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Talking Circle event inspires action

December 4, 2009

Building a world of inclusion is the topic of a Dec. 8 “Talking Circle” event hosted by Kris Miner.

Talking circles are a method to educate and inspire students, staff and faculty to take social justice action.

Social Justice Programmer Kristin Canan said another goal of this event is to give students, faculty and staff an outlet to discuss various issues in an open setting.

“A talking circle has a setting where each person is entitled to their own opinions,” Canan said, “and allows every person the opportunity to express their opinion openly and completely without interruption.”

Each talking circle event has a different theme. The participants sit in a circle and the facilitator, Miner, asks a question or discussion topic. The participants then get a turn to voice their thoughts, but only when they are the one holding the “talking piece.”

Lisa Colburn has attended Talking Circles in the past, and said that at times it can be difficult because one might want to respond to what somebody has said or start arguing a different point but they have to wait until they have the talking piece.

“You learn to really listen to what each person is saying, which is actually very refreshing, even for somebody like me, who really likes to debate and argue” Colburn said.

Miner is the executive director of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice in River Falls. Along with being the facilitator for the talking circles, she is an instructor at UW-River Falls and teaches an Introduction to Restorative Justice Class that also meets in the circle format.

Miner said she is interested in this event because it uses a restorative justice process to promote discussion and action related to social justice issues, which is a powerful combination. “The goal of this circle is to involve participants in the discussion, to provide increased awareness and increase commitment to the community and future,” Miner said.

Past circle themes have focused on gender identity and sustainability. Colburn said she has attended all of the talking circles this year but knew nothing about them prior to this year. “At first I was just curious and I attended to support the Social Justice Program,” she said.

Now Colburn said she goes for a chance to get together with other people who are concerned about problems in the world, and to hear other’s thoughts, opinions and ideas.

“It’s just a great chance to take time out of your day to think and listen,” she said. “They are actually very relaxing.”

Anyone interested can attend the event. Colburn said in the past there have been anywhere from six to 10 people and they would love to have more.

“I encourage everybody to try it out,” Colburn said. “It may seem a bit intimidating at first, but I think everybody walks away from the circle having gained something positive.” Canan said it is being discussed to have Miner back in the spring for another session of monthly talking circles.