This event featured a conversation with: john a. powell, Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute and Professor of Law, African American, and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley Catherine Fieschi, Director of Counterpoint UK, a comparative political analyst and author. Mathieu Lefèvre, CEO and a co-founder of More in Common Abdul-Rehman Malik, journalist, educator, and cultural organizer, Yale Divinity School and Yale University Council of Middle East Studies. And a spoken word performance from Muneera Pilgrim, poet, cultural producer, writer, broadcaster, and co-founder of Poetic Pilgrimage. Details about this initiative and all future events in this series at belonging.berkeley.edu/towardbelonging.
Rachelle Galloway-Popotas: Hello, everyone. Welcome. Welcome to today's Toward Belonging livestream. I'm Rachelle Galloway-Popotas and I work for the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California in Berkeley. I'm beaming in to you today from Athens, Greece. So Καλημέρα από την Αθήνα (good morning from Athens). Good afternoon and good evening to everyone who's joining us from this side of the world and later time zones. And good morning to all of you who are joining us from the United States and from earlier times of the day. So thank you so much for joining us for this inaugural dialogue that's part of the new initiative called Toward Belonging that the Othering and Belonging Institute is working on to expand our work outside the US in order to strengthen work that we, and all of the people in this discussion, and probably many of you who are joining us today, are doing as well to build and secure more fair and inclusive societies, take care of each other, and take care of our living earth.
Rachelle Galloway-Popotas: So I also want to extend a welcome on behalf of our partners, who we've been working with over the past year to develop this initiative. That's More in Common, Counterpoint UK, Queen Mary University of London, and SciencesPo University in Paris. A thank-you also to the many other people who we've been in conversation with around this work and whom we hope to work with more closely in the future. Many of you mentioned you'd be joining us today, so we look forward to following up.
Rachelle Galloway-Popotas: I want to thank Sara Grossman, who's holding it down and managing our social media channels today. And I also want to thank Open Society Foundations for helping to support this initiative. So now I want to introduce our moderator, who will also be sharing much of his wonderful wisdom and perspective for today's discussion as well, Abdul-Rehman Malik, known affectionately as A.R. Hi, A.R. A.R. is a journalist and a cultural organizer who is currently teaching at Yale Divinity School and in the Muslim leadership lab at Yale's Dwight Hall Center for social justice and public service at Yale University. So thank you so much, everyone, for spending time with us today in what I believe will be a rich, rewarding, and much-needed conversation among people whom I have the privilege of working with and being in community with all of you today, to help us make sense of the current moment we're in and move us forward to a world based less on othering and more toward belonging. Over to you, A.R.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Rachelle, thank you so much and good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Salaams to wherever you may be in the world. Thank you for that wonderful introduction, Rachelle, and for setting the ground for us to the Othering and Belonging Institute, and all of the partners for making this conversation possible. When I was growing up, I was told by an uncle of mine that the best prayer he could make for me was a prayer that he got from the Chinese, and I believed him. And he said that the prayer was: May you live in extraordinary times. Over the last few months, I have often asked God, the divine, the universe, why this time was chosen to answer that particular prayer. We have been living in extraordinary times. Not only has the prayer been answered, but it feels like the results of it have been amplified.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: To say that this is an extraordinary time feels like an understatement. To say that we're in a historic time feels like a cliche. And yet I think all of us, wherever we are and wherever we're situated, the communities that we're in, the institutions that were a part of, the family units that sustain us or break us, we find ourselves challenged. And this is a challenging time, and this is a historic time. And yet, at the same time, I'm reminded that, in pandemic, we've learned about isolation, marginalization, loneliness, poverty. The haves and the have-nots have all been shown up in sharp relief in this pandemic moment. Yet none of those things are new. The global inequality, marginalization, poverty, the segregation of people along the lines of class and circumstance, ethnicity, and race is not something that's new. That in this moment of uprising and of action and activism and taking to the streets around issues of anti-black racism and police brutality, we are reminded.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: And for some people, it seems like they're being reminded for the first time or are finding out for the first time that these things exist. And yet we know that these are long historical processes, that these are things that actually have shaped the very societies and the world that we live in, that white supremacy is not new. Carceral violence is not new. Police brutality is not new. Oppression is not new. And yet we are seeing it anew in this current time. And to speak at this particular moment around issues of anti-black racism is to understand that, for many people in black skins, this is just life, and this is just reality. And so, in this particular moment, while this seems terribly ... That our circumstances may feel terribly new, they are part of long historical processes.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: And as we watch these huge multi-racial movements across the world become activated, as we see our streets come alive with the dynamic response of people to this particular moment, I want us to keep in mind that there have been people who have been working on the ground for decades to confront these toxic diseases of the social space. Today, we want to get right into the heart of activating this conversation. We have with us three incredible individuals who, themselves, each represent bodies of work, communities of action and thinking, that I think will bring meaning to this moment and really allow us and give us the bandwidth to explore what belonging means right now. The way this conversation is going to go is going to ... We're going to get started by hearing from our three guests. And then really jump into the issues.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: And the question for them at this particular moment is: How are you and how is your work being activated right now? And I'm going to begin by bringing into the conversation John A. Powell. John is no stranger to so many of you, an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, structural racism, and he's the director and founder of the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of California. John, situated where you are in the United States and also involved in the work of an institute that is expanding its work beyond the borders of the United States, how are you and the work of the institute being activated in this particular moment?
john a. powell: Well good morning, A.R., So thanks for the question and thanks for helping us get this kicked off. And also I wanted to say what a pleasure it is to be here this morning with my fellow panelists and friends and colleagues, and all of you who are live-streaming. At the Othering and Belonging Institute, we're quite busy. Like a lot of you, we've been sheltering in place. So for me, that's a good thing in the sense that I'm not on the road so much. Last year, I think I clocked in over 300,000 miles flying. I won't to do that certainly this year. So it's nice to be on the ground, but we're busier than ever. And part of the reason we're so busy is that, like many of you, we're dealing with a pandemic, but, here in the United States, we say we're dealing with two pandemics. So we're dealing with the coronavirus 19, and we're also dealing with institutional and structural racism, anti-black racism. And those two things are coming together in some interesting and hard ways.
john a. powell: But first, let me give a little more context, because although we'll be talking a lot this morning about anti-black racism, anti-black racism, which is ... It's actually useful to name it. It's not just racism in the United States or it's actually other groups actually experience racism as well, but it's the hard core of it can be understood through anti-black racism as evidenced by the police and evidence by things that's happened happening here all the time, but also white supremacy. So there's this conflating of these two different things. And these are, in some ways, extreme expressions of othering. It's basically saying: Your life doesn't count; you don't count. If you look at the police killing George Floyd, and if you haven't looked at it, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. It's a horrendous portrayal to watch someone's life being taken, but it's also very instructive as how casual the police were, how comfortable they were.
john a. powell: Even though they were being filmed and there were people watching them, they were not disturbed. So, in the United States, I just checked, the New York Times recently said there's been over 2000 demonstrations, virtually every state in the country. Across the globe, there's been over 3000 demonstrations. And now, remember, this is happening at the time that people are supposedly sheltering in place. So people are actually exposing themselves to the potential harm of the virus to come together to try to address another harm. And those two things coming together is unprecedented. The virus itself is unprecedented, but now having the virus be present while we're trying to address these deep issues of othering and anti-black racism is also phenomenal. One other thing I think I'll add is that there's always a question because, in the United States, as A.R. said, we've been dealing with a number of these issues, certainly police brutality, for decades.
