Featured Breakouts

Design for All: Creative Placemaking and Inclusive Space

Miriam Chion, David John Attyah, Roberto Bedoya, Victor Pineda


By: Rhonda Itaoui

‘Design for All: Creative Placemaking and Inclusive Space’ provided a unique opportunity to critique the socio-spatial aspects of belonging, and explore methods for cultivating spaces of enhanced inclusivity in everyday urban places. The workshop encouraged the interactive participation of workshop attendees, who were asked to label one of four portraits of urban spaces around the room with various statements from a sticker sheet such as “monumental,” “active,” “vibrant,” etc. Once participants had completed the labelling of their selected portrait, they took seats in proximity to their selected urban space portrait and engage in the presentations of four panelists. Miriam Chion opened the session with an informative overview of ‘Urban Vitality’ as a necessary solution to urbanization by creating more inclusive spaces that consider the people, activities, and networks within the community.

 Robert Bedoya encouraged a deeper critique of the politicized nature of belonging and unbelonging in these places to enable creative placemaking. In drawing on the human capacity as “place-makers.” Bedoya framed our neighborhoods as sites for the collective, rather than the privatized ‘we’—which he said is essential to advancing belonging in an equitable world.

 In addition to considering the politicized nature of belonging, Victor Piñeda highlighted the way that inclusive spaces must reflect a balance of the city’s historical memories while at the same time respond to ongoing cultural shifts to ensure the continuity, vibrancy, and relevance of a place for its community.

 Public art was cited as a strategy for creative placemaking among attendees, and critiqued by David Attah who advocated for ‘socially engaged’ public art that should not only reflect and engage with local civic processes, but also encourage the participation of the local community and its various stakeholders. In advocating for art that treats its audience as “subjective,” he asserted the need for a more inclusive public art-making process that is ethical, self-critical, and most importantly, participatory for its local community.

 Following these panelist presentations, each table group was provided with one of the following four “creative placemaking solutions”: engaging people with food, cultural remembrance, farmer’s markets, and muraling. Each group applied their chosen solution to the pictured urban space, and brainstorm ways to incorporate that element in the urban space in an inclusive and engaging way. The presentation of group brainstorms sparked discussions around power and privilege in decision-making, the incorporation of socially engaged public art, shifting land-use practices, community-building activities, and native recognition in creative placemaking.

 In addition, feedback on proposed creative placemaking solutions like street art and farmers markets encouraged critique of community participation, agency, and empowerment in the placemaking process. Overall, the session highlighted the dialectic relationship between place and belonging. Indeed, creating inclusive places requires the building of a narrative that brings people together, accounts for the broader community’s past, current and future needs while encouraging community participation in all stages of the creative place-making process.


photo by Eric Arnold, see more photos on our Facebook page.

Refugees, Borders, and Placelessness

Saskia Sassen, Nunu Kidane, Leena Odeh, Abraham Ramirez, Nadia Barhoum

By: Affiong Faith Ibok

A common theme among the speakers in the panel “Refugees, Borders, Placelessness” was a need for greater collective understanding of what causes of migration. During her presentation, renowned globalization scholar Saskia Sassen asked the audience “Why do people migrate?” Sassen expressed that a “racialized analysis” of migration exists because the political classes have failed to educate the “suffering classes.” She stressed that, while the refugee population is growing, migrants are a minority and that “migrations happen inside systems.”

 UC Berkeley Ph.D candidate Abraham Ramirez’s presentation approached migration from a historical perspective. He talked about how the physical expulsion of a population always follows an epistemic expulsion. In order to justify colonization, colonists must first delegitimize indigenous peoples’ knowledge creation. In order to discuss migration, Ramirez states that people have to understand the history of stripping populations of their humanity to justify colonization. If that is ignored, people will continue to look to solutions in the very same systems that constructed the problems. Instead of looking towards the nation-state for solutions, Ramirez argued we need to look at the communities that have resisted for centuries.

 Organizer Leena Odeh’s presentation went on to challenge the rhetorical use of the term “refugee crisis.” According to Odeh, the term “refugee crisis” implies that this situation is natural, instead of the result of geopolitical attacks. Furthermore, Odeh argued that refugees’ existences are politicized while the issues that affect them are decontextualized.

