I recently co-facilitated a day-long workshop on class and classism to a group of people who ranged in occupations and motivation to attend, yet had all found out about the workshop through a faith community. I opened this workshop, as I open many workshops, with a tailored diversity welcome. I acknowledged many potential things about this group of people, including their spirits, their faith, and their communities.
A few hours later we (my co-facilitator and I) had placed signs throughout the room with different class markers. After exploring these markers, we asked people to pick the class background they were in at age 12. After some milling about I interrupted people to clarify who was in which group and to give them the next set of instructions.
At this time there were two individuals not next to a class sign but instead in the middle of the room. I asked them which group they were going to be in. One of the people said, “I don’t belong in any group.” To this I replied that for the activity I needed her to be in one group. She looked me straight in the eye and with a deadpan expression said “You welcomed me.” I looked at her and laughed in enjoyment and responded “I did welcome you, I did. Thank you for reminding me. We will figure out how to incorporate who you are after we make sure the other groups are settled.”
After I had given instructions to all the participants and the small groups began discussing the next topic I turned to the two people in the middle of the room. I let them know this activity was about sharing commonalities with each other. So, if the two of them could find class background commonalities than they would be fulfilling the purpose of the activity.
The two happily went about chatting, had a meaningful report out to the whole group, and helped all the participants move their learning forward. It was a beautiful reminder that when I welcome the entirety of people into a space the entirety of them can walk into the room. When we balance differentiation and integration it has powerful moments for social change, individually and collectively.