john a. powell: I was in Detroit in 1967 when they had the uprising there. And so, in some ways it may seem like: Haven't we seen this before? Haven't we done this before? And the answer is maybe, or yes and no. There is something different about this, the scope of the involvement. In '67, the United States noted that there had been almost 200 riots or 200 uprisings. We're now talking about 2000. The involvement of people from all walks of life, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, whites, people who are in the military, the former secretary of defense. We see major corporations all expressing support, which is largely unheard of. And then we have our friends and allies across the world. So there's something about this quite different. And I think part of it is also, as people react to it, there's a notion that they're also expressing the othering that's going on in their own society.
john a. powell: That may not take on the form of a race or anti-black racism, but there's a way that we say to people: You don't belong. There's a way that we say to people: You're not part of the we when we talk about the we. And every society, virtually every society, has this expression. And sometimes it's expressed through religion. Sometimes it's expressed through immigration, sometimes it's expressed through language, or many other factors, but when you say to people, "You don't belong," you actually not only denied them full membership, you threatened their humanity. And this process of denying people the right to belong is what we call othering, and it is a process. And we make it clear that even though it's a global problem, and it's a global problem that a light's been shined on now in a brighter way than it has been in recent years across the globe.
john a. powell: The question then is: What do you do about it? What's the intervention for belonging? And, well, excuse me, for othering. And we like to remind people that it's not saming, it's actually belonging. It's not saying those people, whoever they apparently are, however they're apparently different, that they're just like us, but to say they're just like themselves, and yet they fully belong. And so it's a complicated process. It's something that most psychologists and anthropologists feel like it's the basic human need to belong, to be seen, to be respected, to be recognized. And when you don't have that, what you get are walls, incarceration, mass incarceration, and police killings, and sometimes even genocide.
john a. powell: So it's a global problem. Again, the expression of it in the United States is really hard right now around anti-black racism, but it's also hopeful that we're seeing this kind of outpouring of support from various circles. The question is: Can we sustain it? Can we actually translate this into something that's quite different?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Thank you, John. And we're going jump really into that question in a few moments. I want to into this living-room space of nearly a thousand people, Catherine Fieschi, who's the founder and executive director of Counterpoint, a London-based consultancy on social and cultural dynamics. Catherine worked with the British council before and was director of the leading think tank Demos and is an old friend and co-conspirator and co-collaborator. So it's wonderful to see you, Catherine. And I also want to invite into the room Mathieu Lefevre, who's the director and co-founder of More in Common, an organization that I think many of you have heard about, and some of you have engaged in a unique project to build inclusive societies that value respect and diversity.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: And Mathieu comes from this intersection between civic action and technology. So welcome, Matthew and Catherine, to the conversation. Before I jump to you, Catherine, I also want to say that that we have this incredible array of human beings who have come and joined us in this living room of belonging: Boston, Massachusetts, Richmond, California, Nairobi, Kenya, Wales, Oregon, Vermont, London. There's people here from all over the world, and so welcome to all of you. Catherine, in your work now as ... At Counterpoint and before at the British council, you've been a comparative analyst, haven't you? You've been looking at the ways the dynamics of this particular moment are being witnessed and acted upon not only in the UK, but in the broader context of Europe. How are you and your work being activated in this particular moment?
Catherine Fieschi: Thank you, hi. Hello everyone, wherever you are. It's lovely to be in conversation with you. I think, for me, this is ... I am. I'm a comparativist. I was trained as a comparative political analyst. And I suppose one of them makes me get up in the morning is to try and understand how some of the most contentious concepts that we work in in politics travel from one place to another, and whether they travel or whether they don't. If you take one, and you take it from one place and you plunk it somewhere else, what do people hear, right? If, when you say the word community, sounds relatively straightforward to an Anglo-Saxon ear, for example. It's a much more complicated concept if you take it to different parts of Europe.
Catherine Fieschi: So for me, this moment is particularly interesting because, even though we live in a world where memes and symbols have traveled more and more easily through not just 24 hour news but through social media, et cetera, I think that we're witnessing something quite spectacular here in terms of the adoption, the natural adoption, right? That's one of the first things that strikes me about this moment, is that, whether it's here in the UK or whether it's in Berlin or in Paris, there is, there was something absolutely natural about people congregating into squares getting together and actually paying their respects, but also showing their solidarity, their understanding, their empathy, their concern in both senses of the word, right? Concern because they were concerned about what's happening, but also concern because it hit them very profoundly.
Catherine Fieschi: There was an intimate connection with what they felt they were living as an injustice or witnessing as an injustice. So I think it is an extraordinary moment in that respect, in that crossing of symbols, and in that solidarity that seems to have been triggered by George Floyd's death and by the protests and the Black Lives Matter's protest. But I think that one of the things that I'm also really aware of here in the UK, but across Europe, is that we had Occupy, which we shared across the world 10 years ago or so, which was really about class and inequality and disparities. Then we had Me Too, which was more about gender and feminism. The one thing that, as Europeans, we really didn't want to talk about was race.
Catherine Fieschi: And I think that, for the first time, we're having what feels to us like the most difficult conversation, which is a conversation about race. And we've tiptoed around it, whether this ... Again, everywhere in Europe, we've tiptoed around it. We've talked about cohesion, we've talked about integration, and we've talked about the different ways in which we manage migration, manage ethnicity, but actually talking about race is something that we have avoided either purposely or un-purposely, with all our might. And I think that, for me, this is an absolutely pivotal moment. It's certainly a pivotal moment here in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. And it is the discovery, as you mentioned in your opening remarks, A.R., it's the discovery of another reality.
Catherine Fieschi: I'm reminded of the piece by Jelani Cobb in the current issue of The New Yorker, which is an incredibly powerful piece, I thought, where basically people just discovering another country that of which they were unaware. And I think that this is what is happening here in Europe. And, to some extent, I would go even further than some of what John said earlier on when, John, you were saying, "You say to people that you don't belong." To some extent, I think our conversations about colonialism and empire have been so stunted and so stultified here in Europe, that actually we haven't even bothered to say to people: You don't belong. It's been even more insidious than that, I think. It's been a complete blanking out of the problem, which is a level of exclusion that I think has finally come to an end, and we're having the necessary conversations, and they're painful, but I think we've started something really important.
Catherine Fieschi: The last thing I would say on this is that, traditionally, those of you who are in the United States might know this. Those of you who are in Europe, I'm sure that you do. There's always an unease when people try and compare Europe and the United States. We Europeans tend to get on their high horse. We're nothing like them. Our police forces are nothing like theirs. We never had slavery, et cetera, et cetera. I think it's really quite interesting that at last we're acknowledging that we suffer from some of the same problems, rearranged, of course, different historical trajectories. But, at this point, we have no choice but to face the fact that, we have more in common, even in our problematic histories, than we often care to acknowledge.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Thank you for that, Catherine. And thank you for that final remark in particular, that this idea that, because this taking stock and contending with is happening now, that underneath that really there's this privilege that some people have for not talking about race and racism, for not addressing those structural realities, because they are not party to them or, in fact, may be part of those structures and systems which uphold them. Thank you also for that very interesting point about empire and colonization and coming to terms with that. And we're going to be bringing someone into the conversation later who's been at the epicenter of really street-level, direct action around that from Bristol. But you also said, "More in common," and that was a perfect introduction, wasn't it, Mathieu, to you?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Mathieu, you're in France, but the research and the work of More in Common looks at other countries as well. And you're not just doing research. You're trying to find ways, as the others are on this call, to actually understand the mechanics of building common cause and common platforms and common action in places like Germany, Italy, and Greece. What does your work and the work of More in Common feel like at this moment? How are you being activated?
Mathieu Lefèvre: Can you all hear me okay?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: We can.
Mathieu Lefèvre: Great.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: I hope that's the same for everyone else.
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:25:04]
Abdul-Rehman Malik: And I hope that's the same for everyone else?
