|Here at Point Made, we try to stay informed and educated about anything and everything addressing equity and inclusion. To that end, we recently started an internal newsletter that is turning out to be really helpful. Call us “nerdy,” but we really do try to learn something new everyday. 🤓 We’re pretty sure you — our wonderful community of equity-focused educators and learners — feel the same way so we’ve decided to share.|
In honor of Pride this month, we’re focused mostly on the latest information and resources that will equip us to do better in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
Let us know what else we need to know (send us a direct message here).
And, if we may, a request: If you learn anything new or useful in this newsletter, will you please share it with at least one other person?
Here’s to learning something new, together.
WHO TO FOLLOW THIS MONTH
Raquel Willis is a black, queer, transgender activist, and the Executive Editor of Out Magazine.
Lambda Legal is the largest national legal organization litigating and advocating for LGBTQ+ people.
Sydney Freeland is a Navajo trans woman, filmmaker and activist dedicated to creating equity in entertainment.
SAAB: An acronym, commonly used online, for “sex assigned at birth” when referring to a trans person.
Mx.: In place of Mr., Ms., etc. for someone who does not identify as a man or woman or whose gender identity might shift (ex. Mx. Smith)
QPOC: An acronym that stands for Queer Person of Color or Queer People of Color.
Cissexism: The belief or behavior that transgender identified genders are inferior to, or less authentic than those of cisgender.
Cisgender: Describes a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person was assigned at birth.
Check out this comprehensive list of the latest terminology as it relates to the LGBTQ+ community.
What’s the deal with Incels? Check out the latest New York Magazine articleabout Incels (involuntary celibates) and “chads” (the pinnacle of masculinity in the Incel community). While this topic is creepy, disturbing, and a bit confusing, it’s something to be aware of as this internet-based group uses hate speech and sometimes even violent acts to target women and LGBTQ+ folks. There’s a lot to try and get our heads around and this podcast that goes in depth on the topic is a great start: Stuff Mom Never Told You; “Involuntary Celibacy.”
SOMETHING TO MAKE YOU SMILEThe Mayor of Mexico City drops gender-specific school uniforms for public schools. “Boys can wear skirts if they want and girls can wear trousers if they want,” Mayor Sheinbaum said. She added that the measure would create “a condition of equality, of equity”.
LISTEN UP!Stuff Mom Never Told You: A biweekly podcast focused on intersectional feminism, gender and sexuality. Their recent episode on asexuality was super enlightening!
Making Gay History: A monthly podcast that tells the stories of largely forgotten LGBTQ+ heroes of history. Their recent Stonewall episode reminds us of the importance of Pride and giving credit where credit is due.
LOOK DEEPER: RACE CIRCLES
If you’re anything like us, you are always looking for ways to talk about race and racism in more meaningful ways with the people in your communities. Well, we’re pretty excited about an online program we’ve created to help you dive into those conversations.
Look Deeper: Race is an interactive digital experience built around our documentary I’m Not Racist… Am I? and we want you and your friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow worshippers, book clubbers, and family members to go through the program and then get together and talk about it in Look Deeper: Race circles.
Starting in September, we’ll provide you with facilitation guides, discussion questions, and support from our network of facilitators. Plus, we are going to kick these circles off with a series of live webinar events hosted by a few of your favorite rockstar equity experts. Stay tuned for details later this summer. And be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to get updates. Start thinking now about who you’ll invite to join you in looking deeper!
As subject matter learners, we value any opportunity to learn from new experiences and perspectives. So last Friday our team saw Straight White Men, Broadway’s first play written by a Korean-American woman, Young Jean Lee.
The play’s title has an ironic draw. It’s simple and says exactly what you need to know — this show is about straight, white men. And the performance follows suit.
When the show opens we are greeted by two chorus characters — one transgender, Native person and one gender non-conforming white person named Person in Charge 1 and 2, respectively. They are, as their names suggest, “in charge” of the action onstage. These characters serve as buffers for what might be triggering or uncomfortable content for audience members who aren’t straight, white men. Person In Charge 1 and 2 feel familiar and, despite their complex identities, more relatable than the title characters.
