Skip to main content

AFTERGLOW


by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP
                                 
 Afterglow: “Light or radiance remaining after a light source has disappeared.”



“A pleasant effect or feeling that lingers after something is done, experienced or achieved.”


     When I heard that Clarence Jones - a psychologist, activist and respected colleague who for several years co-facilitated workshops with my husband that created a creative, safe space for people to think and talk about issues of race – had died, I knew one thing: that his funeral would feature great stories about a great true storyteller. His son Clancy - about whom his father beamed with pride when he made it to the NFL and played with the New Orleans Saints -  started his eulogy with some anecdotes about many pre-game consults with his father - a skilled strategist and athlete himself – and then dug into the brutal force of racism that shaped Clarence's early life.
     These stories, told in the context of events in our social history, were Clarence’s teaching tools in the racism workshops. He changed peoples’ thinking through stories about his personal and profound experiences with abuse for which he could find no justice, humiliation he could do nothing to avoid, and discrimination that denied him opportunities he earned and fully deserved, as a black man who came of age before the Civil Rights Act. Through interacting directly with people he shed light on a subject many people outright deny or awkwardly acknowledge but do not know how to talk about.
     In an interview with Clarence, as part of research I did while writing a play about HIV/AIDS in 1992, he told me about being a young, married, black father of 2 deciding whether or not to take a position he was offered on Long Island.
     “I drove up here from North Carolina where we lived at the time, checked into a motel, contacted real estate agents and went looking at houses. I ate in various restaurants in different towns. I needed to observe first-hand how I was treated by real estate agents, waiters, and policemen. I needed to know if this is a place I can bring my wife, whether she or my children would be unsafe or subjected to humiliation.”
     As a young white woman, these concerns were not even on my radar when I moved to a new location - much less suburban, non-threatening Long Island. Because Clarence used his gifts as a storyteller and good will as a human being to shine this light on a shadowy subject I - and thousands of other people who knew him - came to view our national conversation about race through a broader lens. The stories shifted our attention, enabling us to see that common, everyday threats to the psychological and physical well-being of black people are virtually invisible to many people because they are woven into the normal, day-to-day process of life for white society.  
     Stories are the threads creating the fabric of our lives, and we continually complete and participate in a story larger than our own. Maria Macedonio-Ritter, Director of the Center For Visual Arts in Blue Point, NY was artist-in-residence at the East End Arts Council in Riverhead in early June and while there expressed something about this concept with an innovative installation titled “The Humble Quilt.” The quilt hung from the ceiling – no fabric, made of squares of dried paint stitched together in a seemingly-magical but a technically-challenging process – and beside it on either side a bright light framed by a multi-pointed star. Sitting in a chair placed in front of the quilt, we stared into the light for a brief time, then turned our gaze on the quilt. After a few seconds, the phenomenon of “afterglow” kicked in as our own visual cortex projected an image of that star onto the quilt canvas, a startling and paradigm-shifting experience. Each of us completed the piece through interacting with it. Physics did the rest.
    What we see is, in part, where we choose to look. The stories we tell are sometimes the quilt upon which something new and perhaps disturbing is projected, and sometimes the light, the way Clarence’s life and work continues in the afterglow.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation Games & Exercises For Developing Emotional Intelligence

Since September Lifestage has been offering a monthly training workshop exploring the use of improvisation to develop Emotional Intelligence. These workshops have been geared toward the work done by clinicians, educators and trainers who guide the process of personal change or professional development, but as it turns out we have enjoyed some interesting diversity among the participants -  managers, business owners with both employees and customers, community activists, and performers. 
    Below is a collection of the exercises we have used in the workshops, accompanied by some studies that supports their use. 


Why Improvisation?
Improvisation is a powerful way to become aware of mental habits and patterns. Reflecting on our inner experiences after engaging in an improvisation exercise provides an opportunity to decide whether our mental habits are effective and useful or self-limiting and obsolete. The tensions of the creative process and this kind of interpersonal interaction are a fa…

WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK - For Therapeutic, Educational or Training Groups

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP, Director of Training at Lifestage, Inc and Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP, Trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow on twitter @JuTrWolff


   “To begin assembly one must have the right attitude,” goes a Japanese instruction for assembling a particular object, as quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance. The "right attitude" is one that best serves the action we are preparing to engage in, just as an athlete warms up his/her muscles before using them in the stress of a work-out or game. Psychological and emotional "muscles" that are properly warmed up will perform more effectively and make it less likely that we will experience strain or allow fear to produce a shut-out when things get rolling.
    The right warm-up makes everything learned in a training situation or classroom more accessible and immediately useful to the trainee/student. New skills and knowledge - in education, personal growth or a professional train…

IMPROV RULES: Social-Emotional Development From The Classroom To The Consulting Room Using AI

"I think improv helps people become better humans. It makes people listen better. Improv rules are life rules. And so, if a lot more people are taking improv, a lot more people are being thoughtful in their daily life about how they interact with each other....We could say that saying 'yes' is the foundational thing, but really its listening and hearing what the other person is saying. Then building off of that rather than waiting for someone to stop talking so you can say your thing. That's the hardest thing to learn as an improviser-its to listen. And I think that's one of the hardest things to do as a person." 
Learning To Listen, With The Help of Improv, on Atlantic.com
Improvisation can be a seemingly magical experience from the perspective of both improviser and observer. People with little or no actual knowledge about one another, in an empty space, create a world, a relationship, a story with neither script nor director nor defined outcome. It can appea…