 The final panelist, Nunu Kidane of Priority African Network, centered her presentation on controlling and expanding the narratives for migrants. Migrants are made secondary to their own narratives, she said, and people’s perceptions of migrants are controlled by the images they see. The narratives of migrants are complex, she said, but migrants are often characterized as victims or perpetrators of violence.

 At the end of the breakout session audience members were invited to join in a Q&A session. One audience member asked if the panelists could expand on the idea of refugees “Othering” each other. Ramirez answered that communities of color who are not colonized subjects are attracted to whiteness because of the false promises it offers. He asked, “How can we convince people to not reproduce these systems?” He told a story about traveling to Spain and finding out that being Mexican in Spain was different than being Mexican in the United States. While he did not experience discrimination, people of other ethnicities did. Instead of accepting this new privilege, Ramirez rejected it. He used this anecdote to express how important it is for communities to not reproduce oppression. Fundamentally, he said, communities of color must resist the temptation to “Other” each other.

Racial Anxiety, Increasing Diversity, and Politics of Fear of the Other

Dowell Myers, Olivia Araiza, Sean McElwee, john a. powell, Shakil Choudhury

By: Juan Sebastian Arias

Studies have shown that increased racial diversity leads to increased racial anxiety, a trend that will only continue as the country grows more diverse. In framing this breakout panel on racial anxiety, Haas Institute Director john a. powell explained that anxiety can be hard to define, but essentially consists of an acute sense of loss of self. As people perceive change coming to them that they cannot control, they feel an increased sense of ‘racial anxiety,’ or an anxiety of the Other. Yet anxiety itself is not bad. If mediated positively, anxiety can lead to bridging ties and empathy between groups. But if mediated negatively, it can lead to breaking ties, where others are seen as threats or competitors in a zero-sum calculus. Racial anxiety is fundamentally widespread and can even be found in communities of color.

 Panelist Sean McElwee, Policy Analyst at Demos, connected racial anxiety to the role of racism in determining the 2016 US presidential election. He presented data showing that a backlash to rising diversity drove Donald Trump’s support. In the 2016 election, 11 percent of Obama voters switched to Trump, while only 5 percent of Romney voters switched to Clinton. Survey data identified racial attitudes as the most important factor in predicting this switch, with the strongest predictor of a switch to Trump among those with higher racial anxiety. On the flip side, he found no evidence that indicators of economic hardship made voters more likely to support Trump – which provides counter evidence to the population notion that working class anxiety led people to support Trump. Looking forward, McElwee concluded that we’ll see greater political polarization along racial attitudes and that we will need to bring new voters into the electorate for better chances in future elections.

 Dowell Myers, demography and urban planning professor at the USC School of Policy, offered one way to mediate racial anxieties with a new narrative that helps older white voters see the great benefits in diversity. By focusing on the challenges our country will face as the number of people over 65 grows much faster than that of people who are in prime working age, he argued that investing in all youth, especially youth of color, is one of the only solutions. We don’t have enough youth to support the rising numbers of retirees, so we will need to really support the best outcomes for the entire future workforce. Otherwise, drastic changes will be needed to sustain the current retirement system. This is just an example of how to change the narrative we tell out of pending demographic shifts to support racial equity.

 Lastly, educator and consultant Shakil Choudhury spoke about the importance of emotional awareness and literacy among the social justice movement. He emphasized the role of emotions as invisible yet controlling drivers for our behaviors and decisions. With respect to our emotions related to other, we tend to have empathy for those most like us. In contrast, we also have anxiety and fear recorded in the amygdala which are then triggered by others. This tendency to dehumanize others is loaded in our brains and is something we need to mindfully work against, Shakil said. He called on activists to make activist spaces irresistibly humanizing, so that people will be drawn to the social justice movement, instead of feeling pushed out. He named four activist traps to avoid: poor self-care that leads to burnout, despair from going beyond critical to cynical, simplification of theory into truth, and the dehumanizing of allies and opponents.