The principal characters, Jake, Drew, and Matt, are all brothers visiting home for Christmas with their father, Ed. They spend time reminiscing over their childhood, recalling moments of radicalism and protest while playing an amended version of Monopoly, developed by their mother, called “Privilege.” We get a sense that this family is “liberal” in that they believe (at least on the surface) in liberal ideals. But as the action unfolds, so does the facade of those liberal ideals.
During an intimate Christmas Eve dinner, Matt breaks into tears — an awkward and unfamiliar experience for the family. This moment looms over them into the next day, leaving everyone unsettled, especially Drew who insists that Matt seek therapy. Everyone has an answer to Matt’s problem: money, insecurity, depression. Matt’s answer is simple: he wants to be useful.
At the core of the production’s story is a discussion of expectations. What is expected of white men? What does accomplishment look like for white men? What destiny is chosen for these characters and for people who look like them? And does failure to meet those expectations decrease their worth?
Lee leads the same way Point Made Learning does — with empathy. While this play challenges the privileges of white manhood, it also exposes the dangers. White men, at least the archetypal white man, benefit from the various systems of oppression designed by and for them. The assumption is that they live without injury. Lee challenges that assumption by suggesting that white men face at least one difficulty: themselves. Matt does not get to choose his destiny, though the privileges of his whiteness, education, and wealth create the illusion that he has self-determination. His destiny (or expectation) is that of the other straight, white men before him — to conquer whatever space he enters. But Matt does not want that, and his family, noticeably missing its matriarch, cannot reconcile his decision or lack thereof. Why wouldn’t he use his privilege to his advantage? Why wouldn’t he participate in white supremacy? Those are their expectations of him and other straight, white men for that matter. But Lee asks another question: are all white men the same?
Marginalized people may find this question difficult to answer. Why should we use our energy to consider the dilemma of white manhood? It’s unfair, and that feeling of inequity lingers after the show closes. But in an era of quick judgement and harsh consequences, Lee looks for a middle ground: an understanding. Where is the empathy?
In the end, there is no clear answer. It is — to borrow a term from Jennifer Yim, one of our mentors and partners — “deceptively simple.” On one hand, Young Jean Lee’s writing and Anna D. Shapiro’s direction leave little to the imagination. Everything is simple, like the play’s title. But there’s also an irony to its simplicity. It makes you wonder why it was so easy. And that maybe it was not so simple at all. There may not be an answer but we can at least commit to learning more.
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“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great- grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy.”
So begins The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking look at the systematic mass incarceration of African Americans for more than 150 years.
We frequently hear versions of this question: “Slavery ended so long ago; why are we still talking about it?” As Alexander explains, the thirteenth amendment did abolish chattel slavery in the United States. But it also left open the possibility for involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. She then lays out a detailed and incredibly-researched look at how that 13th amendment loophole established a framework for using mass incarceration to continue to deny equal rights and protections for African Americans.
We first read The New Jim Crow years ago, before we started production of our feature documentary I’m Not Racist… Am I?. But this is the type of book worth coming back to again, and again. There are also now more discussion and teaching guides to go along with the book and, of course, Ava Duvernay’s incredible documentary 13th.
So, as we’ve grown our team this year, we decided now was a good time to re-read. We hope you’ll join us – particularly if you’re looking to expand your understanding of the specific and concrete ways American racism plays out today. This is one of the way to address the “mind gap” in our path toward racial literacy.
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In response to Starbucks’ nationwide racial bias training day, Point Made Learning hosted a conversation about racism and bias to give everyone a chance to talk about bias, #NotJustStarbucks. The same day, ABC sitcom Roseanne was cancelled following the title character’s comparison of former White House advisor, Valerie Jarrett to an ape.
It was a serendipitous moment in pop culture; the same day Starbucks trained employees on implicit bias at 8,000 stores, Roseanne Barr is fired for her explicit racism. Where #Starbucks was Twitter’s top trending topic earlier in the day, #Roseanne diverted attention from the national conversation about interrupting racism to focus on the spectacle of her racist behavior.
Why are we so swift to condemn racism but resistant to acknowledging our complicity in it?
Far too many Americans still believe racism only exists on the fringes of our society, in dark, shameful corners of the country. But it also exists in Starbucks. And in the common room of a Yale, graduate school dormitory. And in both Roseanne’s fictional and real lives.
