Sunday, December 6, 2015

Talking Circles

I'm reading Gloria Steinem's latest book, about her life on the road. Early on, she writes of her time in India in the late 1950's, right after she graduated from college. She describes taking part in talking circles in villages in the southern part of the country.  Each person has the chance to speak; all views and opinions are valued. The practice of talking circles in those villages was rooted in Gandhi's methods of engaging the poor and marginalized. Gloria notes, however, that the practice goes back to the earliest days of human society and can be found in many cultures.

Fast forward to January 9, 2012, my first house party as a neighborhood team leader for Obama's re-election campaign. I've made hundreds of calls to invite people to the gathering. About 25 people have said they would come. I worry about how I will fit them into my small apartment and reach out to the Obama organizers for folding chairs. 

That evening, nine people show up, in addition to the four Obama staff members who are there to support me. Following the prescribed format, we start by going around the people sitting in a circle in my living room. Each of us tells why we are there: why we support President Obama, the issues that matter to us in the election.

After reading Gloria's book, I recognize that I took part in my first talking circle that night. It was the first of many that year. As the 2016 election cycle begins in earnest, I am sure I will be organizing and taking part in many more. It is so important for people to tell their stories.

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