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Cozy Community-Building // MMTM week 2

We kicked off week two of MMTM on Thursday, September 13, with lots of opportunities for meaningful (and fun!) community-building. While we set up and waited for everyone to arrive, I put on music and asked the girls what they liked to listen to. I asked them to give me suggestions for some “PG” songs or artists and, after discussing with friends, one girl asked if I could plan Anne-Marie. We found a few fun songs by her and jammed out as everyone got settled.

We were in a much smaller room this session, so we all got cozy in closely placed chairs and spaces on the floor for those of us who wanted to stretch out. We were worried it would be hard to fit everyone, but I think it actually helped us reach some of our goals for the session: to engage the girls in different ways and create space for us to get to know one another a little better. Because we were all so spatially close, it was easy to turn to someone beside you and ask a question or talk about the activity – and that happened continuously throughout the day.

The conversations were already rolling when Vera opened the session with a warm welcome and overview of our agenda for the day. We started with revisiting the community agreements we developed last week. As a staff, we look at the agreements as a “living” document, where both the staff & girls can add/edit/remove as needed throughout the course of the program. We took time to address each agreement individually with popcorn style comments from the room as to what they meant. When we felt we had come to a consensus, we would move on. There were lots of great clarifying questions and we even added a few more agreements such as “It’s ok to fail!” (from one of the girls) and “Make space, take space” (from yours truly).

After running through all the community agreements, Kristle transitioned us into a name game to help jog our memories from last week. We moved all the chairs and stood in a circle around the room, then went around and said each of our names. We laughed at how fast we all talked and had to do a second round to make sure we got everyone’s down. After that, Kristle explained the game to us and we gave it a try. It involved calling out each other’s names, doing a few motions, then calling another person – kind of like “hot potato” but with names. We all broke out into laughter at how hard it was for us to name everyone during the first round, so we quickly deemed it “the practice round” and started again. The second time we did much better and, as a newbie to MMTM, I particularly appreciated the extra time to practice names!

After that, we took a short break followed by a writing activity with Noa and Serena. They started with a “word bank” to help us think & talk about what social justice means/looks like to us. Noa asked us to share words that came to mind when we thought of social justice. and the group called out a range of answers. Some examples included gay, feminism, basic human rights, colonization, racism, protests, ableism, equity, and reproductive rights. We talked about definitions for a few terms that folks were less familiar with, one example being white fragility. Katie shared how this phrase refers to white folks’ discomfort addressing racism, often making people of color have to further explain their experiences and provide comfort when a white person is feeling hurt or defensive about racial injustice. Mansplaining was also added to the bank and a few girls asked me to explain it to them after they had a hard time finding a definition online. I shared that it is the common practice where men take up space in an aggressive way, often resulting in the silencing of women through talking over us and/or explaining something that they know much about less than we do.

Once our word bank was too big to contain on one of the flip chart papers, we moved onto a metaphor activity. Noa & Serena asked us to pick a few words from the word bank, then write down one physical item that comes to mind when we hear that word. One of my pairs was colonization → mahalo trash bin, a vivid image that came to mind around tourism and the commodification of our Hawaiian words & culture.

Noa then moved us into another free writing session to help build up the girlsʻ comfort with writing and creating. She asked folks to write about anything that came up for them during the activity, using words that resonated, using one of their metaphor ideas as a jumping off point, or going with something completely different that came to mind. Right afterwards, we paired up to share and the conversations flowed naturally and with a ton of laughter. We tried to encourage the girls to pair up with someone they don’t know as well and were pleasantly surprised to see everyone bonding so quickly and easily. It definitely feels like everyone has created that safe space for one another!

Valerie and Ginger then led us into the filmmaking portion of the day. Similar to last session, we’re putting more technical skill-building towards the beginning so the girls have more time to practice and get comfortable. The girls broke up into small groups and got handout packets with some key filmmaking components + example pictures: types of shots, rule of thirds, etc. Val and Ginger each went from group to group and spent time showing the girls how to set up a tripod and operate their camera. In between their time with Val & Ginger, a few of the girls even took a couple short dance breaks. Never a dull moment! Vera acted as their resident model, along with a few of the girls who were brave enough to pose in front of the camera. The groups ended with ended by practicing their WAFFLEs (white balance, audio, focus, framing, lighting, exposure), then packed everything up and regrouped back in our cozy room.

We circled up again and decided to close out similar to how we had the previous week. Last week we ended with one word describing the day and, after Katie & I brainstormed a bit, we decided to ask folks to share four words or a phrase. The prompt this time was to describe your identity in those four words. While Katie and I used mainly adjectives for ourselves, many of the girls shared creative phrases such as “Kinda gay, kinda Asian” and “I am very clumsy.” It was a great way to gain some quick insight into everyone’s personalities!

As the girls started packing up and heading out, I made my rounds to let them know I’d be out of town for the next few sessions. Everyone wished me a safe trip and a few of the girls even gasped & grabbed me for group hug, which I thought was so sweet! As they let go and said goodbye to one another, I noticed that most folks in the room were hugging each another and saying goodbye as well. The MMTM community is definitely getting stronger with each session and I can’t wait to see the learning, growing and bonding we build throughout this experience.

Aloha & a hui hou!

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