Yes, Roseanne’s cancellation sets a firm precedent for zero tolerance for hate speech. But let’s not praise ABC’s decision, criticize Roseanne, and then wait for the next spectacle. These moments provide us with an opportunity to deepen the national conversation on race and try to figure out how we’re individually and collectively going to do better. Discomfort is the beginning of change and having discussions about racism is uncomfortable, no matter where or when you enter. Avoiding those conversations, however, creates space to deny racism’s existence and consequences. And then it’s only a matter of time before there’s another Roseanne, another Starbucks, another Ferguson.
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When Starbucks announced that it would conduct a companywide racial bias training following an incident of racism in one of their stores, we saw an opportunity to promote a productive discussion with our community. But we realized that the discussion needed to reach further than our circle. The nation needed to engage in the conversation about racism and bias to unpack what’s been brewing.
These incidents are not isolated. Flagrant displays of racism are recorded so frequently that news coverage feels trite. But the frequency of these incidents should not bore us. They should inspire us to take some action, if not to organize in opposition of racism, at least to talk about why racism persists.
In that vein, we hosted a series of virtual discussions via Facebook to make the conversation about inequity actionable using tools from our I’m Not Racist… Am I? Digital Course. Throughout the day, participants submitted questions, comments, and engaged with Point Made Learning staff on social media. Staff at NYU Silver School of Social Work, YMCA and other organizations joined in groups to take our digital course and discuss its content with their peers. As LeRhonda Greats added during our Facebook Live, “talking is ACTION, so is listening.”
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Since the release of the documentary film I’m Not Racist… Am I?, Point Made Learning (PML) has held more than 400 screenings and workshops across the United States. Facilitated by senior members of our staff, these events engage diverse audiences and help communities think, learn, and – most importantly – talk about race and racism in ways they don’t often get a chance to do.
Some of our events involve a screening of the 90-minute film, followed by a 30-minute Q&A. Sometimes we get a chance to go a lot deeper, when organizers make a commitment to plan a series of events that engage every segment of their city over the course of several days. It takes a ton of work to make that happen, but the impact can be far-reaching and significant.
For those of you thinking about hosting your own I’m Not Racist… Am I? screenings and workshops, we think that reading about what other groups have done might be helpful in your planning process. We’ve reached out to a few of the people who have been instrumental in some of our larger programs across the U.S. and asked them to talk about what went into planning and executing, what worked/what didn’t, and what they wish they’d known.
Keep reading to learn about our May 2017 programming in Des Moines, Iowa.
This past May, a number of community groups collaborated with Point Made Learning to bring I’m Not Racist… Am I? (INRAI) to Des Moines, Iowa. There, partnerships forged between church groups, high schools and Drake University made it possible for the film to screen three different times — twice at local high schools, and once at the Drake University auditorium. Among the audiences who watched the film were the faculty from every Des Moines area high school (approximately 600 teachers total), high school and college students, and community members interested in deepening the conversation about race and racism.
One of the screenings’ primary organizers, Sheena Thomas, got involved when members of Des Moines’ Anti-Racism Collaborative reached out to her because they were all part of a multi-church network called AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy). Thomas was able to secure grant money to fund the screenings, and she was able to recruit local stakeholders to join in the planning process.
For the Des Moines community, screening the film was about more than hosting a neighborhood movie night; the organizers intended for INRAI to help people tackle difficult issues that affect many groups in their area. For example, Thomas said, the local high schools have a major issue with out-of-school suspensions and the “School to Prison Pipeline” that primarily affects minority populations.
“That is a huge problem here,” said Thomas. “Iowa has one of the highest incarceration rates for minorities in the pipeline … so there is a lot of work to be done here, and that was a rationale for bringing this in to the schools.”
According to Thomas, many people “just don’t get” why issues of race and racism are so important. “They don’t have to live with it in any way, shape or form,” she said, “so it’s hard to get them to understand, to see things differently, from another perspective.”
Like the stone Sisyphus was pushing up the hill over and over, the issues of racism and white privilege will not go away without more and more education.
