Why “Build Intercultural Unity” through Unity Theater?

Unity Theater is an interactive, improvised arts-based theatrical experience for healing racism and all social oppressions, to bring about unity through song, storytelling, chanting, movement, deep breathing, meditation, creative visualization and civic dialogue based on the original artwork and music of Saint Angel.  It also features a community development component to aid us all in taking collective community action.  Diversity Arts will begin presenting Unity Theater in the next several months.  Centered on Saint Angel’s art to touch the heart and songs to soothe the soul, we have the starting point for a healing revolution.  Together, we are setting the stage for peace, love, justice and unity as we build a mobile sanctuary for civic engagement that restores faith, hope and love in our world.  It’s time to let our hearts soar.

Unity Theater is a process for helping us, essentially, build more love and light in the Universe.  It is a container in which a safe space is created to explore issues of our cultural diversity and unity through artistic expression.  We do this for the Highest Good, taking into account that we are, each and every one of us, special and unique creations, formed like none other, into exactly who we are and who we are meant to be, by a precious and good Creator, the Holy One, God.  Of course, we also exercise our own free will in the continued creation of ourselves, and it is thus important that we channel our wills for the highest good.  This brings good health and well being, not only to ourselves, but to everybody on Planet Earth.

When we build intercultural unity through Unity Theater, we are serving the Highest Good of ourselves, of Humanity, and of Planet Earth.  We are honoring God and Humanity, life itself, and spreading light, good, and joy to everyone, everywhere.

As we have all been hurt by the injustices of oppression, Unity Theater provides a safe place to heal and express our emotional pain associated with these wounds as well as positive feelings, holding out hope for a new day.  Within the loving arms of a special and diverse community, we express the truth within our hearts and souls, healing ourselves and each other as the performance of Unity Theater winds on. We create a space for listening.  As stories of pain and promise are told, we listen with openness and a non-judgmental stance, accepting what comes.  The tears may roll down our cheeks, our hearts may open, our laughter may be released.  We may come to see our unity, to know our oneness.  And through this process, we are moved with everyone present, to work together for positive change within our communities and our neighborhoods.

In this way, we may positively channel our difficult emotions for positive change.  Anger, pain, frustration and disappointment– the by-products of social oppression– must be channeled into something beautiful, constructive and positive for healing and productivity to take place.  The expressive arts are a way to heal as we channel our emotions constructively, explore ourselves and heal our hurts, and then feel cleansed by the healing process, thus enabling us to give to and receive support from others who may be culturally the same or different from us, and to go out into the world shining our newly strengthened light.

We have used and heard common metaphors for anger in everyday conversations with coworkers, colleagues, friends, family members, and teachers.

  • “He blew his top.”
  • “She flipped her lid.”
  • “I was beside myself.”

These are examples of people becoming separated from their minds in a psychological process of dissociation that is designed to protect us in some instances, yet it may also leave us vulnerable as we may become separated from the ability to do our best thinking.  And we need to do our best thinking — to put our thinking caps on, rather than flip our lids — when it comes to working together to end prejudice and oppression.  We need to employ all of our mental capacities and cultivate our mind’s clear thinking in order to build justice and peace.

We often don’t get anywhere with anger when we express it to others, albeit in a non-therapeutic context.  We need a safe, therapeutic space in which to express the anger, sadness and outrage that are the natural by-products of being treated unfairly, with racism or other prejudices such as sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, sizeism, and even men’s oppression– that which is targeted unfairly at men.

The theory of building intercultural unity through the Unity Theater performance works because, together, we create a safe space for dialogue and community-building where we realize we are all oppressed in some way, we state that this oppression isn’t right, this oppression doesn’t feel good to our hearts/minds/bodies/souls/spirits, and we affirm that we are all one, all connected here, on this Earthly Plane, in this one vast moment, we call “Life”.  We want to make the whole place better for everyone, out of the love we feel for each other in our hearts and souls.

This works because…

We remember that we are and have always truly been connected.  Learning, erroneously, that we were all separate and thus only out for ourselves, to greedily get the most we could while others suffered, was not the correct teaching.  If we followed in this way that we learned, it was not the correct path for us. We were erroneously taught that in order to get more for ourselves, we had to take from others, and put them down, in order to justify — erroneously — our “right” to take from them. We thought we benefited from the injustices of racism, sexism, homophobia and heterosexism, ableism, etc., when instead, we created a rat race on a treadmill spinning faster and faster inside a cage of no tomorrow. We wake up each day, spinning our wheels like we can’t get enough, spinning ourselves into a cycle of Earth’s destruction.  And most of all, we wake up feeling like Rats!  (Of course, real rats don’t deserve a bad name; they are also just another of God’s creatures with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!)

