CPCP Catalyst Initiative: Chicago

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Catalyst Initiative ROUND 3

Jasmin Cardenas, theatre artist, activist and community organizer worked with Ana Romero, Tim Bell and the members of Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, which advocates and organizes for temporary workers in the Chicago region. Their work together focused on how tools of theatre can empower temporary workers to express themselves about workplace abuses and create collective strategies to organize against real life challenges. Their story over a year of collaboration is one of building trust, creating bilingual collaborative environments, identifying shared values, and learning how to adjust when the desire for participation is greater than the capacity to share.



Question —How can artistic tools contribute to building a strong movement to advance working class communities’ rights for justice and self-determination?

C H I C A G O - ii

“Todos tenemos el derecho de ser respetados.” [We all have the right to be respected.] Isaura Martínez - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member














The Partners

Chicago Workers’ Collaborative

Tim Bell

Jasmin Cardenas Ana Romero


Jasmin Cardenas is an actress, storyteller, arts educator, a community organizer, and activist who identifies as Colombian-American. Using Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) techniques Jasmin has been working in communities all over Chicago to explore issues of power, conflict, equity, race, and struggle. Facilitating workshops for educators, adults and young people in community dialogue, social justice work, and devising original performance work in response to current events has taught Jasmin the power of the arts to engage community towards action. Jasmin trained directly with Brazilian TO founder Augusto Boal and has also studied with other TO masters around the world. She served on the board of the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed organization (PTO) and was the Co-Chair & Lead Organizer for the 17th Annual International PTO Conference. Jasmin has taught TO workshops at The University of Chicago, DePaul University, The National Storytelling Summit, Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, ENLACE Chicago, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, McHenry County College, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and The University of Dubuque in Iowa. For Lookingglass Theatre Company, Jasmin partnered with Michael Rohd on a multi-year Lookingglass Civic Practice Lab project with the Chicago Park District’s 15 Cultural Centers to engage park staff and Chicago residents at their local parks in the development of cultural programming. Jasmin is a stage and screen actress and a proud SAGAFTRA member. Jasmin is also a wife and mother and she is incredibly thankful for her loving & supportive family who make it possible for her to pursue her passions and justice.

Ana Romero Diaz is a sociologist and a decolonial feminist. Native of Mexico City, Ana has had the privilege to collaborate with a wide gamut of indigenous, peasant, labor, and feminist organizations in her country, as well as in the U.S., Argentina, France, Spain, Philippines and most recently, South Africa. She is currently the Director of New Initiatives at Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, where she is incubating a collective project that summarizes three decades of experience and ‘saberes’ of progressive gender violence activists, labor organizers, and economic justice militants: the Building Community Power to End Gender Violence Project.


In May 2015, Ana was selected by the NoVo Foundation, as one of 20 leaders nationwide who joined NoVo’s groundbreaking ten-year program, Move to End Violence. In February 2016, Ana was invited to be part of Masimayane International Network to End Violence Against Women and Girls INEVAWG, with its headquarters in South Africa. In June 2018, INEVAWG was awarded over a million dollars by the NoVo Foundation to experiment and seed new theories and practices geared to address the root causes of gender violence and oppression in the 21st Century. Ana is one of two INEVAWG representatives in the U.S. and its spokesperson in Mexico, Central and South America.

Tim Bell is the Executive Director of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative and has been involved in worker organizing for the past 28 years. He spent the beginning of his career in Chiapas, Mexico participating in community organizing efforts grounded in liberation theology before returning to his hometown of Chicago. In Chicago, he worked as an adult educator at Olive Harvey and Malcolm X Colleges and served on the organizing committee to successfully unionize City Colleges of Chicago adult educators-one of the largest bargaining units in the state of Illinois with over 2000 members. In the 1990s he facilitated the development of an adult education center at Erie Neighborhood House for immigrants grounded in liberatory pedagogy. His involvement in Chicago’s worker movement evolved directly from the worker leaders at Erie House in the late 1990s and has grown to lead the effort to reform the temp industry. At CWC, Tim has directed eight successful state legislative campaigns that brought new protections for low-income workers. He envisions an economy that prioritizes workers’ lives over profit.

