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Archive for April, 2010

Listen Up and Dance

My text to Philadelphia:

Our next flash mob should be Dancin’  (not fightin’) In the Streets!

“Teen flash mobs invade the streets of commercial center city Philadelphia and terrorize…” you know the rest of the news coverage.  Analysis / commentary / public opinion / official law enforcement response ranges – not surprisingly  – from hard line law-and-order crack down (I ran for mayor not mother / punish the parents / we’re gonna shut this down now, etc.) to the child advocate, sociological, public and social policy perspective (kids need after school and summer programming that the Government is not funding / these adolescents are underprivileged and need support and mentoring / we live in a violent world what else would you expect, etc.).

These are all valid perspectives, but these analyses are not conversations with the kids who came together through social media sites and texting waves and became destructive and violent.  Totally unacceptable for sure, but no one is talking with the very same teens that have been participating in these flash mobs.  We are not listening, seeing, looking at the kids who have been creating these mob scenes,  and if we don’t start to we will not create something better and safer for our Philadelphia community – for all of us.

So I say instead of continued commentary on all ends of the opinion continuum, let’s get radically creative in order to listen to one another. After all,  flash mobs started as a fun, creative social experiment by and with college-aged kids as a sort of public performance art:  getting together at a public place for impromptu disco dancing or silly pillow fights. Let’s kick off a series of dialogues between kids, the community and the powers-that -be by creating our own flash mob scene. Let’s all facebook and text eachother:  Me, you,  Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey, their kids,  our kids and the very same kids who have been participating in the flash mobs  – yes even and especially the ones who acted horribly towards others. And let’s meet up at Broad and Chestnut on such and such day and time and perform an impromptu peace dance together to kick off the spring-summer season.  The dance will be to the toon of Dancing in the Street.  Let’s try something new together folks.   Innovation and creativity is sorely needed for real conversation to happen! Callin’ out around the world / Are you ready for a brand new beat? / Summer’s here and the time is right / For dancin’ in the streets.

Our non-dialogue with young people (except sometimes with the ‘right’ kinds of kids  – the young  student and civil leaders in the community) reminds me of a wonderful seminar I recently attended with my longtime mentor Fred Newman, unconventional philosopher, psychotherapist and community organizer.  The talk was aptly entitled How to Talk. He opened with the annotated version of what he had to say on the topic:  If you want to learn how to talk, listen.  He went on to advocate that we listen in a particularly way – listen to build something with the people with whom we are conversing. Not just adding my two cents but more  what can I add to help take us somewhere together?

So what if we really listen to the kids doing the flash mobs and asked: what can I add to help take us somewhere NEW? The same old talking at or  blaming of dialogues on all ends of the opinion spectrum will not get us to somewhere new,  but doing something together that is radically out of the box just might!  Let’s try it…. This is an invitation / Across the nation / A chance for the folks to meet / There’ll be laughin’ and singin’ and music swingin’ / And dancin’ in the streets / Philadelphia, P.A. (Philadelphia, P.A.)……

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