Strategic Narrative and Practices for Belonging

Ian Haney López, Sabrina Smith, Troy Jackson, Ifeoma Ike, Gerald Lenoir, Olivia Araiza

By: John Paraskevopoulos

The speakers on the Strategic Narratives panel focused their discussion on strategies and frames for advancing a strategic narrative capable of mobilizing actors around issues of racial justice and inclusivity in the United States. Berkeley Professor Ian Haney López started off by noting the difference between narrative and branding, and describing the current fissure in the Left between the “class” left and the “equality” left, whose narratives have become mutually exclusive. Professor López suggested that the new progressive narrative must bridge its “class” and “equality” rift and avoid negative frames, opting instead for a more positive vision: demanding that government help everyone, that we should view undue concentrations of wealth and power as opportunities for emancipation, and that trust in each other should be prioritized.

 Ifeoma Ike, an organizer from Brooklyn, spoke about the need not to rush aligning movements, at the risk of fracturing extant efforts and groups, and not trying to help marginalized communities, but work with them. Similarly, Ifeoma described the need to work with white Americans and groups, and not to think that white America is intellectually unable to contribute to a progressive movement.

 On a similar note, Troy Jackson, an organizer and pastor from Ohio, spoke about building empathetic bridges in faith communities where politics and race are often avoided as subjects of discussion. He noted that the very large constituency of evangelical groups in middle America are often written off as politically and socially conservative, and thus excluded from progressive organizing efforts and left outside of strategic visions and narratives as stakeholders.

 Sabrina Smith, a California-based organizer, described the results of her group’s use of social-values polling in organizing and framing policy agendas and ballot proposals, which have shown for her that the vast majority of Californians want to be left out of other people’s problems and feel that government should simply be efficient, not expansive or inclusive. Smith highlighted the need to locate openings in this middle constituency, and in framing progressive agendas and strategic narratives such that they lead with values and remain aspirational.

 Together, the speakers all touched on the importance of using aspirational values and frames to unite constituencies, on the importance of connecting government to people’s lives, and on the need to work with differing constituencies, including segments of white Americans experiencing the racial and economic anxieties that fueled Trump’s election, in order to construct a meaningful strategic narrative for today’s progressive movement.

 Two memorable questions included one about how social justice is often funded on a charitable basis, and a provocative question about whether or not we can incorporate lessons from the last 10,000 years of human civilization into a strategic narrative about the next 10,000. Troy Jackson responded to the question about charity by referencing the parable of the Good Samaritan. He ceded that the good Samaritan is great, but why is the road to Jericho so dangerous? In other words, charity is wonderful, but our society needs structural reforms—good Samaritans and charity are only temporary redress for deeper-seated problems.

Mobilize. Politicize. Organize.

Rev. Kevin Sauls, Jonathan Smucker, Alva Martinez, Sean Burns

By: Hossein Ayazi

The panel “Mobilize. Politicize. Organize.” brought together four individuals whose experience organizing prior to and in the midst of the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency afforded them keen insight into effective strategies for political action during politically urgent times.

The panelists, Reverend Kelvin Sauls, Jonathan Smucker, Alva Martinez, and Sean Burns, were asked to address critical questions, such as: What is the value and necessity of resistance? What are its limits? How do we transform resistance into a demand for transformative, long term change? What is at risk, if we fail to do so? How can we use this moment to work towards healing longstanding divides between communities and to break down silos between issue areas? Session attendees also used the panel theme to pose other significant questions, including those related to how we can create an increasingly more inclusive “we” in organizing?

 The central questions, comments, and responses from the speakers were that we need to push ourselves to think beyond a single axis of struggle for a more inclusive “we,” and to work beyond envisioning electoral bodies and legislative measures as the means and ends of discrete struggles. More specifically, and in conversation with 40+ attendees, the panelists drew several conclusions: effective organizing, mobilizing, and politicizing is nonlinear; it requires us showing up fully to our work and sharing our own stories and personal experiences; it requires having those experiences heard and acknowledged; it requires envisioning measures beyond strictly political parties and legislative measures, while at the same time remaining in constructive tension with established bodies; and that what will help drive us through this work is faith in the future, faith in our potential, faith in one another, faith in our ancestors, faith in a higher being, and faith in our ability to transform at the intersection of multiple struggles.