Chicago Workers’ Collaborative (CWC) promotes the creation of stable, living wage jobs with racial and gender equity for temporary staffing workers in the Chicago region through leadership development, public policy advocacy, direct action, and community accountability. Low-wage workers participating in the popular education program at Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago established the Collaborative in 2000.


Temporary Workers Many larger companies in the U.S. have restructured their hiring practices to reduce the number of permanent hires in favor of contracting with temp agencies. This practice is replacing direct hire, often unionized positions, for a great profit to the company. These workers are often not hired to permanent positions within companies, but maintain a permanently temporary, and therefore insecure, status. Black and Latinx workers vmake up the largest share of long-term temp workers. In many places, Black and Latinx workers are put into conflict with each other by the temp companies, with some staffing agencies preferring predominantly Spanish-speaking, undocumented workers to Black workers. In some cases, this is done because Black workers can claim their rights as workers but undocumented workers cannot. A recent survey was conducted of temporary workers in four regions around the U.S., including Chicago. Some results of that survey reveal: − 6 years − 3 years − 4 out of 5 − 2 days − 30–39 hours − 69 percent − 53 percent − 22 percent − 12 percent − 84 percent − $9.07 − $13,966 − 1 percent − 57 percent − 30 percent − 3 percent

Average time worked in temp industry Average length of typical assignment Never had a temp job lead to being directly hired Average days sought work but found none each week Average hours of work received each week Have gone without work for extended period of time Latinx workers felt targeted for immigration status Experienced racial discrimination Experienced sexual harassment Experienced violation of basic health and safety rights Average hourly wage Average annual income Employer-provided health insurance Not paid all hours worked Not paid overtime Not paid at all

Source: Permanent Abuse: How Big Business Destroys Good Jobs Published in 2017 PRINCIPAL WRITER Brittany Scott, NESRI PUBLISHED BY National Staffing Workers Alliance and National Economic & Social Rights Initiative (NESRI)



“It’s important to build the relationships between Latino and African American workers to make a more cohesive labor movement.”



The Impulse In 2016, Jasmin first connected with Chicago Workers’ Collaborative through Lookingglass Theatre, who was at that time working on a play highlighting the challenges faced by temporary workers. Jasmin worked as the Lead Artist of the Lookingglass Civic Practice Lab to organize invited working people from different organizations around the city of Chicago to attend the performances. It was through her community engagement role that Jasmin developed a relationship with CWC members. After the show closed, Jasmin met with Tim Bell, CWC Executive Director, to inquire about the possibility of sharing Theatre of the Oppressed with the collective members to see if this might be a useful tool in their organizing work. Tim and Jasmin discussed several possibilities for collaboration, and to launch their work together Jasmin helped organize (along with her local collective, TO and Activism in Chicago) a free community workshop with Theatre of the Oppressed master artist Julian Boal for 30 temporary workers, single mothers, immigrant workers, elders, and survivors of gender violence. The workshop was conducted in English and Spanish with transportation and childcare provided. In the workshop, participants were able to voice shared concerns about workplace dangers for the first time in a safe environment.

“In the workshop with Jasmin and Julian Boal, 30 Latinx and Black workers shared stories of workplace exploitation, wage theft, gender violence, police harassment, political corruption, and discrimination. The exploration of potential solutions was a real window into the cultural differences between the communities. Workers engaged critically in scenes and the group experienced moments of catharsis, healing, and transformation.” Tim



After the workshop CWC members expressed their desire for more skill-building opportunities and this led to deeper conversations between Jasmin, CWC members, and leadership to see what more they could do together. Immediately after this successful summer workshop, Jasmin began her work with CWC on the southwest side of Chicago in West Lawn/ Gage Park. Meeting weekly within a church basement with workers and survivors of domestic violence, they created scenes about the continuum of violence women experience on a daily basis at home, en route to work, and at work. These scenes were performed in the neighborhood as part of a Domestic Abuse Awareness march and street action in October, 2017.