Mathieu Lefèvre: Excellent. Well, great. It's such a treat to be with all of you and to be in partnership with all of you at this moment. Because I feel very privileged to be having this conversation with all of you. Because I want to acknowledge that what you said at the start AR, which is that we are cursed with living in extraordinary times. And I want to say that over the last two or three years, I've so enjoyed and benefited from the partnership and the ability to be in conversation with our partners at the Othering & Belonging Institute.
Mathieu Lefèvre: But also at Sciences Po and Counterpoint and Queen Mary. Because the last few years I think have been profoundly disturbing. I think of this period as us leaving a way to organize society and our economy behind like a snake shedding its skin. We all know that the way that the economy is being organized doesn't quite work, creates inequality. Even those who defended market capitalism to the death realized that at this point it's not really working. So, we're leaving a society behind and we're mutating into something else.
Mathieu Lefèvre: And the last few years of Brexit and Donald Trump and all of the suffering that that has caused in many parts of the world is part of that mutation. And of course, the last few weeks with the double pandemic that John talked about has been so painful for so many people and also such a transformation. And I also want to acknowledge the fact that so many people have been suffering either because of their health or because at the hands of police brutality or have been suffering in so many other ways in the last few weeks. I think this has been a incredibly fraught time. And I think the psychological damage to us needs to be acknowledged and we need to open up a space to say like, "We're not okay," collectively.
Mathieu Lefèvre: So, it's been an enormous privilege to be in partnership with the Othering & Belonging institute and others during this time. So, our work at More in Common in many ways feels like it's been building up to this moment. So, we've been studying us versus them dynamics and narratives for a while now. And I think what's really powerful about the framing that John brought to us about around belonging is partly because team othering has really been doing much better than we have, than team belonging. And I think team belonging really needs to step up. Those who have sought to other has done so much more effectively than those who have sought to write a new story of belonging in the last few years.
Mathieu Lefèvre: And so, the starting point of our work... And I just want to share a moment that I certainly had in our work is that we started about four or five years ago around the question of immigration. And of course, immigration is a focus of othering in many parts of the world, including Europe. And the start of our work is to try to understand what is it about them, the immigrant or the refugee or muslims or communities of color? What is it about them that creates such a strong reaction in this majority, in this us? But really, we flip the question. It's not about them. It's about us. It's because we are not sure of who we are and what we stand up for and what we mean by belonging and what social project we want to put forward.
Mathieu Lefèvre: That's why we are creating this us versus them frame. It's got nothing to do with them. It's got everything to do with us. And so, that's why we started on the journey of doing very extensive research based on social psychology to understand us. And so, one of the things that we do is we don't look at us for example, the population of the United States as one group, we do segmentation analysis. And we look at national populations in terms of families of values. And we try to go under the hood of opinions to try to understand the psychology of these different groups.
Mathieu Lefèvre: And that gives us a much richer picture of who is us, who... Because I think we need to be pretty clear-sighted about who we are, if we are to write this new definition of belonging, which I think is the point of the conversation that we're having. And this as Katherine was saying very rightly, this quest for this new meaning of who we are, this new story of us applies very much to the United States and to Europe but to other parts of the world, if you think about India, if you think about Brazil, if you think about places like that. So, I just wanted to share two insights from our research and part of it is good news and part of it is less good news. And I think we need to be clear about both.
Mathieu Lefèvre: The good news is that we actually have a lot more in common as people than what we might think. If you open Twitter or TV, you see a 50/50 world that can't agree on anything. But actually, people agree on quite a lot. So, one finding from our research in France that I found so striking and that I think will resonate with a lot of you is that when you ask French people... And this is true in other countries by the way, to describe their ideal France, would you like a France that is more respectful of the environment, with more law and order, where inequalities are reduced? A whole list of things. The item that comes out as number one is, "We want a country where we are respected and heard." That's the new Maslow's pyramid. That's the basic need that people are expressing.
Mathieu Lefèvre: And that's true in all of our groups, including a group that we've called the left behind, which I'll talk about in a second. There's also great areas of agreement around the level of division in places like the United States for example. So, 7 out of 10 people in all of the very different groups that we look at say, "There was too much division in our country. We must overcome it." And there was also agreement about saying, "We can only overcome this together." So, whatever story of us we're all thinking about, there is an appetite to be part of that story among people, which is far from obvious if you look at Twitter for example. But it is also true... And I think we in this very large and beautiful global living room need to have the courage to address that, that there are issues, some of them very uncomfortable that are very divisive.
Mathieu Lefèvre: So, Katherine talked about in Europe, the willingness to confront the colonial past. Well, that is a very divisive issues. It's about a 60/40 split. When we asked the question, "Do you think we can move forward without addressing the colonial past in places like the UK or France?" 60% say, "No. We have to move on. We can't reopen those old battles." And about 40% of people say, "Yes. We cannot move on unless we open those questions." So, there are issues that are profoundly divisive. So, our research finds both new areas of compromise and a new appetite to take part in the story of us but also very divisive issue.
Mathieu Lefèvre: Two more things I want to say about our research. The first thing is that, in all of the countries we've looked at, there is a group that emerges that we have called the invisibles and they are the key group. They are the group that we don't understand. They are the left behind. They have low social trust. They have low social connection to their neighborhood. They don't have close social capital in the areas where they live. They don't participate in civic life. They feel unheard and disrespected. And I think that at every juncture that we've faced over the last few years, they have been the critical demographic. And I think we need to very much focus on them and hear them because they are the most susceptible to breaking narratives that John was talking about. They can be instrumentalized to drive us further apart and we have to understand them above all else.
Mathieu Lefèvre: The last thing I'll say is that we're currently looking at how people are feeling in this really fraught moment that I was talking about when I started. And so, we're currently asking people how they feel about COVID-19, about the recovery, about racism, about police brutality in seven countries. And what's really interesting is the questions that we're looking at are really about trust and solidarity. We don't have the results yet but we will come back and share them with you. But I think that notion of trust, who do you trust? Who have you trusted in this moment? Trust among people, trust with institutions, trust with civic society but also solidarity.
Mathieu Lefèvre: How can we extend the new forms of solidarity that have been created in this extraordinary moment that we've just lived? The clapping on balconies, the celebrating the carers and the frontline workers. How can those new bonds that are... We talked about earlier wobbly bridges. They are new bridges. We have come to realize how other people live. How can we extend those and make those wobbly bridges more solid? That I think is going to be key to this new form of belonging, which I think is such a useful frame and so needed. So, that's a little bit about what we're thinking but I'm very much looking forward to this journey of partnership with all of you. Because I think the smarter people right now are more into the business of asking questions than providing answers.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Thank you for that Mathieu. And I just want to pick up this point about community and those who are left behind from those structures of community and belonging and safety. Because of the pandemic, this whole idea of being in community has I think taken on new meaning. I think for the first time in a long time, the issue of what it means to be in community has not been just a merely intellectual exercise but has really for many people been a question of survival and support as our societies have gone into various forms of quarantine and lockdown. And I think in this moment of questioning what it means to be in community, what does neighborliness means? What is it mean to live in certain spaces or geographies?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: We're also contending with how do we build those relationships? And the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and this latest coalescing of energy and dynamism and protest and uprising against the carceral state, against police brutality. I think a lot of us have been struggling with it. I would say I have been struggling with. Language around allies, allyship, accomplishship. What does alliance building and community building mean now? What are the orientations we need in order to both deal with these dynamics on the ground?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: But also what we're witnessing in Europe and other places, the rise of authoritarian governments, social polarization, which all of you have talked about. And then, this question, Mathieu, that you left us on, this tantalizing question around, how do we see, find, create, build new formations of belonging? I know there is so much to say. If I could ask each of you just in three or four minutes to address this question of what are these new formations and how do we sustain them, grow them, facilitate them? I'm going to come to you first, Katherine.