It is time for rebirth and renewal, and a healing or tikkun of our whole world with new values of loving each other, all life, all God’s creations, the Planet Herself…

Building Intercultural Unity Through Unity Theater will help us all find our way back to the Garden [of Eden].  Through these theatrical and therapeutic means — the expressive arts and dialogue — we return to God.  We laugh and we cry together until there are no more tears of sadness, only joy.  We come together to express our piece, and find our peace… and our wholeness.  Amen.

I remain…

Elana Felice Stanger, L.C.S.W., a.k.a. St. Anger a.k.a. St. Angel

 

 

 

They Say They Caught Me With My Hands Up, But I Didn’t Do Anything Wrong… By Elana Stanger, L.C.S.W.

How do we maintain hope at times like these when the media tells us that so much is wrong with our world?  We are told daily that the lives of immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, women, Jews, People of Color, LGBTQI People, and just about everybody else, don’t matter and are in danger.  We feel as if we are being put in a position where we must fight for our lives and our safety or die.  We worry that will not survive if we sit idly by and do nothing.

We must condemn the hatred and animosity of our enemies while not becoming like them ourselves. This is a difficult job.  We must stay centered within ourselves, our hearts, and our minds, for the Highest Good of the Universe to manifest.  How do we take the higher road, when we are scared for our very lives and our very survival, and at the same time, take care of our hearts?

How can we be a force that grows stronger in love, truth, light and peace, rather than becoming like our enemies who choose to espouse hatred, lies, darkness, and violence?  The wicked mindset of White supremacy and those who spew racist hate speech, commit violent actions against good and innocent human beings, and harbor racist beliefs toward those same good and innocent human beings is abhorrent.  We must understand this mindset as antisocial pathology in terms of psychology.

It may be possible to treat these people psychologically.  However, it is more important that we focus on ourselves and our own mental health concerns, taking care of ourselves first, before going out into the terror of the lions’ den to convert and coax racist White supremacists from out of the darkness and into the light, although some of us may have the resources and inclination to do this work.

It is hard to accept that someone who we have elected to be the leader of our beloved country, a country of beautifully diverse individual citizens and groups, espouses these same erroneous beliefs and mindset.

Therefore, I would now like to suggest a few supportive exercises to sustain and grow our mental health while having to combat racism and White supremacy.  Turn of the TV, the phone, the computer. Then, do these four things: (1) rest, (2) sit in meditation and practice deep breathing, (3) take quiet walks in nature, and (4) write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal.  These practices that will help us find inner peace, quiet, balance, and will make us all more effective activists, healers and artists fighting for the Truth, Worth and Dignity of All of Us.

Remember to Rest

Rest is important.  I offer some guidance on rest here: Remember to Rest.

Meditation and Deep Breathing

If you do not already have one, start a daily practice of breathing deeply for 10 to 20 minutes.  I offer some guidance on meditation practice here: Daily Meditation.

Walks in Nature

Go to a neighborhood park or the woods if you have them nearby, or just take a quiet walk around the block, taking in the sights and sounds and practicing deep breathing as you walk.  Stretch and relax your limbs.  As you walk, let the chatter in your mind dissipate as you find your quiet center.  Stand near a tree and feel yourself calmly inhale the oxygen it is producing for your breathing pleasure.  Feel your heart calm down inside of your chest as you breathe.  Turn up the corners of your mouth slightly into a relaxed smile.  Remember it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, so turn that frown upside down…

Journal

Writing in a journal or notebook can help you sort out your thinking.  Placing the stressful thoughts and feelings outside of you so you no longer carry them around inside of you where they can fester, contaminate your precious mind, and create a sense of overwhelm, is possible.  Just write everything down, your fears, your cares, your worries… You might just feel so relieved by the time you are done, that you feel ready to run a marathon, literally or figuratively.  As you write, you might also come up with some great ideas to execute in the work of social justice and building intercultural unity!

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters Who Support Trump for President: An Open Letter to Share the Love, Show You Respect, and Increase the Peace Among All of Us

letter-to-my-brothers-and-sisters-who-support-trump

Dear Brothers and Sisters Who Support Trump for President: An Open Letter to Share the Love, Show You Respect, and Increase the Peace Between All of Us,

Greetings.  How are you feeling today?  Perhaps you are feeling hopeful now that Trump has been elected to the role of President, but before this, perhaps you weren’t feeling so good or doing so well. Perhaps you were feeling that your jobs and your money and your family’s safety was being threatened daily because of others who may seem to be somewhat different from you in culture or religion, race or gender, nationality or sexuality.

I, Dear Brother and Sister, wish to talk with you more often.  I want to find out what’s wrong and see if I can help, if the problems you are now facing can be solved without directing hate at anyone.  For hate only fuels fear and more hate.

What we all need, and what we’ve all needed, is LOVE.  We need to connect with one another, to get to really know one another, so that we may be able to really help one another.

