(Plain Press, March 2019)On February 15, the YWCA of Greater Cleveland held a Forum on Race, It’s Time to Talkfeaturing keynote speaker Karen Williams at the Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus. Williams, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the International Institute of Humor and Healing Arts (HaHA Institute), explored the theme of humor and diversity with forum participants.
Williams talked about the healing opportunities that stem from humor. She said that categorizing people just by race ignores other parts of us.
She said when we look at people as “clumps of clay – so much of people’s identity can go missing.” She cited other differences in people that shape our identity including: culture, religion, disability, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, gender, work background, creed, education, parental status, geographic location, thinking styles, native born/non-native born, job classification, military experience, functional specialty, marital status, political ideology, appearance and communication style.
Williams shared five ways to create a positive workplace: “1). Give the benefit of the doubt. (Don’t read into other people’s actions.) 2). Practice of Generosity of Spirit (Don’t wait for someone else to share or help – do it first.) 3.) Speak well of others (If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.) 4). Look at what works (There is always something good in every situation – find it.) 5). Show appreciation (Say thank you more often.)”
Offering another means to improve relationships, Williams shared her ten commandments of human relations: “1). Speak to people 2). Smile at people 3) Call people by name. 4) Be friendly and helpful 5) Be cordial 6) Be genuinely interested in people. 7). Be generous with praise, and cautious with criticism. 8.) Be considerate with the feelings of others 9). Be alert to give service. 10). Add to this a good sense of humor.”
Williams said, “humor is the language of the oppressed.” She urged finding laughter in this moment, at this time. She said sharing humor, helps to create community.
Three things to practice are “compliment, compassion and clarity,” said Williams. She urged limiting negative complaints and criticism. She said practicing this will help us to lead a joyful life.
Urging patience with others, Williams said, “We don’t know why a person is being the way they are.” She shared a belief that anything is possible for human beings as a hope for a better future in relations between people.