“During the collective evaluation of the workshop with Julian Boal, workers and women community leaders universally agreed that the pedagogics used in the Theatre of the Oppressed were empowering, as well as a stimulating learning tool. They also spoke to the value these methodologies would add to their own recruiting and mobilizing of other workers and community members and the group reached consensus in asking for CWC to integrate Theatre of the Oppressed into our training program.” Tim

“The community participants, that include CWC worker leaders and community members have really been bit by the Theatre of the Oppressed bug. Their enthusiasm towards the games and role playing is electric. I think being able to share challenging moments with each other and work through them has been a very bonding experience.” Jasmin

“Yo pienso que el Teatro del Oprimido es una técnica incluyente. Incluyente siempre. Incluye a todo el mundo, el que quiere participar y a los que no quieren participar quedan como espectadores. Pero es incluyente siempre.” [I think Theatre of the Oppressed is an inclusive technique. Always inclusive. It includes everyone, those that want to participate and those that don’t want to participate are spectators. But it’s always inclusive.] Carmen Cabrera - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member



The Process



Jasmin and Ana attended a two-day CPCP Catalyst Initiative partnership and capacity-building convening in Phoenix, Arizona in December, 2017. At this convening, Ana and Jasmin devised the vision and details for an organizing plan that they would use to ground their journey for the coming year. After returning back to Chicago, Jasmin began to work with members of Chicago Workers’ Collaborative at multiple sites.

“We had a series of internal meetings between myself and Chicago leadership. Ana did some team building and leadership development to help us get in the same place historically and provide context for the present work of organizing against abuses in the workplaces for temporary workers. At the same time, the workers in leadership and the workers who are part of CWC have continued to push forward a campaign against gender violence. It feels like it’s snowballing, the group continues to generate ideas for us to explore with great excitement.” Jasmin

“Everything is working beyond our expectations, everyone is embracing using TO work, organizing, and advancing the movements for social justice. Once we returned to Chicago, we thought it might be a good idea to have conversations with staff and the workers about the philosophy and politics of the organization. We contextualized some of the issues we are facing right now beyond workers’ rights- issues involving gender violence in and out of the workplace. Since we are in a very important juncture in our work, we thought we would use this time for some internal reflection. Everyone is re-energized. This has had so many layers.” Ana



Jasmin and Tim worked together to organize a series of Theatre of the Oppressed workshops at four CWC sites in the Chicago region: CWC Little Village, CWC Waukegan, CWC Englewood, and CWC Gage Park / Corazón. Jasmin traveled to each site to teach TO workshops to the members and worked with them and CWC staff to organize public events in both English and Spanish.

“Community members at large have been receptive to the two public events held so far. Our team presented a few scenes, and then we invited the audience to intervene in the scenes (Forum Theatre) and suggest alternative outcomes. We closed the events with a Q&A and community discussion about worker issues and gender violence. From these events, we have received invitations for our group to visit their groups, they’ve inquired about getting involved, and they have been very enthusiastic about these topics being talked about, expressing the need for these conversations.” Jasmin

“Aprendí que el teatro es una forma de transmitir mensajes. En particular con los trabajadores temporales se ven reflejado su vida diaria, su sufrimientos, sus acosos, su vida dura de cada dia.” [I learned that theatre is a powerful form of transmitting messages. For temporary workers in particular they see their daily life reflected back, their suffering, their harassment and their daily struggle.] Carmen Cabrera - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member



Because the participants were committed to not only building their skills with TO techniques, but also wanted to share these techniques with others, they formed the Workers Resistance Theater Collective, as an initiative of Chicago Workers’ Collaborative.



“You are giving us tools we can put to use.” CWC member

“Para mi el trabajo con Jasmin ha sido un gran aprendizaje. Aprendemos cada vez más. El Teatro del Oprimido es muy importante. Yo no podía hablar acerca del acoso que recibí como trabajadora temporal, el miedo me limito. No sabia como sacarlo.” [For me, working with Jasmin has been a great learning experience. Each session we learned more. Theatre of the Oppressed is very important. I wasn’t able to speak about the harassment I received as a temporary worker, fear stopped me. I didn’t know how to get it out.] Isaura Martínez - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member


