How can we bring allyship into workshop practice?

Germma Orleans-Thompson and Faaria Ahmad roundup highlights masterclass

25 October 2023

On 21 September 2023, Global Learning London (GLL) delivered a session with A New Direction to support creatives in bringing allyship into their work and practice. GLL has been working with education spaces and organisations in developing their anti-racist knowledge and bringing this into how they manage their practice. Through this work, we have learnt how best to hold spaces to have conversations around building knowledge and allyship with humility and courage.

The session started with ground rules, turn-taking and caretaking. Darren Chetty, an anti-racist expert and educator gave GLL permission to use these ground rules in our training. Turn-taking requires intentional listening and being mindful of sharing the space. Caretaking requires us to care for ourselves, each other and the subject being discussed.

Language is fluid and contextual, however, we need to know that although we may not always have the perfect terminology to discuss difficult subjects, this shouldn’t be a barrier for us. This was mentioned throughout and is important to remember when actively improving on allyship.

The check-in activity asked people to think about their privilege in ways other than ‘race’. Some of the statements included “I almost always see members of my “race”, sexual orientation, religion, and class widely represented on television, in the newspaper, and the media in a positive manner.” and “I have family members or family friends who would have been able to facilitate work experience in the arts for me.”

Become an ally graphic.jpg

We then moved on to thinking about our own biases and self awareness, using Ibram X Kendi’s quote from his book “How To Be an Anti-Racist” where he states that to be an anti-racist requires “persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism and regular self-examination”. We then invited participants to think about the books they had read when they were younger, and how Black and Brown characters were represented, if they were there at all.

After spending some time discussing the Peter’s Projection map, we shared definitions of racism, discrimination, prejudice and allyship. Rakaya Fetuga’s poem, 'Prejudice' was shown and we thought about what we knew, assumed and wondered about the topics she discussed. A great discussion followed where participants were very candid about their observations and how that appeared in their day-to-day lives.

After a short break, we covered the Casey Report which found that only 50% of the public expressed confidence in the Metropolitan Police. We spoke about the three footballers who missed penalties in the 2020 Euros final and were subjected to a barrage of racist comments and attacks.

A dynamic section was after showing a video in which a woman’s consumption of media had led her to make assumptions about her own son, discussion ensued in which we spoke at length about the influence of the media, both consciously and unconsciously.

After using examples of the lack of diversity in the arts, we spoke about the role of a facilitator, what we need to bring to the room and what we need to leave at the door. We introduced protocols of protection and how they can be used to create a space where all participants feel held and able to verbalise their feelings in a constructive manner for the session.

We finished up by asking each participant to come up with an action that they can undertake to become better allies and to set regular reminders on their phones to keep them updated and evolving.