For I know you need help.  I know you need something from me and others who care and who want to bond with you in a spirit of love and connection, help and trust, compassion and forgiveness.  You want these human qualities, just as I do.  You want to be vulnerable and trusting, to be able to rely on us and depend on someone that cares, just as I want to be vulnerable and trusting with you, loving and compassionate, and share these human qualities together…

I, Dear Brother and Sister, have watched, have seen on television, on radio and on Internet, some actions that were taken by Trump supporters to raise your hands in the air in the same way that the Nazi regime raised their hands in the air to “heil” Hitler.  Dear Brother and Sister, I have watched and seen that Trump is appointing certain people to Office who are full of hate and anger, rage and fury toward the same people whom they are meant to govern with fairness, openness, and a willingness to serve.  And I am Jewish and White.

Perhaps, you have felt condescended to by our outgoing President and those with whom he has worked to “care for” the country.  Perhaps you felt forgotten, denied opportunities, unseen, unheard, uncared for… And I’m sorry for that.

It took a long while for me to really see and really understand the hurt you faced all this time, but it is not too late to learn more about what you need, what you want, and also importantly, how you are feeling.

I understand that you want help.  For when someone such as yourself acts openly with hatred for anyone, that person is asking for help.  That person needs our love.  That person needs our attention. That’s you.

I would like us to know each other better, and be able to communicate about what is important to you, Dear Brother, Dear Sister.  Please give me a chance, give us a chance to see you more clearly and know the love inside of you behind the mask of hate and mistrust.  We’ll all be happy when we may all take off our masks in safety and be able to breathe free again.

Blessing you with peace and everything you need for the highest good,

Elana Felice Stanger

Peace Star by St. Angel

peacestarbuttondesignbyst-anger

I dedicate this Peace Star to all my beloved Jewish sisters and brothers who aim to make peace and bring harmony to everyone everywhere through the pursuit of social justice and truth. And to all those who work for peace and social justice, may we all come to know peace swiftly and soon, everywhere, in our lifetimes! Amen.

Peace Star design by Elana Felice Stanger, L.C.S.W.

More of this artwork to help us communicate a vision of peace and social justice may be viewed at www.diversityarts.com.

Before and After

green-tree-with-sun-in-centerorange-autum-tree

Before and After.

Before and After,
Though not the same tree,
Everything changes but Eternity.

The election results have resulted in us feeling more fearful.
However, while fear may fuel us,
This fuel is not the most healthy
On which to run our lives.

These results have resulted in us feeling like we need to mobilize… galvanize…
And this is good…
However, shall we do it from our center core, or from a place of imbalance?
Shall we do it from fear or from love?
From hate or from respect?

Yes, it is always…
Has always been…
Time to come together.
Let’s keep going forward now.
Into Eternity.

We are one.

– Elana Felice Stanger

How Racism Hurts Us, White People, Too

This article was published in the May 2016 issue of the Newsletter of the Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work.

 

How Racism Hurts Us, White People, Too

By Elana Stanger, LCSW

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

— Lilla Watson

“If White people have suffered less obviously from racism than Black people, they have nevertheless suffered greatly; the cost has been greater perhaps than we can yet know.  If the White man has inflicted the wound of racism upon Black men, the cost has been that he would receive the mirror image of that wound unto himself.  As the master, or as a member of the dominant race, he has felt little compulsion to acknowledge it or speak of it; the more painful it has grown, the more deeply he has hidden it within himself.  But the wound is there, and it is a profound disorder, as great a damage in his mind as it is in society.”

— Wendell Berry

White Liberation from the Role of the Oppressor

A lot of times, White people have difficulty with and avoid the discussion around being White and what it means to be a White person in our society.  Feelings come up that we learned to suppress and about which we learned to remain in sustained denial.  We had to do this for our survival, and when we tried as young people to question or struggle against the injustice when we noticed it, we were squelched and adultism came into play.  We listened to those in authority, our parents or caregivers, family members, teachers, those in whom we knew we had to trust, those who had already been hurt by internalizing their role as the oppressor.  Perhaps we became numb from denial.   

Recently, I have been attending a workshop called Unpacking Race which has been meeting one night every week for the month of March in West Philadelphia.  It is based on Theatre of the Oppressed and other methods to help us, the participants, learn more about ourselves and hopefully unlearn some of the social conditioning we have internalized as people living within a racist system. I am in this workshop, as we all are, to learn more about these issues and where we all are with them, and to offer my expertise in aiding the healing process as opportunities for healing present themselves.

As a facilitator of intercultural dialogue myself and healing racism through art for the last 25 years, I asked a question of the group, “At what age and during what experience might you have first realized that you were White?”  