“Aprendiendo el Teatro del Oprimido, me ha dejado dejar atrás la pena que antes me daba vergüenza expresarme delante del público o mucha gente. Antes me tiemblaban las piernitas si yo pasaba al frente de un público o si pasaba enfrente de una persona de una posición de mandato. Eso quedo atras para mi.” [Learning Theatre of the Oppressed has allowed me to leave behind my shame. Before I felt embarrassed to express myself in front of a lot of people. Before my legs would tremble if I spoke in front of the public or if I went before a person of authority. That’s behind me now.] Fredy Amador - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member

“Yo creo esta es una técnica, que no es nueva en sí, pero es nueva para nosotros para usarla como una herramienta para la gente poder expresar el poder que tiene.” [I think that this technique, which is not new but is new to us, is a tool for people to express their own power.] Carmen Cabrera - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member

“We don’t believe in leading the work. We are constantly preparing folks so they can develop their own power. The projects are selfdriven by volunteers who we have worked with for several years. TO is extremely exciting for them, it’s something that anybody can do. These aren’t typical workshops, they embrace the work because it expands their critical thinking.” Ana





Three of the sites, Little Village, Englewood, and Gage Park / Corazón are geographically close, about 25 minutes from each other; however, Waukegan is over an hour’s drive away. Jasmin worked with about 50 people at all four sites and began to build a small team of 10 participants who were the most regular in attendance.

“There’s a group of women I’ve been working with who want to organize around intersectional workplace violence. They chose rehearsal dates for a series of public events and then let me know about it. They want to visit several churches and community centers to use Theatre of the Oppressed techniques to get people to talk about these issues. I can’t be at all of those events and they are moving forward on their own.” Jasmin

“Capacity building is a big challenge; since there are several close collaborating groups who would love to develop a TO crew among workers and gender violence survivors in order to seize the moment to give visibility to gender violence across the board.” Ana

At some sites some of the participants were monolingual Spanish and some monolingual English, requiring Jasmin to teach in two languages. Because of the enthusiasm of the participants, the different interests of each group, the need to work in two languages, and the geographic distance, thinking about capacity and scale became a priority.

“I feel like an octopus. A big challenge I’m having is that CWC worker leaders are each in a different geographic location with their own group of temporary workers and very different dynamics and needs. I’m trying to find the right language to express my concern and my support and enthusiasm for their leadership and movement forward. Which is why I’ve requested, and they accepted, to do monthly trainings with a nuclear team so they can grow as leaders and be better able to facilitate the work themselves.” Jasmin





During the late winter of 2018, Jasmin and Tim worked together to plan monthly staff trainings that brought together as many worker leaders from the CWC sites as possible. During these Train-the-Trainer sessions, the leaders were taught TO techniques that they could bring back to their individual sites and communities. The trainings were held in a different site each month to make it more accessible for members who lived in different neighborhoods.

“The Theatre of the Oppressed techniques that Jasmin is sharing are excellent ways to do leadership development, public shaming, community accountability actions, worker outreach, policy advocacy, and visibility; which are our major strategies for asserting workers’ rights.” Tim

“We had our first three hour CWC Team Training this past Wednesday that included worker leaders from Waukegan and the Chicago areas of Little Village, Englewood, and Gage Park. The focus was team building and teaching TO technique. Two members were monolingual Spanish, one person was monolingual English and the others were bilingual. It was clear by the laughter, camaraderie, and sharing that relationships were strengthened.” Jasmin



To encourage the workers to trust and connect with each other, Jasmin used TO activities and created new games that were specifically geared towards each group’s needs. One activity Jasmin created and led: − Make an image of a time in your life when someone didn’t recognize your value or appreciate your efforts. − Share these images as a full group. − One at a time, ask for volunteers to share their solo image for the group. − For each solo image, ask the group “Who wants to show this person support?” − Invite the rest of the group to come and take up a physical position that offers support to each person.

