Blog/Event Updates

A Successful People of Color Caucus for 2019: Join us for 2020!

Just completed our third annual People of Color Caucus, and it was deeply rewarding. We spent two days together in the beautiful town of Port Townsend on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington
State. We traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Berkeley, California, Seattle, and Portland to be together.

As promised, we only spent a few minutes on how whiteness from white people affects us, and the remainder of our time together we talked about how we participate in the system of whiteness. We unpacked how we deal with our internalized painful trauma stemming from colonization and white supremacy, keeping us from being our best selves and in a supportive community with each other. We laughed, we cried and held each other with care, respect, love, and support. Oh, and we had some yummy food to enjoy whenever we felt like it.

I deeply appreciate my co-facilitator and friend Cheryl Harrison on this journey. Her strength, openness and non-judgmental practice help create a strong container for us to see ourselves. Cheryl and I are committed to dismantling the path that white supremacy tells us we must follow and forge our
own ways of supporting each other.

We acknowledge the subtle ways in which whiteness shows up in our speech, how we keep ourselves down, how we use the same negative stereotypes that whiteness employs to harm
each other. We shared our stories and found healing and possible ways we can show up for ourselves and each other that reduces harm and supports courage. We engaged tools from Playback, Theater of the Oppressed and the teachings of Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams to support our time together. Oh, and you have to get on the train with Rev. Angel.

From her Black, Queer, Zen Buddhist platform she points to the truth of our existence and how white supremacy is choking us every day and the hope in self-reflection, disrupting, and dismantling systems of oppression! Check out the book she co-authored with Jasmine Syedullah, Ph.D. and Lama Rod Owens: Radical Dharma.

We hope you will join us next year for a deeper dive into self-healing and becoming a beloved community that holds each other in respect and love and support in all the ways we need it!

In Order to Create the World We Want, We Too Must Lay Down Our Weapons of Whiteness

Whoever we are, wherever we’re from, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are marginalized not simply because we are BIPOC, but because society says it’s okay to do so; none of us are inherently bad or worthless.

In our “People of Color Caucus”, we come together once a year (we know, not enough), look around the room and see reflections of ourselves and we may even feel a sense of relief – and somewhat safe – that we don’t have to deal with whiteness today!  Yes, we might find groups we can talk freely in, be quiet, be loud, be funny, eat the types of food we want to eat, play the types of music we want to play, and leave those spaces feeling somewhat refreshed. However, the effects of colonization and internalized oppression, those weapons of white supremacy, are always with us, because we’ve internalized them.  Most times we don’t even recognize when we are acting from those internalized places and as a result, weaponizing our behaviors towards ourselves and each other, making our actions harmful and painful experiences.

In the two days we’re together we will have time to hear from each other about difficulties we encounter as we walk through the world as a BIPOC. However, most of our time will be spent unpacking how we harm each other and exploring how to de-weaponize our actions. We are constantly trying to find places, teachers, support groups, etc., in our quest for personal growth and just when we think we have found a “safe enough” space we experience harm, and because it’s coming from another BIPOC it may feel even more painful. Sometimes it’s us triggering the pain by our own actions, or sometimes it comes from someone we are building trust with; either way it causes trauma, and the recovery time could be longer because trust gets shattered. How do we love, grow and support each other instead of aiming our internalized weapons of whiteness at each other?

We will bring our whole selves to these two days with you and together we will hold space to love and appreciate each other and share our lived experiences; this will create the conditions for us to grow even deeper into self-healing.

Gaining an awareness of how and when we weaponize our internalized oppression or when we use it against ourselves or each other is a vital step towards creating joy, peace, and love.  In doing so we will be contributing to the equitable, peaceful and just world in which we would love to live. We invite you to join us.

By Ashnie Butler & Cheryl Harrison

Register now for the People of Color Caucus: Internalized Racism workshop!

Click the link to learn more and register! The caucus is a highly experiential 2-day workshop for People of Color to explore how we can better support each other and thrive in the face of the white supremacy that surrounds us.

Original Link Here!

The Power of Affinity Space

Most of my life in this country has been lived in predominantly white spaces: my personal space, my workspaces, my social spaces. Navigating the sea of whiteness became my norm without even realizing it. It was difficult for me to see the waters that surrounded me, even as I did social justice work.

I had been doing social justice/anti-racist work for a long time before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However at that moment, I witnessed the mass confusion, as white liberal/progressive Americans got a glimpse of what Indigenous, Black, Brown, and Immigrant communities have been saying continuously, even as a Black president was on his way out: racism was, and still is, alive and well.

I started facilitating affinity space (with people of color only) within a month of the elections and then on a regular basis. I realized what I needed more than anything was not having to “explain” my experience of being a person of color. Being validated for who I am, not censoring my communication, and sharing the traumatic impact that everyday micro-aggressions and systematic oppression have on my life with other people of color became my medicine.

For me, the result of the election brought an unfamiliar wave of feeling unsafe in predominantly white spaces. What I felt in those moments, and many moments after, was rage and frustration like never before as I witnessed the white liberal/progressive folks in my life recognizing that racism had led to the outcome of the elections. They grappled to let me know how non-racist they were (and still are), how much I should trust them, how much they cared for me. There were white women, who I had been trying to connect with in relation to my work and who would not return my calls, now reaching out to me to find out what they could do to make a difference. An overwhelming feeling of too little too late fueled my frustration and pain.

