On September 11th, The Center For Ethnic Racial and Religious Understanding (CERRU) held an interactive workshop in Powdermaker Hall led by dialogue fellowship director, Alysa Gray, where attendees were offered dialogue tools necessary for tackling difficult conversations.
Starting off the workshop on a high note, attendees were given the opportunity to introduce
themselves in an effort to create a more comfortable environment and encourage students to share their thoughts during the workshop’s interactive activities. Before the hands-on training began, Gray detailed a list of community agreements she
insisted every person should keep in the back of their mind when having a conversation, which included acknowledging vulnerability, embracing risk, being mentally present when speaking to another, and openly expressing honest opinions. “You’re an expert on your experiences, share that knowledge. You want other people to understand you,” Gray emphasized during the event.
One workshop activity, called Black and Red, was very rewarding and all the attendees participated. Each person was placed into either Group A or Group B. There were two frames (rounds) to the game. For each frame, the groups would have to privately choose either the
color red or black as their final answer. The scoring worked as follows: depending on what color each group picked yielded two different possible numbers as the end result via the combination board. For example, if group A chose red and group B chose black, then group A would be rewarded +5 points and group B would receive -5, but had group B chosen red, group A would have been given -3 points along with group B. As you may have already guessed, the incentive of the activity was never about who
could rack up the most points, but rather how each individual handled the situation and as Gray emphasized, “how it showed up”.
The methodology behind the activity was to participate in a concrete new experience, be a reflective observer by watching how both you and the people around you acted, attempt to explain the reasoning behind your observations through abstract conceptualization, and actively experiment your theories by making pragmatic decisions in the end. Attendees were able to utilize the community agreements taught to them earlier to help them work through the activity in an effective manner without upsetting their team members or themselves.
It was only after participating in the Black and Red activity that Queens College senior and elementary education major, Arielle Rosenstock, realized that she wants to change a trait about herself. “I need to start working on being less passive. It is much more gratifying to have been actively involved in garnering the results you wanted for something.”
Just like Rosenstock, many workshop participants left the room that day with a smile on their face and a newfound motivation to be more conscientious people. CERRU continues to create platforms where people can learn to bridge the gaps between those different from them, and apply those lessons learned into every aspect of their life. They have several events each
semester attended by students and faculty members.