“After playing this game with one of the groups, one woman was so moved by the offers of support from the group that she opened up and began to share her life story with everyone. She had been coming to the sessions, but not consistently. After this moment, she started attending regularly and began to speak up in a way that she hadn’t done before.” Jasmin

“Las historias que estamos presentando son historias verdaderas. El Teatro del Oprimido te da poder de hablar, la fuerza, y la seguridad al trabajador temporal.” [The stories we share are true stories. Theatre of the Oppressed gives temporary workers the power to speak, strength, and a feeling of safety.] Isaura Martínez - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member



In February 2018 the worker leaders chose to host an event at a local Chicago-area public school. This event was associated with a campaign against gender violence. The event was called ‘Calladita, no te ves más bonita’ [you are prettier when you speak up], a play on the Spanish saying ‘calladita te ves más bonita’ [you are prettier when you are quiet], a phrase often told to young women, and has been used towards working women who are trying to speak up about sexual harassment.

“The folks who are leading this project are the folks who are part of this community. They are running with the ball. Jasmin and I were surprised when they said they wanted to host a presentation in the school. Jasmin and I weren’t available to be there, so the workers moved forward to put on the presentation. They rehearsed together with Jasmin for a few days, until they felt confident in what they are doing. They are using theatre as a way to challenge the cultural narrative in calling the piece ‘Calladita, no te ves más bonita.’ This project is getting a life of its own.” Ana

“‘Calladita no te ves más bonita’ encourages people to be vocal, especially in the face of gender violence. This campaign is something that the women will be leading, to both share the scenes they created and to have discussions in community around gender violence.” Jasmin



“El teatro del oprimido nos enseña cómo podemos romper el silencio y hablar por medio de una imagen congelada todo lo que un trabajador guarda en su corazón lo que está pasando en su lugar de trabajo: el acoso, el abuso, el robo de salario, la discriminación.” [Theatre of the Oppressed teaches us how to break our silence and speak, through making a frozen image, everything a worker holds in their heart about what is happening in the workplace: the harassment, the abuse, the wage thefts, the discrimination.] Isaura Martínez - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member



Because of each site’s individual interests and priorities, tensions began to develop between the workers who met each month to train with Jasmin. Some of the workers voiced that the more intersectional focus to include gender violence pulled attention away from the fight for temporary workers’ rights. Some workers expressed a desire to keep the two approaches separate. While other workers voiced that the two issues are connected, since often the issue of gender violence is something that can stand in the way of temporary workers having the courage to take a stand for their rights. In some sites, there existed tensions between Black and Latinx workers stemming from mistreatment by employers and staffing agencies. At more than one factory, employers would only bring on Spanish-speaking Latinx workers to the exclusion of Black workers.

“The Catalyst Initiative support is a launch for cross organization, cross sector, cross geography work. There is a real desire to take on this issue of divisions that exist between workers’ individual priorities and needs; and between Black and Latino workers because agencies and employers pit them against each other. On the factory line there’s real tension.” Jasmin

In May, 2018, CPCP artists and staff members Rebecca Martínez and Soneela Nankani visited Jasmin, Chicago Workers’ Collaborative staff, and worker leaders who had been training in TO techniques. One of the goals for the day was to lead the team in a conversation about this intersectional approach. Another goal was to generate ideas for an upcoming street action to protest at a bakery whose supervisory staff was being abusive to temporary workers. The goal for the street action was to take an intersectional approach to issues pertaining to workers’ rights and gender violence.




“It’s important to highlight that the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative has been going under a restructuring over the past year; there have been lots of challenges. This will be one of the first actions that will speak to the idea of integrating gender and intersectional feminist approach. The action will give us something more concrete and will be a culmination of the conversations we’ve been having so far. We’ve been used to working more in siloes and in a one dimensional framework.” Ana

CPCP’s Rebecca and Soneela led the group through a morning of nonverbal image based work leading to an honest conversation about their questions and concerns surrounding the intersectional approach to the upcoming street action.

“I’m grateful, this is a conversation we haven’t been able to have before. We accept that tensions like this are part of the challenge of organizing, but the work is to push forward and unite.” Ana

“When you’re fighting for your rights as a worker, I’ve learned how important it is to strong arm your way through it. But I see that this doesn’t work for all workers; some folks aren’t ready to go there because they’ve experienced gender or sexual abuse. Being around people in this struggle teaches me patience. It’s not my work, but it’s important work.” CWC member



This conversation informed the work Jasmin led in the afternoon to identify who the group wanted to address through this action and create small scenes that could be performed as part of the planned protest. The group decided they wanted to share messages of solidarity with the temp workers at the factory, who often are silent about what happens in the workplace due to fear of dismissal and retaliation from both job supervisors and temp agencies.

