February 3 was a full and exciting day for HALO– gathering for the first time since Jasmine had left for her 2 month tour in Germany and ready to launch our next step to undertaking the vision of Race and #RealTalk. We even had a photo shoot scheduled across town immediately after!
It was more of a hustle and bustle that morning than we had hoped, juggling kids, clothes, and makeup while trying to tune up to our old favorites for the opening presentation. Even so, once we’d placed the folders of music and materials on each chair and gathered in the warmly furnished prayer room of Centennial Memorial Church to tune up our spirits, we each felt empowered and encouraged by the positive energy surrounding us and the group waiting for us in the Centennial Great Room.
After sharing the HALO philosophy of using Barbershop as a framework for approaching the subject of racism and sharing…to discuss the question “what do you think racism is?” and how the various aspects of our identities influence those perceptions. We sat, shared, and discussed for about 30 minutes before we pried ourselves away from the intimate orbs of discussions and opened up to the full circle of the group to summarize our conversations. The tensions arose, but we felt assured that all of that loving energy that led us to be there together would lay the foundation of the safe space and community we’ll need to confront and handle those tensions.
Our second session was about just that. Locating ourselves as individuals within a system so that we may build a community that can be part of the collective movement in transforming our society. Through group discussion and experiences in singing, music, and our selected reading, Racism Without Racists (Bonilla-Silva, 2017) we explored the existing themes of our Barbershop metaphor, and discovered other poignant insights. With these experiences, uncomfortable ones included, we together have begun to co-create this community. We even came to a place where we contemplated how wide to space the “doorway”: who’s meant to be part of this? Who would really want to be? Who really “can” be? Our hope is that with doors that open wide for anyone who is willing to come and commit to honoring the sanctuary of our safe space here, everyone who does come will feel welcome and belonging. And that they would consider how much stronger our country would be and how different the world would be if there were even bigger spaces of safety like this. A HALO effect.
Personally, I often find that when the “afterglow” of these gatherings washes off, the airs of the “real world” seem to blow so cold that it chafes away whatever salient of hope that grew in those special moments. The vision of transcending the particular issues of racism seems platitudinous, at best, seeing its entanglement in the myriad of social issues that thwart peace and progress trigger heartache, confusion, and discord. Reflecting particularly on the tragedy of the fatal school shootings– sometimes it just seems as though we’re destined to find ways to destroy ourselves and one another. But I suppose there’s a reason the power of hope and faith has been affirmed not by power or might. They just stay with you– like the soil in your fingernails after you’ve planted seeds. So we’ll keep planting ours, by our wide-open doorway. And you’re welcome to join us. Whoever you are.
Shana Oshiro, MT-BC
HALO, Inc. Executive Director