Finding Freedom Through Courageous Conversations

Imagine a world where we are vulnerable and strong in our convictions to make this a more equal and safe place for all, a world where we have the freedom to show up and be seen for all that we are and for all that we are not. Race and Identity are at the front and center of our lives. On June 14 at the Mirus Gallery, TEDxMileHigh: Uncommon attendees came together to engage in courageous conversations surrounding race and identity and the important place they hold in our world today.

Past TEDxMileHigh speaker, Theo EJ Wilson, Bobby LeFebre, and others, helped facilitate the event by sharing stories, asking thought-provoking questions, and performing powerful poetry and dance. Attendees and facilitators were encouraged to check their armor at the door and approach the night with an open heart and mind, because if these conversations cannot happen in a safe place, nothing changes and people are left still feeling small and judged. As the evening ended, attendees grouped up with 5-7 people and shared how they could take what they learned throughout the evening and use it to better inform their circles, their lives, and the world.  

One of the main themes of the night was the beauty and challenge of how each of us decides to show up. No matter what our race is, every day we get to decide how we are going to interact with the world. Will we be timid? Strong? Vulnerable? Afraid? Audacious? It’s easy to forget that although there is a lot in this world that we cannot control, there is more that we can.

Society will never stop judging. Everyone will always have something to say about what you’re doing, how you’re living, and who you’re deciding to be. That’s the challenge. But, the beauty is in what we choose to do with our lives despite this. It’s in the ability for us to know what it’s like to be judged and outcast, and still able to extend grace and understanding to a world that sometimes refuses to give it.

“Narratives are important weapons; and I don’t think we give as much thought as we should to our narrative and to the narratives we give each other.”

– Michael Acuna

We too often make assumptions about who we think people are. We make judgements about the lives we think they live based on our own implicit biases and the stereotypes we’ve been conditioned to trust. But our stories give us power, and our narratives create an avenue for us to start bridging the gaps between who we think people are and who people actually are.

Michael Acuna, better known as Ill Se7en is an artist, speaker, and poet. He reminded us that our stories are powerful and we need to be intentional with how we create and understand our narrative and the narratives of others. Acuna created an interactive exhibit where attendees could start to identify and create these kinds of narratives. They wrote of identities they aspired to embody, by finishing statements like “I am…,” “I choose to be…,” and “I shall be.”

Community Mural

A community mural of powerful narratives created by attendees.

This exercise helped people see that our stories go much deeper than what people see. We are so much more than our race, and when we are able to get to know each other and see these narratives, it changes how we interact with humanity. We’re able to know and be known in a way that incapacitates all judgement, animosity, and fear.

Only when we fully embrace and accept the power and unique potential of our narratives, can we embrace and accept others. It always starts with us. Our stories and our narratives are weapons that we can use to fight systematic oppression, and they’re weapons that we can use to fight for a world that we believe we deserve to live in.

At the Race and Identity Adventure, we were challenged to step out of our own ways of thinking and start exploring the minds and perspectives of those who are different from us. We were inspired to keep fighting for freedom and for equality. We were supported by those who feel the pain that comes from carrying the weight of oppression, violence, and judgement. When we have these courageous conversations about race and identity, both the oppressed and the oppressor find freedom. The Race & Identity Adventure was a powerful gathering, and many attendees left for the night feeling a little more mighty and a little more free.

Michael Acuna was a huge part of what made this night so special, and he will be hosting an Implicit Bias Workshop with TEDxMileHigh: Adventures on August 1. He will dive deep and seek to demonstrate the evident truths behind this difficult discussion.

RSVP to join us for more adventure and discussion with Michael Acuna at 6pm at Galvanize!