Estamos aqui para ustedes! We are here for you! No estás solo. You are not alone. Estamos juntos unidos! We are here for you! Unidos tenemos poder. Together we have power. Que no tema. Don’t be afraid. Somos trabajadores también We are workers too. Sin trabajadores, no hay producción. Without workers, there is no product.



“One thing that CWC does beautifully, we believe in selfdetermination.” Ana

“Creo que como inmigrantes que somos, muchos vienen de Latinoamérica. Esto es una herramienta que ellos se identifican con lo que hacemos y con lo que este trabajo lleva, que es la unidad y les ayuda recorder cosas que tal vez por andar tan ocupados o por no tener tiempo se han olvidado. Y esta técnica los hace recordar y regresar el pasado. Como decirles, no tienes que olvidar de donde viene, No tienes que olvidarte de donde estamos, tenemos que luchar para hacer algo.” [I think that as immigrants, many of us are from Latin America, this is a tool that we can identify with our work, and that work brings unity and helps us remember things that, maybe because we are too busy or don’t have time, we’ve forgotten. And this technique makes us remember and return to that past. It’s like saying, you don’t have to forget where you came from, you don’t have to forget where we are, we have to fight together for something.] - Fredy Amador - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member CWC member



Question When the work is useful and engaging for residents and other stakeholders, but is focused more on process than product, what is the balance between individual capacity, limited resources, and a desire to continue meaningful work? In other words, when is the project finished?





The Process Continues Throughout the month of May 2018, Jasmin continued to work with the CWC team leaders to develop and rehearse scenes and potential structures that could be incorporated into the upcoming action. The CWC Workers Resistance Theater was invited to present at the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed international conference in June 2018. Several members of the CWC Workers Resistance Theater traveled to Indiana, Pennsylvania for the conference.

“Yesterday the Workers Resistance Theater rehearsed, performed, and then reflected. It was a full day. We are learning as we go. Their compassion for each other’s struggle is so evident. So much willingness and vulnerability. I’m honored to know them and learn from them. They believe in the power of Theatre of the Oppressed because they have personally experienced so much freedom,and they keep telling me this in different ways. We created scenes about race discrimination, wage theft, dehumanization of workers, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and the power each worker has to demand their rights. It’s all come from them.” Jasmin



Throughout the summer of 2018, the group continued to share their work at several public events in different neighborhoods throughout Chicago.

“Esta forma de teatro si impacta a las diferentes organizaciones y aunque ya son líderes en sus ramas y temas específicos era algo nuevo de involucrarse y crear mensajes sin hablar solamente con actuar, solamente con imágenes, solamente con expresar o hacer escenas de problemas de las comunidades o de los trabajadores. La gente rápido captaban las ideas y transformaban o se transformaba. Es muy interesantes esto, yo pienso que ni siquiera nosotros hemos explorado total y completamente todo lo que encierra el Teatro del Oprimido. Es una forma para cambiar hasta la misma Sociedad.” [This form of theatre has impacted different organizations and even though they are leaders in their fields and specific arenas, this was something new they could get involved with; to create messages without words, with just acting, with images, with expression, or create scenes showing the problems of workers or problems in the community. People would quickly capture the ideas and experience a personal transformation or would transform the problem. This is very interesting. I think we haven’t yet fully and completely explored everything included in Theatre of the Oppressed. It is a form for changing our own society.] Carmen Cabrera



Ripples Jasmin and the workers of CWC have continued to collaborate beyond the Catalyst Initiative project timeline. As the relationships deepen and the members of the Workers Resistance Theater continue to build their skills as leaders and organizers, they continue to find Theatre of the Oppressed to be useful in their advocacy for workers’ rights and against gender violence, as well as advocacy that crosses into other sectors, such as housing.