Catherine Fieschi: Great. Thanks. Just a few little questions here to address.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Only the simple ones for all of us, Katherine.
Catherine Fieschi: No. I think there's just... I guess I'll just make these almost bullet points. One is that, what I think is really interesting is that in countries across the world, given the pandemic, there was a sense of meeting each other and therefore a heightened sense of community of being able to count on each other. And most people frankly rising to the occasion, right? In one way or another. But there was a paradox in there as well, which was that just as we were feeling this sentiments of community, we were actually being completely shut out of the public space, right? So, I think that some of what we see around the protest and the mobilization is also about around this absolutely crucial issue and this horrific murder also reclaiming, not just of certain concepts and certain stories and identities but also a reclaiming of the public space from which everyone had been shut out.
Catherine Fieschi: The second point, which I think is really important is that certainly in all the protests that I went to and the pictures that I've seen online from across the world, is the diversity of the crowds that were out, right? And I think that this goes to your point about the necessity of alliances and allyship and so on. I think that across ethnic, across racial, across generational nature of a lot of these protests is something that is not just extremely moving but it's also extremely useful. Different people will bring different perspectives. And I think that it is the fact that these protests are at the crux of very different stories and very different experiences. For some, I think it's about protest and resentment and anger and liberation and reclaiming what's rightfully yours.
Catherine Fieschi: For others, it's about turning up and saying, "I'm sorry." For others, it's about showing sympathy, it's about showing solidarity. The point here is that there are very different strands I think within these protests. And what I hope doesn't happen is that we shut down that diversity. Because I think it's the diversity of these bridges that is going to make for the fact that... I mean, I think of them as earthquake-proof buildings that they will wobble and they will shake but they will actually hold. And I think that this is one of the things that we see emerging.
Catherine Fieschi: And then, I think that my last point is about community. And I think in many places, if I think of those people who are very uneasy about reopening their past, about we see it around the statue of Churchill, of Colston in Bristol, elsewhere, obviously in the United States, where these issues particularly in the south have been rifer for years. I think that for here, certainly in the UK and in a lot of Europe, here in the UK, talking about race is almost something that is seen as potentially undermining the sense of community, right?
Catherine Fieschi: So, even people who are very scared of reopening history's Pandora's box and so on. Their first argument would be, "If we do that, we're going to divide everyone. We are going to undermine the community ties. There's a look leave well enough alone because we can't live with this stuff if we put it under a spotlight. And I think just to conclude on this, I think therefore, yes, it's about knowing who we are, it's also about being comfortable with not necessarily being absolutely clear about who we are. And I think as a Canadian... And I think Abdul-Rehman is a fellow Canadian, if I'm not mistaken.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Catherine Fieschi: We know what it's like to not know who we are, right? I mean, what makes us Canadians is that we don't really know what being Canadian means, right?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: We're a work in progress Catherine.
Catherine Fieschi: We're a work in progress, we're a mosaic or this or that. But I actually think there's something extremely... However frustrating and so on, there's something extremely valuable about recognizing that the hallmark of a democratic public space is also a capacious public space, where actually, you don't necessarily have to resolve the issue or know 100% who you are. You need to be granted the space to live in a community and live as an individual in a way that feels authentic to you but you don't necessarily have to have your story locked down. In fact, locking down your story is probably a really bad idea.]
Abdul-Rehman Malik: You know what's interesting, Katherine, is one of the things that I know I found so compelling about approaching the work of the Othering & Belonging Institute and in your work, John, was around this frame of bridging and breaking. And all of you have used this very compelling emotive. And I think really powerful language to describe the processes that are at work now and also the result of the conversations that we have and the impact that they have on bridging and breaking. Before I turn to you, John, I want to go to a short animation video that the Othering & Belonging Institute has put together, that I think would be really useful and instructive for all of us as we head into this part of the conversation. So, I'm going to ask our team to cue that up. Let's have a quick watch of that and then John, I'm going to come to you right afterwards.
Speaker 1: Of all the forces shaping politics and power around the world, perhaps none are more important than our sense of who we are and who we are becoming. We are in a period of accelerated change in at least four areas globalization, technology, the environment and demographic change. We can only process so much change in a short period of time without experiencing anxiety, which is a normal biological reaction. But how we respond to this anxiety is social. A response is greatly shaped by the stories presented by leadership and through culture. These stories speak to our deepest values and our core beliefs about who we are, many of which operate at the subconscious level.
Speaker 1: We can respond to these changes either as a threat or as an opportunity. The first response is breaking. The second is bridging. Breaking can create a deep fear of other groups, making it easier to accept false stories of us versus them. Breaking perpetuates isolation, hardens racism and builds oppressive systems while driving our politics and institutions toward anti-democratic and humane practices. The other response is bridging, which calls on us to imagine a larger and more inclusive way.
Speaker 1: We bridge, we see demographic change in our diverse identities as positive and enhancing who we are. Bridging calls on us to engage and help the dialogue and requires us to listen deeply. Bridging does not mean abandoning your identity. Bridging means acknowledging our shared humanity, rejecting that there is a them and moving toward a future where there is an instead a us. But when we bridge, we not only open up to others, we also open up to changes within ourselves, where we can participate in creating society built on belonging.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: For that, John, you often talk about bridging and breaking in your work. And Mathieu said something really interesting a few moments ago about this idea of wobbly bridges. And I find that really compelling because as we've seen through this pandemic period and through this period of protest and response and uprising, we do see all kinds of really interesting connections being made between people, between communities, between institutions. How do you view that process of bridging right now, John? And I guess, how can that frame help us contextualize and understand this extraordinary moment that we're in?
john a. powell: That's an important question. And there are a couple of answers. Both Katherine and Mathieu has made it clear that we're in a space where there's multiple things going on. I think Katherine talked about having a fixed identity, which apparently Canadians don't have. But the point is that part of what's going on is our identities are being challenged. There are all these changes. And in a sense, the future, some people are very scary but is full of unknowns. The speed of change is happening. And so, some people are saying, "Put the brakes on." So, it's not an accident that many authoritarian leaders have this imaginary pass promise people, "We're going to make America great again. We're going to slow down the change," or Modi in India, "We're going to make India great again."
john a. powell: And in that imagination, there's a sense of stasis and a sense of a lot of people don't belong. So, part of the fear, of the anxiety is actually focused around particular people. So, that's the breaking part of it. So, the bridging part is can we actually connect with each other? And Mathieu has actually talked about in the surveys they've done, every group wanted to be heard and respected. Those are the core things associated with belonging. When we are seen and heard, it goes a long way to feeling that we belong.
john a. powell: And for marginalized groups, oftentimes there are neither seen... There's a reason that Ralph Ellison wrote the Invisible Man years ago, basically saying, "Black people are not seen, they're viewed but they're not seen. And they're certainly not heard." I did a piece with a magazine recently then I asked them, "What do you call what's going on?" Some people are calling it an insurrection, some people calling it rioting, some people calling it protest. And I talked about how in the 1960s, there was this debate about what is it that we're viewing?
