The Sabo Center presents…

Last month Augsburg University hosted the Midway Chamber of Commerce annual Leadership Summit on June 19. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey gave the keynote address at the luncheon, where he talked about the City’s directives around sustaining healthy communities, the importance of leadership and more. Prior to Mayor Frey’s address, participants chose among two sessions including one led by Sabo Center director, Elaine Eschenbacher:

Thinking Together: The Power of Deliberative Dialogue 

Deliberative dialogue is a form of discussion aimed at finding the best course of action. Leaders can use deliberative dialogue to productively engage a group to explore the most promising avenues for action on a complex issue. Deliberation breaks us out of the culture of polarization and extremism that seems to increasingly prevail in public discourse. It promotes learning and problem solving, listening and understanding across lines of difference and can lead to collective action. It can shift groups of people from seeing each other as adversaries to seeing each other as collaborators and uses facts and arguments as key tools for solving problems together. This workshop is designed to engage participants in a deliberative practice to explore a sample topic, the national debt, then consider the application of this process for other issues in our professional environments.


The Sabo Center is convening the Undoing White Body Supremacy Pilot Project in partnership with Augsburg’s Equity and Inclusion Initiatives. This pilot is a cohort of white faculty and staff learning to undo the ways white supremacy shows up in our bodies, not just in our minds. Selected applicants will meet and learn together throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. This is body-based racial justice work, informed by Somatic Experiencing®  and Interpersonal Neurobiology. Applicants should be open to both intellectual development and also to the opportunity for tracking the body’s physical responses to racialized experiences.


Applications are due by 5:00 p.m on Monday, May 13, 2019. All applicants will be notified by Friday, May 17, 2019.

Contact Rachel Svanoe or Allyson Green with questions about this opportunity.


ABOUT THE PROJECTImage of My Grandmother's Hands cover






Racism has been foundational to the United States, and the patterns and implicit beliefs that sustain racism are baked into our culture, political systems, and ways of engaging with one another. Changing the narratives that rationalize racist systems is necessary, and there is much to be learned (and unlearned) through education. Many of us at Augsburg are doing exactly that through the Diversity and Inclusion Certificate and other learning opportunities. However, as long as there exists a gap between our intellectual commitments and the impact of our action, something we’ve heard from students time and time again, intellectual work alone is insufficient.

The Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, in partnership with Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, seek to complement current racial justice efforts on campus by creating a deliberate space for white faculty and staff members to address white body supremacy in ourselves, our classrooms, and our community. This is a nine-month program that begins in September 2019 with a series of three foundational training sessions specifically designed for white identified staff and faculty members. Following the foundational workshops, we will convene seven monthly cohort practice sessions (November – May) for a cohort of 21 people (14 faculty members and 7 staff) to deepen this learning. This is not an all-white group making plans for racial justice work on campus without our colleagues of color or group therapy for assuaging white guilt, but rather an intentional space for strengthening skills and deepening accountability for undoing white body supremacy.

This cohort model is being developed in direct conversation with the work of Resmaa Menakem MSW, LICSW, SEP (“My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies”) and Rachel Martin M.S., LAMFT. Sabo Center staff members Rachel Svanoe and Allyson Green are participating in ongoing communities of practice with Resmaa and Rachel to develop their capacity to facilitate this work at Augsburg.

Who is involved?

Rachel Svanoe and Allyson Green: Project coordinators, lead facilitators

Rachel Martin, M.S. LAMFT: Curriculum developer and facilitator of the first foundational workshop and coach to Allyson and Rachel who will lead the remainder of the program

Joanne Reeck: Project advisor

Participants: 14 white identified faculty, 7 white identified staff, others who attend foundational workshops

Why only White folks?

While colleagues of color have power, agency, and essential roles to play in racial justice work, the intention of this pilot is to focus in on the part that white bodies need to play, and the dynamics of whiteness which too often evade the spotlight. White bodies, because of our conditioning, tend to lack the capacity for holding discomfort in racialized experiences and, in multi-racial settings, we tend to lean heavily on colleagues of color to ease tension, soothe our anxieties and make things feel okay again. This can be wounding and exhausting for colleagues of color, and it inhibits the development of individual and collective capacity among white bodies to hold our own (and each other’s) discomfort and move through it together. We will build culture, community, and capacity among white bodies to show up more fully to the work of dismantling white body supremacy and creating a more just world.  

If you wish to discuss this choice further, we welcome conversation.



