WILLIAMSTOWN -- About a dozen people gathered in Williams' Griffin Hall on Sunday for an interactive workshop focusing on community organizing.
The free workshop, part of Williams Martin Luther King Jr. Days, was sponsored by the Davis Center and the Center for Community Engagement.
The interactive workshop featured group activities, along with group and one-on-one discussions. Attendees learned what organizing skills worked, how to expand their base and how to shift power.
The workshop was facilitated by Camilo Viveiros, a Fall River, MA native.
Viveiros gained national attention in 2000 when he was arrested during the Republican National Convention protests in Philadelphia, PA. Viveiros faced 60 years in charges, but four years later was acquitted after thousands of supporters across the country rallied for him.
As an organizer, he has worked with unions for the homeless, labor unions, students, immigrants, tenants and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) groups.
Viveiros said the idea for the workshop came from him noticing common pitfalls community groups often faced. He also found there were few resources available for organizers.
"As I got more experience with different organizations, I noticed that there wasn't much out there to synthesize approaches," he said.
To break the ice, Viveiros introduced attendees to an activity called "Web of Power" in which a ball of yarn was thrown around the circle. Each participant shared a cause they were interested in, and threw the ball to another. By the end, the black thread zig-zagged across the circle, and each participant held at least one thread.
"This is to show that together, we can weave something" Viveiros said. ";We're all connected."
In addition, attendees created skits featuring a hungry person trying to navigate the system, and broke into small groups to discuss their own organizing experience.
Viveiros also discussed how groups can perform outreach. While Facebook and email can be effective, Viveiros said, community activists won't always see people flocking to their events.
"People are more likely to go if you've met them," he explained. For this reason, more personal outreach activities, like handing out flyers where people congregate, should also be used.
The most effective way to increase a member base is one-on-one discussion with people affected by an issue, he said.
Viveiros said the workshop teaches basic skills that help promote an effective democracy. And while these skills are basic, they need to be passed on.
"Doing this work helps me have hope, knowing people have tools and knowledge to organize," he said.
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