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Center on Halsted hosts 'Courageous' talk
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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The Center on Halsted's ( the Center ) held the first in a series of conversations, "Courageous Conversations: United/Divided—Divisions Among Our Communities," Sept. 21 at the Center.

Jackie Rosa ( For Colored Girls Collective founder ) moderated the event, which featured a diverse group of panelists—Channyn Lynne Parker ( Howard Brown's Broadway Youth Center youth drop-in manager ), First Nations Cree Fawn Pochel ( American Indian Center education coordinator ), Rachel L. Tillman, LCPC ( psychotherapist who oversees Illinois' LGBTQ Violence Helpline within the Anti-Violence Project at the Center ) and Joanna Thompson ( the Center's community outreach and engagement coordinator ).

Ahead of the discussion, Tamale Sepp ( the Center's director of community and cultural programs ) explained that the genesis of this series stemmed from the controversy that occurred between various members of Chicago's LGBTQ community during the Dyke March. Sepp also said there is a need to have these conversations out in the open within a safe space and not just in private and to facilitate this she asked attendees to write their questions down for the moderator to ask the panelists.

Rosa had each panelist define how they see call out and call in culture and then she delved into specific questions about these terms.

Parker said call out culture is directed at the community at large while call in culture requires individuals to do a self examination regarding their words and actions.

Pochel noted that call out culture has to be done within a community as well as the wider world via social media to hold people accountable. In terms of call in culture, Pochel said she is still struggling to understand what that means for her.

Tillman explained that for her call out culture is an attempt to change a behavior but it can be toxic when people police others too much because it can be detrimental to a cause or movement. She said call in culture "is an attempt to humanize that which has previously been dehumanized."

Thompson said it is important to be mindful and spot the isms when it comes to call out culture while call in culture should create a sense of inclusivity among all cultural identities and intersections.

Rosa asked the panelists when they have been a part of call out culture. Parker said she calls people out who engage in what she calls cultural paternalism ( what works for them should work for everybody ). Pochel spoke about the time when her organization, the American Indian Center ( AIC ), took money from the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation and how problematic that was. She said it took others to call out the AIC for them to sever ties with that foundation.

In terms of calling people out via social media that Rosa called a woke off, Thompson said it gives people the license to post something they would not say in person and it is worse when it happens within the LGBTQ community.

Tillman noted it is a nice way to fight for social justice causes but one has to be aware of their level of privilege in any movement before they post something.

Parker explained that social media posts shame some people into silence.

"Do not let your activism become terrorism," said Parker.

Pochel said the problem with social media is thinking everything is all about oneself so it is vital to unplug once in a while.

The panel also addressed how they respond when others try to drag them down. Tillman said she invites them to a conversation offline. Pochel noted that one should be open to what others have to say but also be strong in their convictions. Parker explained that continuing to do the work and let that speak for itself is the best way to combat negativity and for her a victory occurs when a homeless youth gets the keys to their new dwelling. Thompson said that some people will not change so the key is not to engage with them in any setting.

They touched on the issue of calling out bad actors on social media and whether that is moral when it causes someone to lose their jobs like what happened after Charlottesville with a number of the white supremacists in attendance.

Pochel and Thompsons said it is fine to call out Nazis. Thompson and Parker noted that one should not fight hate with hate. Parker said the white supremacists at the protest were told lies about their lives by the power structure at all levels of government.

Other topics included call outs within one's family, in the workplace and the system as well as how can allies speak their mind, the fact that social justice movements do not have a cohesive message and bringing people together in movements.

The next Courageous Conversations—on holiday de-escalation tactics and ideas—will take place Tuesday, Nov. 21, at the Center.

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