Three Foundational Workshops (Fridays, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

September 27, October 11, October 25

Monthly practice cohort meetings (Fridays, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)

November 8, 2019

December 13, 2019

January 10, 2020

February 14, 2020

March 13, 2020

April 10, 2020

May 8, 2020

***Cohort members will commit to attending all ten sessions when they apply. The first three foundation workshops will also be open to other white colleagues at Augsburg.


  • Shared language and practices for staying engaged through moments of racialized stress and discomfort, creating a container for the institutional evolution that is underway.
  • A co-created culture of loving accountability among white colleagues, helping us stay connected rather than shutting down or cutting each other off, shifting our mindset from “I have to figure this stuff out on my own, so I don’t make mistakes” to “I can learn and grow, and I am part of a community that will love me through my mistakes.”
  • Increased capacity to 1) understand racism and its impact, 2) address racism when it happens, and 3) cause less harm to students and colleagues of color, responding to their call for us to do our work.
  • Greater collective capacity among white colleagues for undoing white supremacy in our institution, decreasing the burden carried by colleagues and students of color, creating more space for them to be and to lead.


In My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, local trauma specialist, trainer, and author Resmaa Menakem writes, “only a small fraction of white supremacy lives in our conscious mind.” Much of the patterns and reflexes that sustain racism are unconscious and manifest in our bodies. This manifestation informs the term white body supremacy and calls for racial justice work to include a focus on the body, not just the intellect.

Each of us who has been shaped by life in the United States carries in our bodies wordless stories about who and what threatens our safety, along with reflexive responses to protect us from those threats. These protective responses to threats (to our physical safety but also to what we do, believe, and care about) are for our survival and yet, our nervous systems cannot differentiate between threats that are real and those that are perceived. Because of our history and socialization, white bodies’ nervous systems predictably mobilize to protect us in the very presence of a black or brown body and even to the mention or thought of race. In these moments, whether we intend it or not, our nervous systems often go into fight, flight, freeze or collapse, taking us out of social engagement, causing harm and impairing us in the face of each others’ racism.  As long as our nervous systems experience the mere awareness of race as a threat, they will predictably respond to protect us from experiencing our racial reality and thus, leave us with very little capacity for tolerating the discomfort of race and racism, keeping us from the work that we need to do. If we lack awareness of these nervous system patterns and practices for staying engaged and moving through them, we will continue to look to Black and Indigenous people and people of color (BIPOC) to soothe our racialized stress, and shoulder the burden of dismantling racism.

Fortunately, our bodies also have tremendous capacity for awareness, connection, and resiliency, and this is what we aim to cultivate through this effort. In this work, we learn to notice the physical sensations that accompany nervous system responses and develop practices for staying present and connected as they occur. For example, when we begin to notice a racing heartbeat, constriction in our chests, shallow breathing and a narrowing focus, before following our gut reaction, we can practice looking around and expanding our focus to the space that we’re in, moving our bodies in ways that ground us and making eye contact with a familiar face for support. As we learn to experience nervous system energy for what it is, simply our bodies trying to protect us from real or perceived threats, we learn to recognize when our bodies’ reactions match reality and when they are responding out of unhelpful conditioning. Against a backdrop of often-paralyzing white guilt and shame, we can learn to separate feeling bad when we continue to cause harm from thinking we are bad.

As white colleagues develop greater collective capacity to lean into the discomfort of racialized experiences and the resilience to bounce back from our own stress responses, we will be better equipped to walk through the transformation that our community and institution are beginning to undergo. White colleagues can develop the capacity to hold our own and each other’s discomfort, seeking less comfort from colleagues of color and creating more space for them to work, influence, lead and be. Not only that, but we experience more authentic relationships, greater ability to take imperfect action, and the resiliency to seek repair and move forward.

Democracy Augsburg Teach-In: A Personal Look at Our Criminal Justice System

Blog post by Emily Braverman

The Smart Justice Campaign and personal experience with the Minnesota criminal justice system are two topicsPoster for Democracy Augsburg: A Personal Look at the Criminal Justice System event with details that will be discussed, explored, and analyzed during a Democracy Augsburg Teach-In coming up mid-October.

Elizer Darris and Anika Bowie, both organizers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), will discuss their experiences with the Minnesota criminal justice system and their organizing work through the Smart Justice Campaign.

After successfully getting his life sentence overturned on appeal, Elizer Darris became an activist in prison and an advocate for his fellow inmates. Upon release, he began working in local politics. He currently runs field operations for the Smart Justice Campaign. Based in the Twin Cities, the Smart Justice Campaign is focused on reducing America’s prison population and combating racial inequity across the country. Darris’s main goal is to reduce widespread incarceration.

Anika Bowie is a powerful advocate for people of color. As co-chair of the Minneapolis NAACP Criminal Justice Reform Committee, she connects with government officials, community members, and local youth around reform of the criminal justice system, and is best known for being a group organizer, educator, and leader.

The Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship will be hosting Elizer Darris and Anika Bowie for a Democracy Augsburg Teach-In on October 15, 2018, at 5 p.m. in the Oren Gateway Center, Room 201. Please join us.

Power and Hope: Awakening Democracy Through Public Work

Awakening Democracy Through Public Work: Pedagogies of Empowerment, is a new book written by Harry C. Boyte which tells many stories of Public Achievement and public work in the United States and around the world. Public work is a civic philosophy with deep roots in nonviolent traditions that express a generative power, never more needed than today when power is understood as domination and control.

This event will feature a diversity of voices, an opportunity to purchase a copy of the book, and have it signed by the author.

Monday, November 12th,Image result for Awakening Democracy Through Public Work: Pedagogies of Empowerment

6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Augsburg University, Hagfors Center, Room 150

700 21st Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

What’s at Stake on the Sixth?

A Democracy Augsburg Teach-in

Blog post by Emily Braverman


The Midterm Elections.  Poster for What's at Stake on the Sixth? Event.

If you aren’t aware of what the midterm elections are, no worries! Here at the Sabo Center, we broke it down into an easily understandable, short guide:

U.S. presidents serve four-year terms. In between these terms, there is a midterm election. Participation during these elections tend to be lower than general elections, but they are very important!

During the midterm election:

  • Members of the U.S House of Representatives are up for election.
  • Most U.S. states elect their governors.

In addition, the political landscape may change because the president’s party may lose seats in both houses of Congress; this might change which party is in control of the legislature. This, in turn, will impact the president’s ability to pursue an agenda during the second half of his/her term.

Augsburg University’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship welcomes everyone to a presentation by political science professor Andrew Aoki, followed by a discussion about the midterm elections. This will take place on October 19th, at Oren Gateway Center – room 100, between 4:30-5:30 p.m.

The 2018 midterm elections will bring forward many important issues to discuss and vote on. Topics at “What’s at Stake on the Sixth?” might include:

  • Donald Trump’s presidency
  • Immigration
  • Healthcare
  • Marijuana
  • International Affairs

Let’s talk: consequences, redistricting, implications for control of Congress, the presidency, presidential-congressional relations, Supreme Court, and myriad public policies.

If you want to discuss these or other issues and to understand the importance of the midterm elections, we will see you at What’s at Stake on the Sixth.

Learn to Communicate Across the Political Divide with the Better Angels Workshop

A Democracy Augsburg Workshop

Blog post by Emily Braverman  Poster: Better Angels Workshop

“Political ideology” is a term used frequently by political activists, students, and generally by anyone who considers themselves a political enthusiast. What exactly does it mean? Simply put, it is a term describing a person’s political views.

As a myriad of recent examples from American politics display, when diverging political ideologies collide the result is not necessarily respectful or peaceful. Even some of the most qualified politicians have not mastered the skill of respectfully engaging in conversation with those who have a different political ideology.

In response to this challenging reality, The Sabo Center is partnering with Better Angels to offer a workshop where participants will learn effective ways to communicate with others who differ from them politically. Better Angels is a national citizens movement that aims to reduce political polarization in the United States by bringing together liberals and conservatives to understand each other beyond stereotypes, to form red/blue community alliances, to teach practical skills for communicating across political differences, and to make a strong public argument for depolarization.

Come join The Sabo Center for a fish bowl-style discussion in which an equal number of self-declared conservatives and progressives join together in conversation about their differences and how to embrace each other’s side:

Wednesday, October 17, 3:30pm – 5:30pm, Old Main Room 105.


Whose Democracy is it Anyway?

Join the Sabo Center and a panel of distinguished guests in exploring the questions: What role do citizens play in our democracy? What role do elected officials play? In a thriving democracy, how do (or should) the two interact?

October 4, 2018

4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Hagfors Center, Room 150, Augsburg University



Catalina Morales, Lead organizer with ISAIAH and Faith in MN

Harry Boyte, Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy, Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship  

Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison, Minneapolis Ward 5

Irene Fernando, Candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner – District 2



Democracy Augsburg Teach-in: Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement


Join us Tuesday, September 25 at 4:00 p.m. in Hagfors 151 when Harry Boyte delivers the first Democracy Augsburg Teach-in of the year, Addressing the Crisis in Democracy- Lessons from the civil rights movement. Harry Boyte, Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy at the Sabo Center, served as a field secretary for Rev. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the southern freedom movement. He will lift up lessons from the movement, including the key role young people played, and relate them to our current crisis in democracy.