer we bring in this masterclass. When we, as trainers or facilitators, find spaces where we can talk freely, become more conscious about our own differences and become more comfortable in expressing them or sometimes even noticing when we do not want to express them, that allows us to hold spaces for others.” 

Brave Space by Micky Scott Bey Jones 

Together we will create brave space 
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” 
We exist in the real world 
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds. 
In this space 
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world, 
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere, 
We call each other to more truth and love 
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow. 
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know. 
We will not be perfect. 
This space will not be perfect. 
It will not always be what we wish it to be 
It will be our brave space together, 
And, we will work on it side by side.