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:50:04]
john a. powell: ... how in the 1960s, there was this debate about what is it that we're viewing. And certain communities, black community was not heard. We were not really participating. Or I think of the Me Too movement, part of what it's saying is "Listen to us." So, the reason these bridges to some extent are wobbly, first of all, it's phenomenal. And as Catherine said, we had to hold on to this diversity. But how we do that is very complicated. It won't be a single way. We'll make some mistakes. We have to give ourselves space to make mistakes.
john a. powell: You actually talked about Allyship community. We're talking about a bunch of things at once. People are in different places. But as we build a new "we" and we will build a new "we". It may be worse than the one we have, it may be better. The world is changing very fast. Can we actually have space where everyone can participate in that building project? So in that sense, it's actually even more challenging, right? So it's not the dominant society building something for the marginalized society. It's like the very fact that they don't get to participate in the building is part of the marginalization. The very fact that they're not heard.
john a. powell: And so Robert Sapolsky talks about recognizing people's sacred symbols. Most of us don't even know what the other groups sacred symbols are, let alone not recognize them. But think about when Trump was talking about destroying the sacred symbols of Iran. He said -- he wouldn't just talk about destroying the people, it's like, "I'm going to destroy your sacred symbols."
john a. powell: That speaks also to both the past and the future. So it's true that we don't want to be "stuck in the past," but it's also true that we all have a past. And what's an issue in many ways is how do we actually learn from that past to create a new future. A new future, were we all belong. Were we all participate. So as Catherine and I, I think, well, what's happening now is phenomenal, but I think the bridges are wobbly. And they could, something could fracture them in a second.
john a. powell: So when Matisse talks about, there's certain things that are divisive. So let me just give you one turn on that. A lot of the divisiveness actually is at the issue level. You ask people, "What's your position on abolishing the police?" It's clear in the United States, that's a big issue and there's a lot of division. That's a polarizing issue, potentially. I'm not saying it's unimportant.
john a. powell: But if you asked people "What kind of police should communities have," there's widespread agreement. So it's interesting. So we have agreement on the goal, agreement on the end point. What we're disagreeing about largely is how to get there. And there's not a single way to get there. We have all these different contexts within the United States. We have some experimentation, the things we don't know, we do know what's working, what's in place now doesn't work. And we do know the efforts of reform has been truncated for 40 years. So there's that frustration. Do we know that police are killing way too many black bodies. And we do know interestingly enough, because of Amy Cooper that white people, at least some white people are aware that they can call the state in on black bodies.
john a. powell: That's actually a very important insight because a lot of white people previously would say, "No, what are you talking about? The state is fair to everyone. We all trust the state. We all trust the police." And black people would say "Uh, not so much". What Amy Cooper demonstrated is that I know that calling the police is a risk. I know that's a threat to you, especially in the context of a black man, an African American man and a white woman.
john a. powell: Which is one other point I want to make and then I'll end, is that when we "other" people, we also flatten them. Not just flatten them, but also end up flattening ourselves. That is, someone's a black man. So what's that flattened representation of a black man. Scary, not hardworking, dangerous. That's the stereotype. And Christian, the black man in Central Park was anything but that, right?
john a. powell: It's like, first of all, a black man in Central Park, "What are you doing in Central Park anyway?" "I'm birdwatching." Wait a minute, that doesn't fit my stereotype of a black man. And I'm a Harvard graduate. That's kind of, how did you get into Harvard? And how does he deal with the confrontation? He's very calm. Call the police. Yes, go ahead. You know, so all of the stereotypes are actually fractured.
john a. powell: So part of the thing is that as we listened to each other, as we build these bridges to actually see our complexity. All of our complexity and the last thing that turns building solid bridges, which we have to get to at some point is that every group suffers and everyone has a story. So it can't simply be, although right now we're really focused appropriately on anti-black racism. There are stories of suffering distributed throughout the United States, distributed throughout the world. They're Native Americans. They're women who are oppressed.
john a. powell: So part of us, can we create a space where mentally we can hear each other's stories. And again, not saying when we listen and respect each other, that we agree, it's not saying every issue is the same, we're saying, "I respect you. I respect your community." And when the respect is coming, not from just individuals, but from the institutions and government themselves, it feels different. So there's one thing for us to respect each other as individuals. Necessary, but not sufficient. We also have to make sure that the government and institutions are structured in such a way that it reflects the listening and the institutions.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: John there's so much there. And I want to just pick up very quickly with Mathieu, just for a minute or two Mathieu. Because we have, I think someone who's going to help us shape some of these issues in a cultural way, in just a moment.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: But, Mathieu, what I'm also hearing in John is the problem of agency or the dilemma of agency, isn't it? Of this idea of how often we speak about building the new "we" through the lens of this being done to someone. Or power and privilege taking on the responsibility of constructing, whatever that "we" is. And then on the other end, this exploration through this idea of bridges and particularly this idea of wobbly bridges. How do we place agency back into this framework in a way that people are not just listened to and heard, but are actually activated in order to build that new, hopefully better "we"?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: And I think it's that dilemma of agency that I kind of keep coming back to. And I know, you mentioned it earlier, Mathieu, about the dilemma of agency. How do we bring that engine back into the conversation?
Mathieu Lefèvre: It's a great question, and there's so much in what Catherine and you AR and John have said, I'll just pick up on a couple of things and on the point of agency. The first thing I want to say is that I went to the Black Lives Matter protest in Paris on Saturday. I went there with my two year old son and my 75 year old mom. And there must have been 60, 70,000 people there. And I thought it was beautiful and I thought it was hopeful.
Mathieu Lefèvre: And, I do agree with what Catherine and John have said that this is different and this is new, and this is hopeful. Ta-Nehisi Coates also said that in a recent podcast, which I listened to this afternoon. This is special. This is a special moment and we need to build on it. And so overwhelmingly, I'm hopeful, but perhaps through a professional deformation of some form, I could see the breaking. I could see the potentials for wedges being inserted in there. And so I think we need to be very, very careful.
Mathieu Lefèvre: I started my career working in Afghanistan and talking to tribes in Southern Afghanistan right after September 11. And I understood the mechanics of how the Taliban inserted themselves into the tribal conflicts of people in that part of the world. And I just think it's a reminder of seeing that. And I did roughly the same thing in Syria and those are of course actual civil wars. But, they have some common characteristics. And one of them is that while we need to accept the hopeful moment that we're in, we need to be very careful for those who will try to sow division. Because creating a new bridge or a new identity or a new sense of "we" is much harder than reinforcing an old one in order to divide.
Mathieu Lefèvre: And so I think people definitely want to be heard. People want to be respected, but they want to be part of writing the new story. We've seen it on many, many issues, like the issue of the environment. One of the things that our invisibles express the most enthusiasm about is when I do something in favor of the environment, I feel proud. I feel like I'm part of a project again, and it's not just being listened to, it's doing. And so I think all of those, we need to approach this moment with hope, but we also need to be very, very careful.
Mathieu Lefèvre: And the last thing I'll say is that I think maybe one orientation that will work is to approach the moment, respect very legitimate grievances that are often hundreds of years old and are born out of suffering and pain. But wherever we can reinforce what we have in common instead of what separates us.
Mathieu Lefèvre: So I'll give you an example. We tested two campaigns for a large aid group in France. One was called, "Come play soccer with refugees". And the other one was called, "Come play soccer", not telling people that there would be lots of different people, including refugees. By reinforcing the common interest in a sport, you got a lot more people there. And, even though the message was the same, the campaign were the same, rather than pointing to difference, sometimes it just pays to reinforce most of all, what people have in common. Whether it's family or suffering through COVID or a sport or something like that. I think that is a trick that will help us navigate this hopeful, but fragile moment.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Thank you for that, Mathieu. And that last example that you just used, it's so fascinating because I think it also speaks to this notion of culture, doesn't it? How do we speak to a kind of common cultural space? And I'm reminded of, Jeff Chang, the historian and cultural critic and analyst when he speaks about culture and change. That political change is preceded by cultural change. And I think this is an important moment to bring into this conversation and into this space, a person who I know incredibly well and who I consider to be one of my teachers and points of inspiration in times, both light and dark. And that's Tanya Maneera Williams.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Tanya Maneera Williams is an emcee, a poet, a broadcaster, a writer, a scholar. For those of you who live in the United Kingdom, you hear her quite regularly on BBC Radio 2, with her Pause for Thought segment. And Tanya has been working in the UK, in Europe, even in the United States, on ways in which culture, hip-hop, can develop not only consciousness, but can also imagine new features.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Tanya is also based in Bristol and that's something I want to pick up because Bristol has become the epicenter of what people are calling the current culture wars. As the statue of the slaver Colston was taken down from its pedestal and thrown in the river. And Tanya isn't just living in Bristol, she's from Bristol.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: So, with that, and there's so much more to say. And I hope this, for those of you who haven't been introduced to her work before, this will be an opportunity to introduce you to her work. I'm going to pass the mic, so to speak over to her. And she has some powerful words to share with us. And right after that, we'll start to pick up some of your amazing questions that are coming. And so over to you, Maneera.
