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The Power of Circle

By Sarah Super, Racial Justice Program Specialist
January 12, 2012
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Someone once defined racism to me as “the denial of being in relationship.” So when someone laughs at the racist joke and when the achievement gap is a racial gap, the damage and pain that is done unto others is also done to ourselves. Community is broken; trust, lost; bridges, burned. How, then, do we come back into right relationship?

The YWCA believes in the power of stories. If racism denies our relationship to each other, stories connect us together, and healing begins with dialogue. Circle process, a tool for effective discussion, began as an indigenous tradition that brought people to talk and make peace around a fire. Today, the YWCA uses the Circle process when approaching challenging conversations about eliminating racism.

The structure of Circle process creates the possibility for freedom: freedom to speak the truth, to be present, to acknowledge fears and mistakes, and to act with our core values (Pranis, The Little Book of Circle Processes). Participants sit in a circle to symbolize equality, leadership and accountability. Circles start and end with a ceremony that marks the space as sacred. Participants begin by agreeing to conversation guidelines that keep everyone respected and safe, such as maintaining confidentiality, using “I” statements, listening with a willingness to learn and change, and sharing time equally. A talking piece, which gets handed around the circle, aids the discussion by signifying who is speaking and who listens, as well as by offering everyone a time to talk.

The YWCA of Minneapolis’ Racial Justice Department offers Circle Process training for you to learn the ancient tradition that helps us restore peace and communicate effectively. Find out more about our Racial Justice Facilitator program.