 Particularly striking was the middle ground between the notion that “we shouldn’t do anything electoral, don’t engage the Democratic Party” and that of “you shouldn’t criticize the Democratic Party” posed as a means of addressing the current situation. Also of great interest was the recommended move from finding “common ground” to “higher ground”—where, at the intersection of multiple peoples, struggles, and stories, people themselves are being transformed by realizing what their privileges are and know when they need to step aside so that others can lead.

Noticing a gap in the types of difference addressed, one attendee shared their experience with multi-generational organizing, where older folks had used their experience in earlier struggles (e.g., those during the Civil Rights era) to frame the political struggle in which they were presently taking part. The result was a mis-assessment of the of the problems at hand as well as the most effective methods of addressing them. The panel responded by agreeing that it is the youth that should be leading—“we are not just the future, we are the present.”

 Ultimately, the conversation brought many different people from many different backgrounds—racial, ethnic, economic, generational, religious, and political—yet the goals were the same: to share strategies and build an effective movement against a political party and government entirely unrepresentative of the vast majority of people and their concerns, despite skillfully deploying rhetoric that suggests otherwise. There was no one takeaway, no one solution posed, but rather a conversation about how we can come together across difference.

Creating Another World That is Possible: Youth Advancing Belonging

Clarence Ford, Hatem Mohtaseb, Ruben Elias, Kristian Kim, Tania Pulido, Ruben Canedo

By: Kimberly Rubens

The “Youth Advance Belonging” panel aimed to define and expand on the theme of inter-generational leadership, specifically engaging with the question of how can elders engage youth in civic leadership? The panel brought together youth leaders from different movements working to challenge structures, systems, and institutions that historically and systematically exclude marginalized communities. Panelists explored how youth have been able to identify the failures of these inherited structures, systems, and institutions in ways that have been generative and created space to build practices and spaces of belonging.

Ruben E. Canedo, CE3 Research and Mobilization Coordinator at UC Berkeley, served as the panel’s moderator and opened the session with a moving quote from writer Arundhati Roy: “…She is on her way. I can hear her breathing.” Canedo said this quote reflected his efforts to facilitate a wide-ranging discussion on inviting youth into social justice movements.

Canedo began the discussion by asking the panelists to share their thoughts on the importance of intergenerational leadership. Panelist Tania Pulido, a Community Health Coordinator, said that intergenerational leadership is the only way things can forward. “I find a lot of wisdom by seeking elders,” she said, noting that she is helping put on a play about 1940s Richmond and is particularly interested in what a Renaissance looks like today and how it’s connected to what came before. “I also see myself as the bridge to call youth and elders out when they say ‘out of pocket’ things,” she added.

Each of the youth featured on the panel had an opportunity to discuss the healthy and unhealthy ways in which they are pulled in as the next generation of leaders. Kristian Kim, a member of the Undergraduate Worker’s Union at UC Berkeley, criticized the notion of students attending the “best” public university. “I feel a bit objectified, [it] gets to the “youths’” head - being told that you go to the number one university in the world. This idea of “number one” is a very imperial view of the world,” she said. “It also lends itself to this rootlessness and hopelessness because I can go anywhere or do anything. While it may not be what I do forever, but organizing at Berkeley is what I can do now.”

Before Canedo moved to small group discussion portion of the panel, he asked each of the panelists to share something to Stop and Start doing. The discussants shared:

Clarence Ford: Stop being combative listeners, start being active listeners.

Tania Pulido: Stop assuming, start speaking from lived experiences.

Kristian Kim: Start believing someone the first time they share who they are.

Hatem Mohtaseb: Stop pushing away people who want to organize and who don’t say politically correct things, but start listening and bring people to your side. Also, take your time building relationships.

Throughout the panel, Canedo attempted to “disrupt this bi-directional space” by providing time for honest reflection from both the panelists and audience members. The second half of the panel was devoted to four small group discussion, with a panelist assigned to each. In this space, audience members were invited to reflect and share on their lived experiences in intergenerational leadership. The main takeaways were to pass the baton, hold space for others, and that it is healthy to be honest and vulnerable.

Revealing and Resisting Global Demagoguery

Larry Rosenthal, Sarah Kendzior, Stephen Menendian

By: Darren Arquero

How can we recognize and resist demagogic forces in the United States and beyond?