Muneera Pilgrim: Thank you. [foreign language 01:03:33]. Girls like us have become accustomed to being asked, "Where are you from? Where do you belong? Where is home?" Wherever I go, I'm seeking a place for this displaced soul to call home. And I still ain't found it. Somewhere in the Sufi village, lays my heart, but where is home? If I was to believe in the myth of the best certificate, I would say it's Bristol. But I've been quizzed for so long. And so many times that I'm starting to doubt it.
Muneera Pilgrim: See. I was born in Bristol, in the eighties. Posters of Rasta babies, Africa medallions and pirate radio stations raise me. I was born in Bristol in the eighties where the gray mist of the riots never left the air. Blue strobbing police sirens would leave me scared. I would close my eyes and tense my body statue-like until the gush of wind went by me. And the wail from the same sirens blew by me like, woo oo. I learned from an early age that you didn't have to commit a crime. When your skin tone stood out like mine just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can mean that you have the right face for that crime. Just one of the ways that my community lived under constant scrutiny.
Muneera Pilgrim: See, I was born in Bristol in the eighties. BS two to be exact. Back then all around me, I had my city speaking so many different ways. So many things she tried to articulate, but particularly under the cover of shade. But one thing, one thing that she could say quite clearly, was music. Bass driven, heavy Jamaican sound systems, to acid jazz, from Pentecostal choirs, to Ronnie Size. Tricky. Pull his head, Massive Attack. It seemed like my city had it all. Bristol was Rose reds and Royal blues.
Muneera Pilgrim: She was black FM them discos and frontline videos. She was Inkworks and then Malcolm X. She was the oldest who remembered the Bamboo Club. She was Saturday morning, sat under hair dryers, and pant-sitters waiting for hot combs to straighten the steady coils out of my hair. She was Ivan Okambo pumping Cutty Ranks on the radio. She was eclipsed. If you blinked you would have missed it. She was grown too soon. Forced ripe and sapele. Naive and over-friendly. Ready to extend a hand to anyone who would take it. Alice lost in her Wonderland.
Muneera Pilgrim: I almost didn't know is that she was hiding her flaws because Bristol, she was beautiful and all. But she was also in the midst of a drug epidemic. A sex epidemic. A keep poor folk poor while they take more epidemic. Was it just me, or did it seem like in the eighties and the nineties, everyone was looking for love. That real love. That Rick Astley, never going to give you up, tight love. That replace a hug for drug love. But I, I was blind to it. Blind to the pains releasing through her pores, because for me, the power of music has a louder call. It diverted us from all that was wrong and pointed to something more joyous.
Muneera Pilgrim: A city covered in dark corners and contradictions. Managed to find a beautiful means to cope. As long as we never dared to venture into the parts of town where your skin could not be brown because of the legacy of skinheads chasing you down. So we stayed in our corner. Under our stone. And made a home in the parts where people did not want to go. But we took pride in our cramped, in our dark, in our damp, in our damnation. They damned us on TV. Damned us on the newspapers. Damn us on the radio. Damn them to the dead policymakers.
Muneera Pilgrim: Bushes are overgrown now. Needles are on the floor now. Elders are getting mugged now. So maybe you should leave now. And we did. Left the places that we called home, but black and brown folk have become accustomed to doing so. And as we left, others moved in. House prices started rising, rent started rising. So those of us who wanted to stay could not afford to anyway.
Muneera Pilgrim: But it was then, it was then that they discovered that our dark was not so dim because we are festivals and family gatherings. We are the coming together of communities when things are right as well wrong. We are entrepreneurs and business owners. We are the ones who wake up at 4:00 AM to go to work before we actually go to work in the morning. We are those who have the potential, but can't find the job. So we create our own jobs. Problem solvers. Genius in our dialect. Genius in our intellect. Creators of culture, but never benefactors of that same culture. When did we become so profitable?
Muneera Pilgrim: And now I can't even walk into areas that were once my home, without being looked down upon like an ill fitted misfit, despite the fact that I built it. How the hell do you think that this Bristol got so mythic. Legends were here, don't you know? And you are reaping from the seeds that we sowed. What you call cool was crass when we were there. She was so magical. We were so magical. Moments from mythic. Minutes to mystic. We were so magical and unicorns have nothing on us. And they still don't because we are still here. Blooming in the underbelly of your mind.
Muneera Pilgrim: I don't say this as a critic. I can just feel the chasm getting deeper and deeper. Bristol is screaming for some healing and we are her parishioners. The bitter taste of slavery has left underground networks that run beneath our feet. So it's no wonder on the surface we are segregated. Separated by our scars which are dividing us still, you see. We can't continue like this anymore. We need to talk about this, some more. Like a soul without a mind or a buddy without heart, Bristol, we're losing all our parts. Thank you.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Wow. Maneera, thank you so much. I wish we could hear all the snaps, the hundreds and hundreds of people snapping across the world at those words. I hope you'll stay with us Maneera because I want to come back to you in just a few moments because I think, I mean, your words are liberatory. But your words kind of seed so many questions about culture and production and belonging.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: And I want to also thank the literally dozens and dozens of questions that we've been getting. And I know some of you mentioned that the captions turned off while Maneera was sharing her words with us. In the final version that we'll go online, we'll reintegrate those captions. We didn't want the corporate Google translate to mess up what were not just finally chosen, but well crafted and purposeful words.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: One question that emerges literally as you were sharing with us, Maneera, and I'm going to go to John on this and then bring the rest of you in. We're talking about us, them, belonging, otherness, bridging, breaking. And this very important question comes to us, creating or defining an 'us' automatically establishes and defines 'another'. Doesn't it? Is it this alone divisive? And I think this speaks to something that you were saying earlier, Catherine, doesn't it? That in these new formations of community, belonging, solidarity, there's an inclusion and exclusion or at least there seems to be. John, can you can help us wrap our heads around this idea of the 'us' and the 'other' and the potential divisiveness of that process.
john a. powell: Yes. I can certainly speak to it. First of all, I just want to give my props out. That was a beautiful spoken word. So I just want to acknowledge that. And thank you for that.
john a. powell: So, my students have asked that many times. If you have something that... We talk about the circle of human concern, where everyone's inside the circle, including the earth itself because the earth is really where we belong, right? The earth is all of ours as Abdul talks about.
john a. powell: The reality is, we have multiple identities, we have multiple selves and we are in process. And so there are small ways in which we might not belong. Go to a party and not dress right, or don't know the right language or the right food. But there are these durable, durable, otherings. So people in the United States, people who are unhoused and returning citizens who are black, it's like every place they go, their entire life is one of not belonging. It's not just... And so the question that you asked, AR, in terms of does creating a belonging, creating a 'we' mean 'they'?
john a. powell: And in some ways we don't know. We certainly can go further than we have. And some societies have gone further. Some people would say, "We need an enemy to unite us." Well, how about COVID-19? There was a period of time when essentially the entire globe was shut down and what the pandemic, what the virus reminded us of, is that you can build walls, you can ground planes, you can tell people not to travel. The virus still gets around. And what's the transmission? It's human contact.
john a. powell: And so, for example, we talk about spatial distance and social solidarity, because we actually are in relationship with each other. And can we have a story, a practice where the 'we' is everyone? And some of the religions, actually, have leaned into that. Not perfectly, by any means, but the idea that if you're religious, everyone is a child of God.
john a. powell: So there's some indication that our capacity to listen past the connect and our capacity to participate collectively is infinite. Our capacity to love is infinite. But as Mathieu said, fear is activated faster but love might be stronger. So even as we struggle with trying to create ways in which we belong and to listen to each other's story and to create capacities where we all share, we'll do it imperfectly. But as one of my favorite writer says, it could be a regulative ideal. It's what we're oriented toward. It's what we're moving toward.
john a. powell: My father was a Christian minister. He died recently. And he would say, Christians are constantly trying to emulate the life of Christ, the best values of Christ. They will not get there.
