How Pizza and Social Justice Works

Pizza and Social Justice LogoSimply put, Pizza and Social Justice is a framework to assist people in their personal awareness of individual prejudice and the system of Racism in our Society. We use social interaction and discussion to educate ourselves and to become aware of the biases, racial attitudes and unconscious privilege that we come into contact with and are a part of.  That awareness is the first step in being able to deal with issues.

When getting together we begin with “breaking bread” because there is nothing that brings people together better than sharing a meal.  This gives us an opportunity to reconnect with each other and share our lives before starting with the conversation for the evening.

Once our program begins we start with introductions and announcements.  This is the time when we share our involvements with the greater community, sharing similarly focused events that deal with community building, social justice, racism awareness, just causes and other activities to help uplift ourselves and the community.

After announcements are done we identify facilitators, get a head count and count off, so when the presentation is over we can break up quickly into smaller groups to have our conversations. We go over our “Rules of Engagement”, which set the guidelines as to how we carry out our discussions.  These rules are in place to assure that there are no hurt feelings during the discussion.  They are also meant to set the tone for the activities, that there will be respect shown to everyone and there is to be no judgement placed on comments people make.

We use a short video presentation to set the topic for the meeting. The video presentation is only meant as a starting point for the discussion, but is not meant to be the only talking point. When the video is over we break up into our groups for the discussions.  We work to make sure each small group is as diverse (race/gender) as we can manage.

Guidelines for conversation:

  • Work to create a judgment free zone. We want people to feel comfortable being open about their feelings without concern of someone challenging them or how they feel.
  • Avoid making it a forum for political discussions but make it a focus on the system of Racism, not individuals or groups.
  • Encourage people in your discussion to be brief as we wish to allow as many people as possible to have an opportunity to speak.

We spend the first part of the discussion period giving every person in the group 2 minutes to express their thoughts and/or feelings on the presentation.  This is not only to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak, but it also gives everyone a chance to learn/practice listening.

We at Pizza and Social Justice are aware that people presently have a difficult time interacting when the subjects are difficult or controversial.  Part of this difficulty is because we don’t know how to listen.  All too often, instead of listening we start thinking of our come back so that as soon as they are done speaking, we can give our response without understanding the other  person. We also understand that listening is a sign of respect to the person talking.  As stated before, we at Pizza and Social Justice are here to foster two-way conversations so we can understand all our points of view.

After everyone has had a turn speaking while everyone else practices “active” listening, we then have full discussion.  Because race is a difficult subject, many people (especially white people) have a fear of discussing race for many reasons.  As stated in the guidelines, we are here to foster a safe environment to express ourselves, and to talk about the things that may make you or someone else uncomfortable.  Because we are coming from this angle, we help each other overcome these fears.  There is no blaming for past wrongs and there is no judgement either.  We take responsibility and we work to move beyond the past.
After the allotted discussion time is done we all return to the main area and the groups give reports about their discussions.  It is here where we compare notes, gain different perspectives and thoughts from each group.  Just before we break for the evening we also have a musical presentation to uplift our spirits and to bring us joy as we end the meeting.

This is specific to how our meetings as St. Mark’s Church go.  The original Pizza and Social Justice at the home of the McKees has a different organization and feeling but the focus is still the same, to encourage discussion, self-awareness and provide support to each of us as we work to come to grips with Racism, personal and societal.

I wish to invite you to give it a try.  Invite some friends over for pizza (it doesn’t have to be pizza), show a video (have a speaker, pick a book selection, a news article, or something else) to spark the discussion, and have a conversation; make connections, learn and support each other.  With that it will become easier and you will also make changes in yourself for the better.