 Demagogue ("demos", the people, and "agogos," leader) is defined as a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

This topic animated the conversation during the May 1 breakout session "Revealing and Resisting Global Demagoguery," a workshop that spoke to the rise of demagoguery on a global scale, as well as the continuing desecration of constitutional norms and laws that followed in the wake of the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Led by the Haas Institute's Stephen Menendian, the intimate panel featured insights from Lawrence Rosenthal, Chair and Lead Researcher of UC Berkeley's Center for Right-Wing Studies, and journalist Sarah Kendzior, an expert on authoritarian states and US politics.

 All three panelists emphasized the need to understand how the success of Donald Trump fits into a larger global phenomenon of political leaders appealing to ethnic, religious, and nationalistic identities, which Rosenthal highlighted as beginning domestically with the Tea Party movement in 2009.

Kendzior added that a similar phenomenon could be found across the Atlantic, arguing that the UK’s Brexit vote was an appeal to national identity following the massive refugee and migrant crisis from the Middle East and North Africa in 2015. From India, Hungary, and Turkey to the Philippines, Russia, and the (failed) attempt of the National Front at capturing the presidency in France, the rise of illiberal democracies points to the strategic use of the “Other” that sits at the heart of populist movements.

Rosenthal elaborated this point further in the context of the United States, stressing how the rise of the Tea Party and subsequently the alt-right fed off the antipathy and distrust that working class whites had toward political and financial elites—hence the popularity of Trump’s slogan, “Draining the swamp.”

Moreover, Kendzior’s astute reading of the stepping down of national security Michael Flynn and her (correct) prediction of the firing of James Comey demonstrates how Trump’s actions are part of the “standard power play” of authoritarian leaders as they consolidate power at the nation-state level. As demagogues across the world stroke anxieties of demographic change by tapping into economic dislocations and engaging in “dog whistle” politics—such as Trump's comments on Mexican “rapists” and “radical Islamic terrorism”—Menendian advocated the need to design and implement policies that build inclusivity into the fabric of our societies.

Strategic Questioning

Shakti Butler

By: Lauren Alexander

The Strategic Questioning breakout session led by conference emcee Shakti Butler aimed to demonstrate how framing questions and conversations differently can empower new questions, release blocks to fresh ideas, facilitate people’s own responses to change, and create answers that may not be immediately known. The session, which drew extensively from the article, “Strategic Questioning for Social Justice,” by Fran Peavy, demonstrated how strategic questioning opens both parties to a new point of view, allows ideas to shift and take into account new information and possibilities.

 Butler began by unpacking the idea of passive versus active communication using “school” as an analogy. In school, we are taught that getting the right answer first is the way to demonstrate worthiness as students. Peavy calls this “static communication” and argues this type of communication can be deeply passive. Instead, Butler urged participants to create an “undulating ocean of exchange,” whereby both parties give and receive information. However, she acknowledges that getting to this point can be difficult because we don’t know how to cross the chasm that we so often face in conversation.

 To explore further his idea of strategic questioning, Butler urged participants to get into groups of three and think of some of their own central questions that brought them to this conference.  Some of the questions offered by participants included: How do we move forward with anti-racism work in an environment that represses it?; How can Black women and nurturers build bridges without becoming the bridge that is trot upon?; Why should I see reaching out to another community as abandoning my own?

In each of the groups one person presented their question while a second individual served as the respondent who questioned the first in an attempt to gain a fuller understanding of what was being asked. The third person in the group observed and helped provide insight once the conversation was over.

After each round, each individual was asked to reflect on how the role they just played was like for them, guided by questions from Butler, including:

  •  “When you were the one asking questions, who found that their question shifted?”

  • “Who got new ideas from listening?”

  • “When you were observer, how many people wanted to jump in?

 Butler discussed how this approach to communication has the potential to move people’s opinions and how critical it is to think about one’s audience—they should be engaged in a way that doesn’t exhaust them.

 Following this discussion, Butler briefly reviewed types of questions. She broke them down into first level questions—framing questions, observation questions, and analysis questions—and second level questions. Second level questions include visioning questions—how would you know whether your work is successful, as well as change questions, which focus on strategy to achieving that vision.

 The ultimately takeaway of this workshop was that people can be empowered when they have the chance to think out loud you and try out new ideas—and in the process that person can take ownership and gain confidence. An authentic conversation can open new avenues and create opportunities for change for everyone involved.