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:15:04]
john a. powell: ... Christ, the best values of Christ. They will not get there, but it orients their life. So I think creating a sense of belonging, and create a sense of respect, create a sense of multiple homes. We may never get there, but it's a process that tells us what to struggle for and how to relate to each other.
john a. powell: Well, thank you for that, John. I want to pick up a thread in that, and that's about this idea of writing the story anew. Muneera, I want to come to you on this. I mean, your piece was so powerful. I think against the backdrop of what has been happening in Bristol and what literally the world has... Bristol has been put on the map. If you didn't know Bristol, you know it now because in a way it felt like on the street that you, and your comrades, and your community are writing a new story. From your point of view as a cultural producer, how are you feeling activated at this moment? Do you feel that there's promise in writing that new story; that writing that new story for you, your community, your city, your nation is possible?
Muneera Pilgrim: I definitely think it is. At least t goes someway. I really resonate with the state, or with the idea of, we just have to do a part. We just have to try. I don't know if it will be written or if the storybook will be complete in my lifetime, but I have to make some way towards making that journey. The people around me have to go some way towards making that journey.
Muneera Pilgrim: I remember growing up as a child, as a young girl walking through the city of Bristol, and feeling like there were parts of the city where I couldn't go. And it's actually really funny because reflecting back Edward Colston where that statue was, was the starting point of the parts of Bristol where we didn't go. We didn't go into the more uptown parts of Bristol, where the wealth was. We didn't feel welcomed there. I didn't feel welcomed there.
Muneera Pilgrim: So, all of these feelings growing up as a child and thinking, "Why are these memorials, why are these statues, why are there street names like Blackboy Hill, like Whiteladies Road? Why is there this worship towards slave owners, almost? Why is it there, that feeling that I'm having, wanting not to be there?" I think for a lot of people, particularly of my generation who were born and raised in Bristol, not just who... Well, even though my parents came to Bristol and built Bristol in many ways... But who were born and raised in Bristol and were subjected to that, and subjected to feeling not good enough, that was a really cathartic moment. And it feels like we wrote that into being. We wrote that into existence. And we just have to keep on writing.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Thank you, Muneera. I know you're going to still be with us, and we're going to bring Mathieu back into the living room, as well. But first I want to go to Catherine, and I'm keeping an eye on the time. There's such incredible questions and interventions coming in. I know we're going to try to capture at least the sense and feeling of some of these questions.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: But, Catherine, there's someone who asks a really vital question. I know you deal with discourse. You analyze discourse, and you look at the way in which messages are amplified, so maybe you can help us understand this a little bit.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: The statement that we are shut out of the public space seems to be at odds with the never-ending stream of clear and vocal expressions of dissent on social media, and mass media, through public protest. How would you bring those two very polar opposite impressions into agreement? The idea that certain voices and perspectives have not been given agency or amplification, and then what we're apparently seeing around us that in fact, voices of dissent are being amplified. How do we hold this paradox together?
Catherine Fieschi: Well, I think it's a huge question. But I think, in a sense, it's the question of our time; a growing sense of exclusion, fragmentation of people often into smaller and smaller groups, into what people call these internet echo chambers that are both very empowering, but at the same time, they can make you feel slightly delusional because you feel like you're at the helm of a digital army, but there's only 200 people.
Catherine Fieschi: But I think that there's a paradox also that goes to the heart of this discussion, and of the discussion of this moment, which is that during the whole of the confinement period, we basically got together, a lot of us, online. We discussed issues online. We were on Zoom meetings and Zoom webinars, and so on, and so forth.
Catherine Fieschi: So, it was a completely disembodied experience right at the point where our main concern was to try and protect our bodies. And then immediately as the lockdown starts to lift, and we are confronted with what's going on in the United States, and the growing protests, we go out onto the streets again and we reclaim this space physically. And in fact, we turn to physical acts: toppled statues, raised fists.
Catherine Fieschi: I think that there's something very important here about the notion of belonging to oneself, having control over one's body and to having a sense of dominion and sense of dignity about one's body after the fear of a pandemic, or almost permanently if you're a person who feels unsafe because of the institutions of the state and the police.
Catherine Fieschi: So, I think that it's really important that we look at these tools that we have, these digital tools as incredibly valuable and incredibly rich as mobilizational devices, as rallying calls, and so on. But everything tends to show that, particularly when we're talking about these issues at this moment, it's also about not just dominion over our stories, but the star of the story is us, as bodily beings; this is about somebody's life and body being snuffed out. So, I think making that connection, making sure that we keep making that connection is really valuable.
Catherine Fieschi: I just want to end on one thing, which is that John used the word "orientation." It gives us an orientation, and we were talking about narratives, and words, and stories. I think that this is where we have to go back and ask questions about the institutions that we live in. The institutions are the orientation, right? The institutions, when we redeem them when we re-craft them when we defund the police, or we decide to do something, the institutions are the guidelines for the story.
Catherine Fieschi: I'm reminded of a quote by a German sociologist Claus Offe, who says the institutions, they create that necessary democratic illusion, which is that somebody who's a complete stranger is actually my fellow citizen. This is why we need to turn to the institutions very quickly and make sure that they're not wobbly.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Wow, Catherine. I wish we had time to unpack that in terms of recognizing the importance of institutions. I'm going to come to Mathieu. Mathieu, there's a very specific question, I think, a sharp question that's addressed to you, and I'm looking forward to hear your perspective on it. Someone in our audience says, "Well, social opinion studies are great for taking the pulse of a nation. Yet, they are not new in design." What springboards do you see to move us beyond research into recalibration?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: I think a lot of us, including those of us on the call, have seen multiple years, decades of philanthropic, academic funding, and research. We can read it. We can look at it. There's countless reports. What does all this mean in terms of applied knowledge, or new forms of partnership or new models that could be scaled? I think, in a way, this ties into what Catherine was also just speaking about in terms of institutions and the recreation of those structures that are all around us. What can social research do for us, Mathieu?
Mathieu Lefèvre: Yeah, no, it's a great question. I will say that I am not a researcher by training. I'm much more of a campaigner. I look to research to see opportunity to find new alliances. I think where research can be very useful is to give you a cartography of the potential for the new us. I think one of the things that's happening now is that we have a realization of our own fragility in the face of the COVID-19, in particular. And everyone is recognizing that we are very interdependent upon one another; whether it's families to families, or individuals to individuals, back to the awareness of the body that Catherine's talking about.
