CCDE Listening Party

One afternoon in the Odegaard Library, students and community members of the UW Center for Communication, Difference and Equity’s Interrupting Privilege class gathered to listen to recordings of discussions between individuals who had been asked: “When was the first time you experienced discrimination?”

The event was part of UW Doctoral Candidate Anjuli Brekke’s dissertation, which focuses on audio storytelling and “exploring the affective political potential, in terms of opening spaces for dialogue across differences of telling, listening and sharing personal narratives, both online and within situated communities.” In addition to the students, project participants referenced in the recordings were also in attendance.

StoryCorps, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people, originally recorded these interviews.

The audio clips ranged from 4 to 5 minutes in length, and were each accompanied by an image projected in front of the audience of those speaking. Topics included the Importance of Representation, Regional Experiences of Racism, and Race and Gender. Project participants were given the opportunity to provide context for these stories, which sparked additional conversations during and after the event. Storytellers included a young girl in the south, a female police officer, an aspiring vocalist, and a UW student, among others.

Professor Ralina Joseph, director of the CCDE, also led a communication exercise called “Serial Testimony.” Students were paired together and asked to finish the phrase “privilege is…”  They then took turns, speaking for a minute while their partners were asked to actively listen. They were then tasked with finishing the phrase “interrupting privilege is…” using the same technique.

As the evening came to a close, the general consensus was that the only way the event could have been improved was for it to have been longer. At times the room was silent during the event, save for the voices of the storytellers. At other times, the space was alive with laughter and warmth. The event was a truly radical way to spark conversation and practice deeply engaged listening.

“The listening party was, to me, a perfect encapsulation of a CCDE project,” said Dr. Joseph. “It grew out of a collaboration with our partners in the alumni association, the graduate school, undergraduates, and the greater Seattle community. Everyone in the room had an opportunity to learn about, and practice the skills of, radical listening: it was a skills-building event.  I am so grateful to all those who participated and shared their stories, as well as those who worked on bringing the project to the CCDE.”

By Olivia Hall | CCDE Communication Specialist