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The Power Flower: Reflection on our Social Identities

Source: Barb Thomas, Doris Marshall Institute. Adapted from Lee, Letters to Marcia, as cited in Arnold, et.al. (1991)

Time: 45-60 minutes

Rationale
Participants will identify who they are (and who they aren't) as individuals and as a group in relation to those who wield power in our society. This activity will also highlight discrimination as a process for maintaining dominant identities.

Materials
• The power flower drawn on large paper
• Individual copies of the flower as handouts
• A variety of coloured markers

Teaching/ Learning Strategies
1. Introduce the power flower, drawn on large paper and placed on the wall. As a group fill in the dominant social identity of the group on the outside circle.
2. Asking people to work individually or with the person next to them, hand out individual flowers to each pair. Ask participants to locate themselves on the inner blank circle.
3. The groups of two post their identities on the inner circle of the large flower as soon as they are ready to do so.
4. We review the composite as a group and reflect on:
• personal location: how many factors you have as an individual that are different from the dominant identity; what factors can't be shifted, changed?
• representation: who we are/ are not as a group - and how that might influence the task/discussion at hand?
• the relationship between and among different forms of oppression.
• the process at work to establish dominance of a particular identity and, at the same time, to subordinate other identities.

Variations
• Individuals fill in the inner circle of the flower before reflecting on the dominant social identity in the group.
• Using flip-chart paper, cut out large versions of the twelve different petals. Each petal should be large enough so that all participants can make an entry on it. Name each of the petals and spread them around the room. Participants circulate and record their personal identity on the inner part of the petal and the dominant identity on the outer part. Gather the petals in the centre of the room, and use as a catalyst for discussion as above.
• Use the power flower as an introduction to focus on one form of oppression. The flower was developed specifically for use in anti-racist work.
• List the words participants use to describe their own "ethnicity" and "race". Examine the two columns for differences. Use this as a take-off point for talking about race as a social - as opposed to scientific- concept.

Words of warning: Be very careful about asking students to fill in the petals. It may put students/participants who don't want to identify, for whatever reason, on the spot. For example you may have a gay student who is out to some people in the group but not to others who is uncomfortable when asked to fill in the sexual orientation petal. A variation may be to ask participants to look at the categories in the petals and make their own private list of categories they feel they fall into. No one needs to see if someone chooses not to fill out one of the petals. It is important to ensure that someone who is already feeling disempowered is not made to feel more so by an equity activity.

 

Source: Barb Thomas, Doris Marshall Institute. Adapted from Lee, Letters to Marcia, as cited in Arnold, et.al. (1991).

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