Mathieu Lefèvre: So, it's going to take all of us, is a realization that people have had, I think, more over the last few weeks. But I think what the amazingly hopeful movement around in protest to racism that we were talking about before is that actually the boundaries of who that all of us is, have expanded in people's minds. I think what research can do is to give a little bit more detail and structure as to what people mean by that, and that allows you to create a new coalition to seize the moment which you can't really do if you're navigating blind.
Mathieu Lefèvre: So, for example, I think that Progressives, and I include myself in that camp, need to be very careful about checking their assumptions. For example, I think an assumption that I'm hearing a lot right now is, "Well, we can't go back to the way the world was before COVID-19. We have to have a radical system change." I want to believe that, but only research can really tell us, do people really agree with that, and which people?
Mathieu Lefèvre: For example, going back to our main audience that we look at, the invisibles, do they really want broad sweeping change, or not? And without research, you're just wishful thinking. So I think without research, you can't create the new coalitions of us that we will need to win this fight. I think it's just an essential tool.
Mathieu Lefèvre: So as more of a campaigner I look to research as an amazing secret weapon, particularly when it's done slightly differently, particularly when you don't group people according to skin color or income level or education level, particularly when you try to find new ways to group people. That becomes very
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Mathieu, thank you. Thank you for that. I'm so conscious of time right now. I also want to let everyone who's in the living room know that we're going to be coming back to some of these questions, and expanding the conversation on July the 16th. So in a month from now, this process and this conversation that we've begun today will be continuing. I hope we're able to hold on to some of these really compelling questions and interventions that we've had today and be able to carry those through our own conversations until we're able to reconvene again.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: In these last few moments that we heave, I want us... I loved your use of the term just now, Mathieu, "cartography of the new us." I find that language really compelling because it's not just about geography and space, but it's about relief and depth, and breadth, and what this new us looks like.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: I think the question that I want to leave with and the reflection that I want to get from each and every one of you is that in this fraught moment, as we lurch, crawl, protest, descent, argue, build towards belonging in this new cartography of us, where are you finding the glimmer of hope? What's exciting you about the possibilities of this moment?
Abdul-Rehman Malik: I think it would be remiss that we leave this conversation, except that we plant a flag in the places of hope and promise. So I'm going to go to Catherine first on that. Where can we plant our seed, our flag in that glimmer of hope and promise? And then we're going to come to you, Mathieu, and then ask John to take us home. Go ahead, Catherine.
Catherine Fieschi: One word, Muneera. That's where I'll plant my flag. That's it. I'm done for today. I just think that the combination of eloquence, passion, experience that's where I'll plant my flag, happily.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: I'm with you. I think we're all planting it right there next to you in the power of cultural production, in the way in which words, and culture, and experience reframe the story for us. Catherine, that was pithy but profound. Mathieu, give us some words, some perspectives that raise the glimmers of hope in the path to belonging.
Mathieu Lefèvre: I have to say that I have to second that on Muneera. As a big fan of the Bristol Sound, I loved all of the quotes from some of my favorite Massive Attack and Portishead, and Tricky songs so I have to second that. I cannot best her, but I'll try.
Mathieu Lefèvre: I think we have this moment. We know. We've talked about it on this conversation, and we all know it. And going back to your question about agency, the path that we can take, that we've opened a gateway through a lot of pain and suffering. I want to say that again, but the path that we take from here is not written.
Mathieu Lefèvre: It can go at least two ways, one of a story of us, and hope, and celebrating the real heroes and the carers who saved our lives, and the people who've had the courage to fight the fights over decades for racial equality, or we can take the other story of walls, and me, and I'm going to steal masks from another country, and all of that. That story is not written. It's for us to be written, and with a thousand people on this call, I think we can do a lot. So it's a moment; a portal has opened, but we are in charge. We write the story. So let's do it.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Thank you, Mathieu, and finally, to you, John. I just want to say, John, that I think for so many people who are engaged in this space; whether it's activists on the ground, whether it's community organizer, whether it's parents who are trying to build a consciousness for their families, their children, their communities. I think for a long time, I think you and the work that you've been involved in has been a go-to for so many of us.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: And the language of othering, and belonging, bridging, and breaking is such powerful language. I think in so many ways, that's why we've been called into the space. And I think Catherine and Mathieu have said that beautifully and compellingly, that we're called into the space because this framing, this language seems to speak to not only our lived experience but the lived experience of all of us together. Take us home, John. Some words, glimmers of hope in the path to belonging.
john a. powell: First, it's been really great spending time his morning with my friends, and in then the hundreds and thousands of you that I can't see. People who know well know that I don't organize around hope; however, I've written a piece which talks about both hope and despair.
john a. powell: What I do organize around is engagement. And it seems to me that if we're deeply engaged, and with the ability to actually imagine, the ability to dream, but then to move beyond dream, to also act and create institutional and cultural expressions, then I feel there is reason for hope, that we are the reason for hope. And hope actually built on our not only shared humanity but our shared love, that we really care about each other.
john a. powell: I mean, one of the things about the demonstrations that are happening, it's like why are 17-year-old girls in Australia protesting? I mean, the ability. We oftentimes get these negative stories how we hate each other, how we only care about ourselves.
john a. powell: The people who are out demonstrating, they are aware that they're risking their lives because there's a pandemic, but they're risking their life to save life. We have a word for people like that. We call them heroes. We call them saints. So, I think it won't sustain itself by itself. We have to have practices, stories, institutions, but we're leaning in that direction.
john a. powell: So, I would say if we can be engaged if we can tell a story where all of our stories feed into it, and if we can stay in relationship with each other. I agree with Catherine social media is great, but we need physical relationships, as well. We are embodied physical, spiritual beings. I'm pleased. I don't know if I'm hopeful, but I think we have more than a shout at it.
john a. powell: The world is crying for change. The earth is crying for change, and we're crying for change. I think if we can continue to do that together in a smart way, in a way this pays attention to strengthen these wobbly bridges, the voids, the breaking, and leans into a grace and even love, we'll probably be alright.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Thank you, John. Thank you, Catherine. Thank you, Mathieu. Thank you so much, Muneera-
Muneera Pilgrim: Thank you.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: ... Williams from Bristol. This has been a remarkable conversation, and it's a conversation that's going to continue. I think it's a conversation that's going to feed a thousand other conversations.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: A few closing notes. One is that this work, moving forward, is going to be highlighted and amplified in a number of ways in the digital space, but you can find all of it together at belonging.berkeley.edu/towardbelonging. It should be on your screen right now, belonging.berkeley.edu/towardbelonging. There will be the video record of this particular conversation, hopefully, capturing some of the questions and contentions that we weren't able to get to, and looking forward to build on this as we go forward to July 16th.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: This would not have been possible without all the incredible organizations and institutions that have been involved in creating this space. I want to say thank you again to Counterpoint, to More in Common, and, of course, the Othering & Belonging Institute. A big thank you, again, to Queen Mary and SciencesPo, as well, and to Tonya Muneera Williams from Bristol for giving us that necessary boost of energy right at the heart of this conversation.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: You can check out this conversation shortly on our YouTube channel, where the video will be hosted. But all to say that this is part of it. This is part of the cartography of the new us. I hope that we'll continue to interrogate the terms and the perspectives that we've heard today in our own work.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: I know there's so many activists and community organizers that are on this call. I hope that the perspectives here continue to feed your work. We certainly want to hear about it. If there's ways that you feel that there's room for partnership and for sharing, I think we're all really open to that. So, a big thank you from myself here in New Haven, Connecticut. We got London. We got the West Coast, Berkeley. And we have Paris, France, and Bristol. Take care everyone, and thank you very much for today.
john a. powell: Thank you, A.R.
Catherine Fieschi: Thank you, very much.
Mathieu Lefèvre: Thank you, A.R.
john a. powell: Thank you.
Abdul-Rehman Malik: Take care, everyone.
PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:38:04]