World Café: “Do All Lives Matter?”

On Nov. 8, Breaking the Cycle of Violence Initiative (BCVI) and the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement (OSLCE) at the University of Massachusetts Boston, ran a World Café dialogue, “Building the Beloved Community, Building Cultures of Peace” in one of the university dining clubs on the second floor of the Campus Center. Running from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the session started with the showing of videos and the highlighting of the topic for the day: “Do All Lives Matter?”

A World Café breaks a room full of people down to groups of three to four people in a keynote model. The paper tablecloths and markers in the middle help to spur on ideas and write notes as the participants discuss the question at hand. Likened to speed dating, with every round, everyone, besides “the host,” moves to another table. They have three rounds of 15 to 20 minutes, each with different objectives for the table. A sheet on the table stated the first objective—“Centering Questions: In theory, all lives do matter. But, in reality, do all lives matter? What are your experiences?” The paper requested the table to not hold back.

With around 60 attendees, the first 20 minutes had the room engrossed in a video showing the definition of Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter. The video included clips from ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ along with Ellen DeGeneres, the MeToo Movement, and the ongoing debate of transgender rights and using restrooms.

One table hit on multiple topics within the broader picture of the central question. Farrin Khan and her group brought up other social movements in the past, such as the National Woman's Party from the early 20th century. Although members of the National Woman’s Party were suffragists, they also fought for abolition and temperance laws. One member added how even though ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) is focused on black people, they’re not anti–All Lives Matter, but, “bringing awareness to what black people go through today and why there needs to be changes. BLM calls attention to injustice just as the National Woman’s Party did all those years go.” Another person brought the conversation back to the original topic, “Social standing determines the value of life. Why do you think people in power always have bodyguards?”

Before the third round started, the last papers were handed out describing the instructions. OSLCE and BCVI requested the current groups to use their table’s notes write down all the main points hit on throughout the World Café. When the event wound down, they handed out cookies and had someone from every table stand up and talk about what they expanded on during the dialogue. All tables touched on different parts of the question. A man from one of the tables talked about education while a woman from another table spoke to the room about BLM from a Jamaican perspective. At the end of the World Café, the representatives thanked the students and had them turn in their table notes and markers.

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