I know I've missed a lot of the introductory work to the project so
please let me know where I am misguided in my observations.
I need to explain a little bit where I come from, and about my
motivations for wanting to work on the project- and I would be
interested also to hear about your motivations as well. I'll explain
Thinking about community and what it means in real social terms, as
well as psychological terms, to feel that one is inside or outside a
community is a project I am passionately engaged with at the moment.
I am, after all, an immigrant- albeit a "privileged" one. And I have
felt the difficulties of beginning to interface with the seemingly
homogenous cultural community of greekness. A community tied very
passionately- as Harris pointed out (I think!, my greek...)- to blood
rather than geographical circumstance.
I have another, equally personal, connection to the topic. My little
brother is black.
I have studied in some detail issues of race and the civil rights
movement in the United States and have followed more distantly the
writings of those engaged in thinking about identity and race. From
this perspective I wish to say several things.
There is almost no connection between African immigrants who have come
to Greece through (traumatic) economic and political necessity, and
the extremely traumatic circumstances that define the ground
African-Americans have grown up on. Slavery in the States was an
institution. The historical effects of that trauma have infiltrated
american consciousness in an entirely different way. I agree strongly
with Christina (? sorry, I don't have everyone's names yet) on that
point. I think it is almost dangerous to conflate the one with the
other and that we need to look specifically at this experience here.
Obviously one could have a passing association with a black person on
a bus and think of Rosa Parks- but to dwell on this might be another
form of racism. Are all black people on a bus in a primarily white
community linked forever to the history of segregation in the United
States? What does that association say about us?
I want to think carefully about this. About our own relations to the
black people/minorities/outsiders around us- about our own motivations
for wanting to work on this. It is so easy to project our own
sympathies and fears onto an entire people and it is important to
become aware of our own "inner racist"- however well-meaning it might
be. So I would ask everyone to examine what we think when we see the
black people around us in transit- and what our thoughts about them
say about us.
Speaking for my little brother (which I should not do): my observation
of him is that he wanted as a teenager to completely ignore any
mention of his difference. He wanted the whole issue of race to
disappear. He wanted to fit in. And his own family felt compelled to
bring it to his attention- but why? We were afraid for him. We were
worried. We had memories of injustice. We wanted him to be
prepared..... And we let these fears guide us. Would it have been
better for him if we had instead let ourselves be guided by the simple
interactions of the day?
I am concerned that we might make a similar mistake(?) with the kids
in the project.
That being said, I think there is an amazing level of completely
unconscious racism in Greece. Please excuse my generalizations right
now- of course this is not true of everyone! My observation is that
many people believe they are tolerant and not racist, and yet they
carelessly, unknowingly, marginalize outsiders with small comments and
gestures constantly. The pervasiveness of this marginalization is
shocking. Perhaps due to a lack of experience with it, Greeks seem
not to have brought the heart of racism to consciousness. I think
that bringing our own racism to consciousness is a critical step.
While "politically correct" actions and language have many problems in
the way they have been carried out and even exploited (in the States),
it does have a very important function. The careful use of language
brings awareness and consideration of a minority- on their own terms.
In thinking of this idea- coming to someone else's terms- we can begin
to think about the children in the project. What do they want? How do
they want to be seen and addressed? We might frame structures that
make it easier for them to express this- but after that we can only
I don't understand yet what the children's roles are in the project
and I think it should be clarified. Are we working WITH them? Are
they collaborators? Unfortunately it seems very difficult to do that
in a meaningful way- given how little time we have- but maybe not
impossible (or could the project be extended?). Or are they being
directed by us? Are they participating in an art work by adults? Is
this a community / art therapy-based initiative- if so, what are the
I would appreciate if anyone could fill me in on where this stands at
the moment, or just share your thoughts about what you think it should
I have some theater-game suggestions for work-shopping with the kids
based on some of Augusto Boal's community-based theater. And I think
it might be interesting if we participate in the performance, or at
least the workshop, together with the kids- bringing our own naked
thoughts to light.
I think its a very challenging and critical topic!
I look forward to hearing from you.