I shared that I grew up in the Bronx, a very culturally diverse environment in New York City.  When I tell people I am from the Bronx and they see that I am a person considered to be White, they often question what part of the Bronx I am from.  Well, I am from the part of the Bronx that includes people of all races, nationalities, languages, religions, genders, sexual orientations, ages, mental and physical abilities, educational levels, socioeconomic classes, sizes, etc.  The diversity of New York is wonderful and provided me with a most valuable and significant education, simply in terms of being able to grow up in my neighborhood and go to public schools where diversity was, and is, ubiquitous.  

I did not learn that I was a person considered White until I arrived at Ithaca College in Upstate New York, a homogenous White environment, at 17 years of age.  I was experiencing extreme culture shock, and I wondered whether the people of color were feeling something similar.  I could blend in, but many could not blend in the same fashion.  I was so uncomfortable that I took a vow to do something about this situation before I graduated.  This led to the birth of Students for an Interracial Dialogue, a student organization which I founded to hold dialogues on the campus about race and racism.  They were well-attended and I had discovered my calling as a facilitator of interracial communication.  This calling led me to open an art gallery and community center devoted to cultural diversity awareness and building bridges, leading prejudice-reduction workshops nationally, and conducting diversity training and consulting for large corporations.  I also began creating artwork around cultural diversity issues and have maintained a website of my artwork, also making it available on products, for many years.  

Around the room at the workshop, however, many of these White folks shared that they knew they were White for as long as they could remember.    

Being One’s Authentic Self

As Therapists, most of us are concerned with the authentic self and help our clients to find their own authenticity and their own truth.  Yet, many White Therapists do not take the time to consider the ways we have been hurt by racism and how this system has greatly impacted our ability to be fully human and authentic.  Many of us carry around the burden of guilt, shame, anxiety, and other stressors connected to racism.  We have had to remain in denial, lest we notice too clearly the frightening impact that this injustice has on people of color.  Racism makes us mean, selfish, and greedy.  It has caused us to embrace a role that is often devoid of creativity, uniqueness and authenticity, while we are merely trying to blend in.  Most of all, being White has kept us artificially separate and isolated from the entirety of humanity.

Having Your Heart in the Right Place

So, what can we do?  We can collectively make sure our hearts are in the right place.  This means that we must daily, actively work toward the dismantling of racism within our inner and outer worlds, our psyches and our society.  How do we do this?  We offer lovingkindness, compassion, truth, acknowledgment of the injustice.  We act in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, with people of color everywhere, and we respond with love and acceptance.  We respond with a heart-felt desire to make everything as right as possible, to bring justice, to bring peace.

Having Your Mind in the Right Place

Knowledge is power.  Let us participate in learning groups and activities for healing racism.  Let us learn about the histories and cultures of those in our midst who may have a different skin color.  Let us acknowledge the horrific experience of the enslavement of African peoples and the African diaspora as a story of survival that is extraordinary, real, and worthy of our utmost respect.

Having Your Soul in the Right Place

Our souls long to be connected with all of our brothers and sisters as one human family, one people, and one race.  Let us leave behind denial and learn to follow that instinct that leads us forward to explore and discover a new day, one based on justice and equality, love and authenticity.  Let us gently, yet with strength and fortitude, honor that spark that unites us all.

Compassion and Self-Compassion

It is important to heal ourselves from the effects of racism that we, too, have internalized indirectly as White people.  We may do this with compassion for ourselves.  It is also important that we have and exhibit compassion for others, as we have compassion for ourselves.  It is important to allow ourselves to try something new, to make mistakes if necessary, as this may be the only way to learn.  Let us find safe spaces in which to do our own healing work, give up our role as oppressors, and right the scales of justice.  We do this for our own liberation, too.

Being an Ambassador of the White Race

Remember to be an ambassador of the White race.  Give some thought to what it means to be an ambassador.  An ambassador is defined as an accredited diplomat sent by one country as its official representative to another country.  When we are doing the work of building intercultural bridges, let us be intelligent, gracious, and respectful of those with whom we interact.

Elana Stanger is a licensed clinical social worker who has been involved in the work of bringing cultural diversity awareness through art and healing racism for the last 25 years.  She is currently publishing a book of her spiritual and inspirational art and writing called, The Apology: The Art of Interracial Healing.  She would like you to visit www.OurApologyforRacism.org to consider what it would mean to apologize to people of color for racism, and write an original apology for possible inclusion in her book. Another of her books, My Heart Goes Out to You: The Art of Building Intercultural Unity, will soon be available through Amazon.  Elana’s diversity artwork, Art to Touch the Heart, and her blog, The Love Letter, may also be helpful resources: www.DiversityArts.org.  Also see www.DiversityTherapy.com for information about what Elana is doing to heal racism on a deeper level.  Contact Elana: Elana@DiversityArts.org.