Disablement and Decarceration: Defining Disability Justice in an Age of Mass Incarceration

Talila Lewis, Eduardo Vega, Claudia Center, Tamisha Walker, Stephen Rosenbaum

By: Erica Browne

The panel presentation began with information on law, disability justice, and creative ways to use the law to move towards justice. Panelists presented statistical information about the disproportionate adverse health, mental health, and punishment outcomes experienced by people with disabilities. Panelists Talila Lewis of Rochester Institute of Technology and Claudia Center of the ACLU emphasized that any conversation about race and class oppression must also talk about disability-based oppression, and how race/ability/class-based oppression permeates our institutions, societies, laws, and practices. The panelists then moved into a “grounding” on the meaning and significance of disability justice, emphasizing that language is rich and important, and that we must name things as they are: disability justice instead of disability law; criminal legal system instead of criminal justice system; love and support instead of treatment; and prison, instead of correctional facility. Panelists discussed how the disability rights framework has unintentionally set up a system of diagnoses and abling that promotes a culture of compliance and does not ensure that people are supported in the ways necessary.

 Eduardo Vega of Dignity Recovery Action! International, then presented mental health advocacy as the space where social justice and health issues intersect and where the work of disability justice is also situated. Panelists emphasized that diagnoses have the power to potentially change the course of someone’s life, arguing that people are assigned to deterministic categories through the process of diagnosis. Such categories serve to systematically disempower individuals and their life opportunities.

 The panel presentation concluded with a discussion on positive changes to address these challenges, including resourcing our communities to address the needs of the most vulnerable, needy, and disadvantaged. With this approach, we would not rely on the incarceration system to provide the support and actions necessary to actively lift up all corners of society. This alternative acknowledges that we cannot ask a system that was not designed to serve us, to serve us. In many cases. people are incarcerated because society does not have the resources to support or care for those with the greatest needs. For example, young people are often labelled as “emotionally disturbed”; in fact, many have actually been exposed to trauma, poverty, or prison, and need and deserve even greater support.

Building a Transformational Women's Movement: Feminism at Crossroads

Vanessa Daniels, Malika Redmond, Kim Tran, Kathleen Cruz Gutierrez, Darren Arquero

By: John Paraskevopoulos

The Transformational Feminism panel opened with a discussion of what feminism means to each of the speakers. Kim Tran, a doctoral candidate in the UC Berkeley Department of Ethnic Studies and Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, said that feminism entails emancipation from all forms of oppression, a point agreed upon by all speakers. Vanessa Daniels of the Groundswell Fund added that it means creating a world in which everyone can be his or her whole self, such that we can be a whole society.

Women cannot be whole people until they are free and equal in every regard, and men cannot be whole until they replace patriarchy with feminist consciousness (in the same way, she added, that white people cannot be whole until they replace white supremacy with racial justice.) Within this rubric, however, there has been fracture, including the parallel feminisms of women of color and white liberal feminism. Moreover, Tran said that while many people agree with the project of ending all forms of oppression, the majority of these people don’t feel that this is a Feminist project, or identify as Feminists otherwise. This poses an obstacle for those working to build a transformational Feminism, as they must raise awareness about its goals and relevance to the lives of many people around the world.

 Malika Redmond of Women Engaged stressed that however new our present-day struggles may feel, they are part of a much longer historical struggle. On that note, Tran added that we must address the issue of intergenerational violence among men and women and especially among colonized and formerly colonized people because of how deeply such forms of structural violence run and are perpetuated. With regards to structural violence, Kat Gutierrez of UC Berkeley discussed the pervasive complicity of academia surrounding issues of sexual violence on college campuses.

 Gutierrez offered deeper insights into what transformational feminism means, arguing that the movement’s future cannot be seen as simply a reversal of the white male power hierarchy, and that representational politics must be avoided. She shared the story of a white dairy farmer from Fresno County who mortgaged his farm and equipment in 1972 in order to pay Angela Davis’ $100,000 bail—an example of what a transformed society might look like: one in which white men with resources are willing to put everything they own at risk for women of color. This was connected to the larger idea that a transformed and progressive world must be willing to inclusively share its power and resources.