We Woke, Now What?: Discussions on Race and Lindy Hop at Lindy Focus

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Editor's Note: A series of discussions on race and lindy hop occurred at Lindy Focus 2017 in Asheville, North Carolina from December 28-30, facilitated by Baltimore based organizer and educator Breai Mason-Campbell. Here's the description from Lindy Focus:

Surprise! We have race issues, too! Many of us have been caught off guard by the Klan marches, travel bans, and other national events we thought to be impossible. We presumed that these extremes of racism were something over, from another time in history, and are rattled by the closeness of such overt bigotry. These discussions will examine the often overlooked ways in which racial biases and inequities have come to thrive in the Lindy Hop scene as well, and what we can do to correct that.

Breai shares here the slide deck from the final session “We Woke, Now What?” focused on planning next steps for individual, local, and scene-wide initiatives. 

Thank you so much for the time and attention you gave to thinking compassionately about issues of race at Lindy Focus this year. If you missed the conversations and are just joining us, take a look at this slide show [also reproduced below] to get the gist of what we covered in our sessions, and keep reading to see what we're going to do next. Pay special attention the last slide, where you will find the commitments each region/group has made to working on these issues in 2018. 

I encourage every member of the scene to realize that you have the power to effect positive change in the lives of others by getting involved. Let us each, humbly, do our part, celebrate our victories, and not throw in the towel when it gets hard.

Session 1: “Problem? What, Problem?”

Our Goals Were…...

  • To create a safe space to discuss issues of race
  • To propose norms for that safe space
  • To acquaint the community with the concept of “White Fragility”
  • To unpack the concept of “divisiveness” 

People Came Because…...

  • Looking for knowledge
  • Because “I know how it feels”
  • Feeling guilt 
  • To improve the scene

Norms and Guidelines

  • Prejudice + Power = Racism
  • Racism exists in the Lindy Hop Community
  • Listen to understand
  • Be mindful of what you’ve missed + respect other people’s time
  • Leave room for mistakes without fear of gossip
  • Stay through the hard times

Session 2: “Integration, and Other Fairy Tales”

Our Goal Was…...
To critically examine the concept of integration as it relates to the Lindy Scene

Together We…….

  • Told the story of integration and the Savoy
  • Told the story of why Black people stopped dancing
  • DIscussed in groups what we are doing/ have done in our home scenes to work towards integration 

Session 3: “The Mascot Issue”

Our Goal Was…..
To understand the concept of a mascot and how it connects with our treatment of Black people/ Blackness in the Lindy Scene

We Discussed…..

  • People vs Persona’s
  • Heroes vs Mascots: Chick Webb vs. Benny Goodman, Chuck Berry vs. Elvis and Macklemore/ Iggy Azalea/ Justin Timberlake as Hip-Hop’s new face

Together We….
Strategized around Black Lindy Hop Matters’ areas of concern 

Session 4: “The Token Black Person”

Our Goal Was…..
To define tokenism and consider how it is at work in the Lindy Scene

Our Panel Covered…..

  • How some benefit from being the only Black person in the room
  • The disadvantages of being the only black person in the room
  • How Black people interact with the other black people in room

Together We….

  • Discussed Key and Peele’s take on Tokenism
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s take on Tokenism

Session 5: We Woke, Now What

2018 Goals

Instructors / Scene Leaders: Speak up, model, post.

Philadelphia: Advertise more in the city, by reaching out to student groups, universities.

California: Better outreach to other dance communities. Go to their events and participate. Share a demo and invite.

Florida: Discuss race issues with Florida leaders. How to get current dancers more invested in working on these issues.

New Orleans: Advertise to expand network of dancers. Ex: schools.

South East: Form partnerships / relationships with existing Black social dance groups.

Baltimore: Discussion groups about whiteness, posters.

New York: Bridge downtown and uptown scenes.

Boston: Go talk with the board of Boston Lindy Hop. Connect with Harvard AFrican American or Musicology.

Seattle: Intentional discussions + Harvard Implicit Bias Test.

Washington DC: Racism is a problem in the DC Lindy  Scene. Have the discussion at home with leaders.

Midwest Plus: Conversations about history, plus outreach and exchange.

More detailed notes will be shared from Tessa Auza when they become available. For more information, see this page. And in case you have not seen it yet, here's Yehoodi's facilitated conversation on "Black inclusion in Lindy Hop" from last year.