Monday, October 09, 2006

NEED Toolkit

These are discussions and activities to supplement a performance/reading of Audre Lorde's
NEED: A Chorale for Black Women's Voices

NEED Toolkit

The ideas and items included in this toolkit discuss the themes of violence against women in Black communities. These activities can be done in break-out sessions or in whole-group sessions where more time is given to explore responses to violence. These ideas are fluid and change from community to community and should change as necessary.

Materials List:
Butcher paper
Folders with pockets
Post its
Pens pencils

Use the following questions to encourage the workshop participants to think about the images, themes, and concerns raised during the performance of NEED.
1. How did it feel to experience NEED as an audience member? What were your gut reactions and responses to the performance?
2. What prevents community from speaking about violence against women? How does the community create safe spaces for women to speak about violence perpetrated against them?
3. What affect did the nursery rhyme on your interpretation of the performance? Who is the nursery rhyme speaking to or about? How does the nursery rhyme silence the person accused of being tattle tale?

Power and Relationships

“We have a grave need for each other
but your eyes are thirsty
for vengeance”
-Audre Lorde

Writing Prompt:
Think about how we are accountable to each other in community. Consider the actions that are necessary to create viable relationships. How are we accountable to power we have over those we relate to? How does family, love, Blackness put us at each other’s mercy and silence our needs and desires to end violence against women?

Write a poem, letter, or short essay, or other type of creative response that envisions sisterhood and brotherhood that works against violence and oppression of Black women.


Dear brotha,

One time I needed you to love me and care for me. But instead you
took my voice and I feel sad about this. I want to be your sister.
I want to love and work with you in making our communities better,
but I don’t feel safe with you. I am working through and healing and
I want you to own your part in my pain. Can we heal?
Will we heal? Our community needs you to be accountable
and needs us to be healthy.

So what’s up?

Your sista,

Lending an Ear

“I don’t even know all their names.
Black women’s deaths are not noteworthy
not threatening or glamorous enough
to decorate the evening news…”
-Audre Lorde

Interview Prompt:
Supporting a survivor of violence can begin with listening. Many times women are silenced and threatened by acts of violence if they go to the police, religious leaders, or family members. Attentive listening can empower a friend or sister to keep telling her story and ultimately reclaim the beauty and strength of her active voice.

1. Choose a partner from your break-out group to interview.
2. Choose three of the following interview questions to ask your partner.
3. Ask each question and write down as much of each response as possible.
4. Give all responses to the person you interview.
5. Repeat the process for your partner.

Interview Questions
1. What is your relationship to the struggle for liberation of oppressed people?
2. Have you experienced any trauma or violence that has silenced you?
3. Have you ever been asked or forced to keep a secret?
4. Do you feel empowered to speak about violence or trauma that happens in our communities?
5. Have you ever tried to speak about a family or community issue and was forced into silence?
6. How does your voice function in making your feel free and empowered?

Instrument of Resistance: The Body

“How many other deaths
do we live through daily
we are alive?”

Movement Prompt:
The rhythmic aspect of beat(ings) must be resisted and arrested. Need invites us to pay attention to the guttural reactions to violence as it happens in the body. Need also invites us to interrogate how rhythm in news, music, poetry, and everyday occurrences numb us to the violence against women in our communities negating what happens between the beat(ings). How does the body carry and hold violence?

Create a series of body movements which resist the numbing beat of violence. Feel free to make sounds with props, mouth and body that resist the rhythm of oppression. Get verbal consent before touching or moving with someone else.


1. The soul clap
2. Lunch table beats
3. Heart beat
Re-membering Rhyme

“How can I build a nation
afraid to walk out into moonlight
lest I lose my power
afraid to speak out
lest my tongue be slit”
-Audre Lorde

Writing Prompt:
What effect did the nursery rhyme have? What does it mean? Who is speaking to/about (tattle tale)? How does it silence the person or woman being spoken to? What are some nursery rhymes you remember from your childhood? Do you remember the rhythms, hand “games”, jump rope games, themes that accompanied them? What stereotypes persisted in these “games” about women or girls?

Create or revise a nursery rhyme that encourages community to challenge language that supports silence of and violence against women. Use the rhythms of familiar nursery rhymes and hand games and write new lyrics. Write a nursery rhyme or hand game that celebrates women and our voices.

Sample Desire Poem
*What We Need… a riff on desire, voice, and empowerment

I need to scream some more.
I need my father to read this piece.
I need honest dialogue with black men.
I need to know what I need.
I need my body to speak for me.
I need to be free.
I need to express myself, without fear of what's coming back at me.
I need to acknowledge what my body says.
I need to be heard
I need black men to speak about their experiences of sexual abuse.
I need to not be numb.
I need black men to talk about their fear.
I need to be held.
I need to be trusting of love with a black man.
I need a black man (period).
I need to voice my experience and know that someone is hurt by it, not
just trying to make me feel better.
I need to talk to my mother about her life.
I need to forgive my mother.
I need to talk to my sister about my experience with sexual assault.
I need to write the stories that I'm not supposed to tell.
I need to not be afraid of strong black women.
I need to commune with black women.
I need to accept and love the black women who can't handle this.
I need to not be so angry.
I need to be angrier.
I need to acknowledge history.
I need other people to acknowledge the full history.
I need to challenge black women who revictimize other black women.
I need to get naked in my house.
I need more black people at these meetings.
I need more black men at this meeting.
I need the entire community to see "no!"
I need to not be afraid to speak to my close friends about this.


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