Films like INRAI are a major aid in reaching those people and helping them find the alternative perspectives of which Thomas speaks. She said, “The films generated enough discussion and provocation that people were still discussing it long after the showing, and I thought that was really good.” She added that one of the organizers’ goals was “to develop enough sensitivity so that we’d have some leaders who wanted to pursue doing something on the subject,” and that has been the case — after the events, young adults created a Race Education Committee, an adult group formed to discuss these issues, and the Anti-Racism Collaborative held a speaker series for AMOS members to attend.
When asked why hosting events like the INRAI screenings is important, Thomas was direct: “Like the stone Sisyphus was pushing up the hill over and over, the issues of racism and white privilege will not go away without more and more education. That’s why.”
Inside the Planning and Promotion Process
In our discussion with Thomas, she discussed what it took to bring the screenings to life. Here are some of the highlights from our Q&A.
PML: Once you had the idea, what were the steps you took toward making it a reality?
Sheena Thomas: The Anti-Racism Collaborative was very good about saying, ‘Let’s have meetings,” and setting dates, and getting things done before each meeting which needed to be done. We worked on who we were going to market to … then it was working on the marketing and working to get interviews for (PML’s) Catherine Wigginton Greene to do with two TV stations and the public radio station. Also, we had posters that we put up all over for the screenings, around the churches and shop windows, and around Roosevelt High School. And I was able to get a billboard — several billboards — as places for community publicity.
PML: If you could do the process over again, what is one thing you’d do differently?
ST: I would start the public marketing earlier, and it would have been better to have Catherine’s interviews air a little sooner to give people in the public more info and time to plan. Oh, and because I thought we might be overrun or overwhelmed with people attending, I suggested sign-ups online. That may have actually deterred people from coming.
PML: Was there anything that happened which really surprised you? What was it, and why was it surprising?
ST: Getting to know the members of the Anti-Racism Collaborative, the students of the groups at two of the Des Moines High Schools, the faculty and administrators in charge of school climate and their eagerness and thoughtfulness were surprising to me. Also, the total backing we received from staff and foundation at Plymouth Church was amazing. One of the people on the foundation was instrumental in helping us get our marketing done.
PML: Overall, what were the biggest challenges you faced as an organizer? How did you respond to these challenges?
ST: My biggest challenge was working on the organizing in and around my job. There was a lot of emailing that had to be done and which did impinge on my work time at my shop and on my home time as well. I was very grateful for the others who were also organizing on their own.
PML: What advice do you have for other people who want to hold similar events? Say, your top 3 tips…
ST: One: Start early — 9 months before the event was good in our case.
Two: Get buy-in from several groups and collaborate in the planning. And share the costs.
Three: Market like crazy and use the resources offered by Point Made Learning when doing so.
If you are interested in hosting a Point Made Learning film screening or workshop, please send us an email: email@example.com
Also, check out our new I’m Not Racist… Am I? Digital Online Course — a valuable program for corporations and individuals who want to Look Deeper into race, racism, and bias.
Point Made Learning is the consulting and programming extension of Point Made Films, a production company focused on telling stories about the many layers of American identity. We use documentary film to facilitate productive discussions around the most uncomfortable topics we face in American society – starting with racism. We’ve taken an innovative approach to raising awareness and organizing communities through our unique combination of storytelling, real talk, and digital tools. We tell true stories and teach powerful lessons about issues that matter.
We never show the film without a post-screening dialogue facilitated by someone from our Point Made Learning team because we want communities to dig into this work together. And we think a good story can start the conversation.
Point Made Antiracism Workshops – Using Stories to Inspire Dialogue
[tweetshareinline tweet=”Interrupting racism becomes impossible in a climate of defensiveness and blame.” username=”PM_Learn”] But watching young people dig into the hard work of learning about systemic racism – and then talking about it with others – can motivate all of us to do better. That’s what we hope to accomplish during screenings and discussions of our documentary film – I’m Not Racist… Am I? (we call it INRAI – ‘In-Rye’ – for short) which followed a diverse group of teens and their families through a yearlong exploration of race and racism.
Check out this video of one of our workshops. You’ll see filmmakers and dialogue facilitators Catherine Wigginton Greene and André Robert Lee use INRAI as the foundation for leading powerful and productive discussions about race and racism among adults and teens – focusing not on who’s to blame, but on how we can take collective responsibility to start making real change.
Contact us if you want to bring this work to your community or organization.