Workshops

Benji Hart facilitates a range of popular education workshops based in social justice, the arts, and the necessary intersections of the two. Their areas of political expertise include police and prison abolition, trans and queer history, ethnic studies, and economic justice. As a teaching artist, their focus is on movement, creative writing, and spoken word. They have experience building curricula for students of all ages around leadership development, literacy, community organizing, and performance.

A list of individual workshops and series they facilitate regularly are listed below. Contact them directly to inquire about other workshops and curricula not included here they may be able to support:

 

INDIVIDUAL WORKSHOPS

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Detail of the Trans and Queer Resistance to Policing timeline. Photo credit: Melisa Stephen, 2017
Trans & Queer Resistance to Policing (Developed with Mayadet Cruz & Sadie Baker)

This workshop introduces the idea of police and prison abolition through an examination of the long legacy of trans and queer resistance to policing–and can also serve as a trans 101 for groups still becoming versed in topics of gender identity. After first breaking down who, how, and why the policing system targets specific communities, participants examine a timeline of trans and queer history, adding to it their own experiences and knowledge. The workshop culminates with brainstorming concrete action steps for creating a world without police and prisons, relying on trans and queer history as a guide for that imagining.

90 minutes

 

Gender, Sex & Sexuality 101 (Developed with Mayadet Cruz)

This workshop, ideally paired with Trans & Queer Resistance to Policing above, provides a foundation for understanding the matrix of terms surrounding gender and sexual identities. Through defining and generating examples of different gender and sexual identities, participants will understand the social constructions inherent to these categories, and the spectrum on which all our characteristics–including physical/sexual ones–truly fall once they have been liberated from the constraints of the medical industry, heteronormativity, and colonialism. When paired with Trans & Queer Resistance to Policing above, these sessions work together to illustrate how trans and queer identities can teach us concrete strategies for challenging and reimagining oppressive structures all around us.

30-45 minutes

 

Police and Prison Abolition 101

This workshop introduces the concept of prison and police abolition as, in the words of Ruthie Gilmore, “not an absence, but a presence.” Through guided activities, participants will understand policing–in all its varied forms–as an inherent form of violence, one that actually makes our communities less safe. Participants will think through the kinds of resources–mental health care, schools, housing, etc.–that can replace policing, creating broader safety in our communities, and a more just world.

30-45 minutes 

 

Linking Anti-Blackness with Anti-Immigration

This workshop is aimed at challenging anti-immigrant sentiments and uniting Black and Brown communities in the fight for immigrant justice. The curriculum links the global backlash against immigration to slavery and colonization–demonstrating how the deportation machines in places like Israel, Mexico, and the U.S. share a lineage with the same systems that once captured and forced African slaves into servitude. Participants will understand how histories of Black repression are at the heart of all anti-immigrant sentiment and policy, and the need for our communities to fight against anti-Blackness as hard as we fight for immigrant justice.

90-120 minutes

 

Poetry Writing Workshop

In this workshop, participants with any relationship to poetry strengthen their creative writing skills while imagining a new world. The session centers around a poem model (ex: Where I’m From poem, Redefinition poem, Dialogue poem, etc.), using a range of writing activities to explore not just the model itself, but how poetry as a tool can help us envision new ways of living in, moving on, and creating a more just world in real time. Each participant will leave the session with a new piece of writing in the style of the poem model.

45-60 minutes 

 

Intro to Voguing

This workshop introduces the street dance style of vogue to participants at all levels of dance experience, grounding the form as a tool for resistance and queer liberation. Participants will learn a brief history of the dance form, then practice mixing its elements with the motions from their daily lives, transforming their own movement into an improvised phrase of dance. Participants will come away from this workshop with a working knowledge of the roots of voguing, and an understanding of physical movement as a form of both personal empowerment and a vehicle for collective resistance.

This movement workshop is wheelchair accessible

30-45 minutes

 

Vogue & the Prison Industrial Complex

Few know vogue originates with incarcerated trans and queer people of color within the walls of Riker’s Island Prison in 1970s New York. In this workshop, participants will learn about the history of vogue as a form of creative resistance, practiced historically by incarcerated, poor, homeless, trans and queer youth of color. This history is used to introduce the idea of the prison industrial complex, and how this system historically and currently targets trans and queer communities of color. Through movement, discussion, and improv, participants will come to understand not just how the PIC generated voguing, but also how this dance form can be used as a tool to fight it.

Transgender Youth and the Prison Industrial Complex: Disrupt the Flow by FIERCE NYC

This movement workshop is wheelchair accessible

90 minutes

 

Neoliberalism 101

In this more advanced workshop, participants will understand the basic values and key characteristics of the economic theory of neoliberalism. By examining it’s origins, and applying its tenets to three major current events–the militarized Mexico/U.S. border, the multiple Muslim Bans, and the 2018 construction of a $95 million police academy Chicago–participants learn to recognize neoliberalism as a ubiquitous and uniting source of exploitation, and begin to brainstorm ways it can be resisted.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems by George Monbiot

What Is Neoliberalism?: A Brief Definition for Activists by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnold García

Debating the Uses and Abuses of “Neoliberalism”: Forum by Dissent Magazine

90-120 minutes

 

Privilege & Power

Using techniques from Theater of the Oppressed, this kinesthetic workshop uses theater games to allow participants to momentarily occupy different positions of varying power. By exploring themes of control, consent, and privilege through guided activities, participants reflect on how certain structures allow power to some by denying it to others, and begin to imagine what it would take to generate new structures where power is shared.

30-45 minutes

 

Bringing Your Philosophy into the Classroom

This workshop is geared towards educators–especially teaching artists. By examining the guiding principles which structure the Vogue to Get Free workshop series, educators can identify for themselves what the key tenets of their own teaching practices are, if and how they are naming them within their learning spaces, and how to actively involve students in shaping the values that support their own learning communities. Participants will come away with their own teaching philosophy outlined in accessible terms, ready to be shared with their students, and to actively support liberatory learning in their own classrooms.

45-60 minutes

 

 

WORKSHOP SERIES

Youth perform on stage at Chicago Dyke March as part of the culmination of the Vogue to Get Free workshop series. Photo credit: Love & Struggle Photos, 2017
Vogue to Get Free – Movement Workshop Series (Developed with NIC Kay)

This series explores the street dance form of vogue as a source of empowerment and radical resistance. Relying on a combination of history, political education, and the teaching of specific techniques from the styles of new way vogue and vogue femme, trans and queer youth of color are empowered to learn their own radical legacy of resistance through dance, and to imagine themselves as part of a lineage of Black and Brown queer struggle. Each session includes a mixture of movement activities, discussion and improv, designed to help participants strengthen their skills as voguers, while connecting dance to political issues impacting themselves and their communities. In addition to specific movement techniques, topics include trans history, femme power, prison abolition, and more.

10 sessions, 90 minutes each

 

The World We Are Working For – Spoken Word Workshop Series (Developed with Rachel Jackson)

In this series, participants with any relationship to poetry strengthen their creative writing skills while imagining a new world. Each session centers around a different poem model, using a range of writing activities to explore not just the poem itself, but how poetry as a tool can help us envision new ways of living in, moving on, and creating a more just world in real time. Participants will leave each session with a new piece of writing, as well as have opportunities to workshop old pieces to edit and strengthen them. The series focuses not just on creative writing, but critical thinking, stage performance, and community building.

12 sessions, 45-60 minutes each

 

Header photo: Eddie Jerks