“Es posible siempre y cuando ponemos el teatro como parte de nuestro trabajo diario. Como sabemos la técnicas que nos falta afianzar y a definer. No dejarla y hacerlo ya nuestra, parte de nuestro trabajo, esta técnica.” [I think it’s possible to add theatre to our daily work. Since we know the techniques that we need to strengthen and better define; we shouldn’t let go of them, but instead make these techniques our own, make them part of our work.] Carmen Cabrera - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member

In March 2019, Jasmin, Isaura, and other members of the CWC Workers Resistance Theatre were invited to lead a peer share workshop for fellow grantees of the Woods Fund, a Chicago-based grant making foundation that funds projects that draw on the power of communities to fight the brutality of structural racism and economic injustice. Participants represented organizations and collectives such as the Hana Center, Logan Square Neighborhood, Chicago Religious Leaders Network, People’s Lobby, and Organized Communities Against Deportations. The CWC team and Jasmin led a session with the group using TO techniques to explore artsbased strategies for cross sector community organizing and public policy.



"Our team CWC Workers Resistance Theater did a kick ass job setting hearts ablaze for using this technique. Theatre of the Oppressed allowed people who’d never met each other from all over the city of Chicago to play and share deeply. Monolingual Spanish and monolingual English speakers worked together using Image Theatre to explore power. Dinámicas and Games allowed a group of 50 organizers to talk collectively about dissenting power, control, following blindly, and collectively changing the rules and taking power. Together this group created scenes about housing and affordability; arbitrary rules that cause people to fall through the cracks; the gang database, both how easy it is to end up on it as well as how difficult it is to get taken off of it; immigration; environmental justice; how big companies are in bed with city officials even as residents are fighting for opportunities; and a scene about getting police out of the schools. Five powerful scenes, many potential solutions, from 50 change makers working together. A huge thank you to Alejandra Ibáñez and The Woods Foundation for entrusting our Team with this incredible Peer Share, an opportunity to share our work with other Woods Fund grantees." Jasmin





In the spring of 2019, Jasmin introduced another tool from Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Problem and Action Trees, which CWC members began to use as a way to analyze problems within the community and the actions they can take as a group to solve these problems.

“Nobody has given me anything that has helped as much as Jasmin has. Other people have come in, they’ve done workshops with us, but Jasmin has given me tools I can use.” CWC member

In the summer of 2019, the CWC Workers Resistance Theater was selected to be part of The Mayors 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre & Night Out in the Parks events. The group performed at free public events in three different parks across the city. The group used those public opportunities to both educate workers that they are not alone and that they have rights and educate consumers about workplace abuses happening right in their own communities.

“I thought I would be working with the collective for just a few months and then I'd be on to other projects, but those few months were so rich that it turned into an ongoing relationship. We’re learning that it takes a different level of skills to lead a program than to be a participant, and it takes time to build those skills. Several of the workers have built the skills to lead a few sessions on their own.” Jasmin

Seven members of CWC who have been a part of the Catalyst Initiative supported trainings and the Workers Resistance Theater have built their skills and confidence to lead TO workshops and sessions on their own. They’ve also began seeking out other opportunities to continue to grow their leadership skills.



“Mi compañero de trabajo es Fredy y yo he visto mucho mucho poder, mucho poder, y es una herramienta que le ha traído a él mucha confianza en sí mismo, mucha confianza en sí mismo. Aparte de mucha confianza en sí mismo, la ha agarrado como una técnica para él nueva, pero lo ha agarrado con mucho amor, mucho amor que lo ha llevado a ser parte de la mesa directiva del PTO a nivel nacional.” [My coworker is Fredy and I have seen so much power, so much power, this technique has given him a lot of self-confidence, so much confidence in himself. Aside from the self-confidence, he’s taken the technique as his own with so much love that he’s even now a part of the Board of Directors of PTO (Pedagogy of the Oppressed) at the national level.] Carmen Cabrera - CWC Workers Resistance Theater member



Center For Performance + Civic Practice © 2019 The Catalyst Initiative is an action research initiative — a model for supporting, advancing, and learning from innovative artist and community partner collaborations in order to reveal new possibilities for artistic contributions to community problem-solving and growth.

Written by Rebecca Martínez Designed by Tanya Rubbak Additional support by Soneela Nankani, Michael Rohd, Sara Sawicki, & Shannon Scrofano THE ANDREW W.



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