Friday, June 2, 2017

2017 InterPlay People of Color Retreat

By Carolyn Renée

In 2016 at InterPlay's Leader's Gathering, Leader's of Color (LOC) met each morning for a breakfast check-in. It was the Racine LOC group who unilaterally decided we wanted a retreat to spend more time together, to express and share more with each other and other InterPlayers of color who were not there. We decided we wanted to use the retreat to get to learn more about other InterPlayers of color; to discuss issues of racism and isolation within and beyond the InterPlay context. A committee was formed, for which I was honored to serve as the lead organizer, and months were spent planning for a 2017 Memorial Day Weekend InterPlay People of Color Retreat.

Photo credit: Ade Anifowose

The months of planning by the committee paid off.  The POC Retreat was POWERFUL!  From the beginning until the end, love, laughter, tears of joy and delicious food. We began the opening night with dinner, then invited key POC/LOC unable to attend in person to join the opening ceremony via technology. We opened with drumming, singing and building a sacred altar; then moved into a powerful "Where I Come From" InterPlay Form Walk-about.  The foundation for the retreat was laid with these activities.

On Friday we began with breakfast, then transitioned to play in nature. This was powerful too. In the afternoon we explored Physicality of Grace. Instead of looking at stress in the body, we looked at racism and oppression in the body; and how the opposite feels in the body. In the evening we had Play Performances using InterPlay Forms.

Photo credit: Ade Anifowose

The remainder of the weekend brought so many gifts. We played in nature on Saturday, and later on in the morning leading into afternoon, InterPlay Leader, Soyinka Rahim led the group in sharing how POC experience InterPlay in our communities and in the larger InterPlay organization. Later on Saturday, Leah Mann, Seattle InterPlayer led the group in a rich combination of forms (Blind Babbling, Blind Physical Contact, and Dance of Behalf of).  This is where we explored Internalized Racial Oppression by pairing up, and one partner opened their eyes while the other closed theirs.  We ended Saturday with an unstructured Group Play. Fun!

The power of what we'd created was evident when one InterPlayer left a day early due do a work commitment. The evening of his departure, the committee decided we'd have participants do a walk and share what they leave with.  Just prior to the InterPlayer's departure we circled up to do an "In Circle Walk About" based on the phrase "I Leave With". The departing InterPlayer walked inside a POC Circle of pure love with tears streaming down his face, deeply staring into the soul of each InterPlayer in the circle.  Finally​, on Sunday we did a big group evaluation and wrap up.  We closed with a grand celebration of our anchors, Soyinka Rahim and Coke Tani; literally picking Coke up and holding her in suspended air for 10 minutes sharing affirmations ​of love and appreciation.

InterPlay's first ever People of Color Retreat was transformative and filled with love.