My adapting came to a screeching halt. My accommodating language and self-sacrifice so that white people could feel comfortable was dissolving before my eyes. Identifying and calling out how white dominance was at play in my workplace, cost me my job. Many relationships changed: they either disappeared or became distant. I realized that I needed to be with people who shared similar identities, skin color, and had lived experience of what it means to be a person of color in this country.

And while it is also true that we, as people of color, share similar experiences of being marginalized and oppressed, we don’t all share the same ethnic backgrounds and cultural norms. I learned stereotypes about other ethnic groups in the same ways white people learned them because that is the role of white dominance — to teach us to “other” each other, in order to keep us divided and dilute our power.

In affinity spaces no one is expected to trust anyone: slowly and tenderly we gain trust by sharing who we are without our walls of protection. Doing the tender and incredible work of building relationships in which we can see each other, and get to know each other, and love each other is medicine for the heart and soul.

As bell hooks writes in her book, all about love:

“To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients—care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.”

I see these ingredients as making up the recipe that feeds radical self-love and a deeper understanding of how to love each other.

Using Theater of the Oppressed as a tool to facilitate deepening our conversation together is an invaluable gift. Being together using theatricalized games that lead to insights into ourselves and to see ourselves in each other while we laugh and cry together is so fulfilling.

The gift of holding space for fellow people of color is one that I am deeply grateful for in my life. I cherish the tenderness of witnessing us open our hearts and build connection and community across ethnic and cultural lines as it supports us in unpacking our internalized stereotypes about ourselves and about each other. The negative messages we learned from white supremacy and our families keep us separated and in pain and lacking community because it leads to us feeling isolated. Sharing those messages in affinity space allows us to gain multiple perspectives on any given painful moments. Having multiple perspectives is like gaining a superpower.

My belief is that Equity is at the heart of a just society. My mission is to create the conditions in which to maximize learning in affinity space. Through a collaborative effort, I seek equitable soluions. I approach my connections with joy, laughter, and self-preserving awareness to facilitate and advance equity.

Spaces still open. Register to attend…

JULY 8-9, 2019

People of Color Caucus: Internalized Racism

People of Color Caucus: Internalized Racism

A highly experiential 2-day workshop for People of Color to explore how we can better support each other and thrive in the face of the white supremacy that surrounds us.

Featuring Theatre of the Oppressed and other interactive approaches.

All People of Color (including multi-heritage / mixed race)
are welcome

Facilitated by Cheryl Harrison & Ashnie Butler

Cheryl-headshot-200x209 .          Ashnie-Headshot-200x221


  • Uncover internalized racism – internalized stereotypes and other painful / oppressive messages that we may have taken on from dominant white culture.
  • Investigate internalized “whiteness”.
  • Untangle intra-group oppression, between People of Color.
  • Explore ways to be better allies to each other.
  • Move towards action and the creation of a more just future

There is tremendous value in People of Color coming together to dismantle racism (and other systemic “isms”.) There is much inner work that we ourselves can do to create an environment that supports People of Color to be whole, healthy, and powerful as individuals and as communities.

Through examining our own, sometimes unaware, internalization of stereotypes, violence, and other historical trauma, this workshop will be an opportunity to creatively use our experiences to help create a more equitable and humane world for all.

We consider this workshop a valuable step towards a place where People of Color and all people can share each other’s stories, do genuine healing, and take effective action in solidarity.

“I absolutely appreciated Ashnie & Cheryl. They came to the workshop really honoring the wisdom of each individual and the collective wisdom of the group.”    Patricia Julio, 2017 


*Our approach recognizes and addresses personal as well as institutional racism. We pay particular attention to the more subtle ways racism plays out in the U.S. Though applied theater-based activities will be our primary tool, no acting experience is necessary!!


Mon. July 8 & Tues. July 9, 2019
9:00 AM – 5:30 PM
(You must commit to both days in their entirety.)


Port Townsend, WA, USA


US $250; $200 if paid by April 30, 2019
($$ arrangements available based on need; no one turned away. Financial aid policy.)


To register:
Send $50 (per person, non-refundable) deposit to:

Mandala Center
1503 22nd St.
Port Townsend, WA 98368



Racial Equity Exploration: A Theatrical, Interactive Experience, May 11, 2018

https_cdn.evbuc.comimages405734622189710040341originalWe invite you to continue your racial equity journey…

Drawing upon popular education, Theater of the Oppressed, and critical race theory models, we will collectively create a container for deeper learning. Together, we will unpack theoretical frameworks and gain practical tools for deepening our shared commitment to racial equity. No previous theater experience necessary:)

Because we work on the intersectionality of equity, our work is heavily trauma-informed. We recognize racism as traumatic, in terms of historical trauma and internalized oppression, and as a root cause of many other inequities that result in trauma. Our co-facilitator team will strive to carry the emotional labor and burden of this work during the workshop. As people of color, we are often asked by white folks to explain equity and racism, which exploits our lived experiences and in extreme cases fetishizes those experiences; we recognize this as oppression, and do not allow for it in our workshops. However, we as your facilitators welcome your questions, welcome hard conversations, and invite you fully participate without hesitation.

In this workshop we will:

  • Recognize how racism is operationalized and baked into our laws and social policies
  • Develop a framework for understanding how race and racism operate both in our systems and our individual lives

Learning goals:

  • How to recognize moments of oppression
  • Practice interrupting oppression
  • Learn how to use equity, diversity, and inclusion language responsibly

Snacks and beverages provided. Ample free parking.

Friday, May 11, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Brentwood Darlington Community Center, 7211 Southeast 62nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97206

Questions? Email: and/or

Sign up right here


Inner Work, Outer Play

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