Mosaic Multicultural Foundation was founded by Michael Meade 20 years ago. It got its name from a ceremonial drum, which was broken during a men’s retreat in Virginia and made whole through the metaphor of for re-making the drum, for making things whole.
Making people whole by “bridging unhealthy divisions in contemporary communities” is Mosaic’s focus. They do this through using story, poetry, and cultural traditions. From their various retreats and workshops, held mostly on the West Coast (Washington, Oregon, and California), they work on building relationship and achieving growth by having people express who they are, what they think, dream, believe, need, and desire through a variety of methods. Workshops with Mosaic cover retreats and workshops for youth, men, veterans, youth/elders, mentoring and mythology.
They not only heal divisions and do great creative work, but they also encourage the deep-diving of the imagination, asking participants to look at their true selves, something rarely done in the “real world.” Mosaic asks us to touch all of those places, to add them to our creative, imaginative selves in order to be all of who we are and to help connect with those around us and make change happen.
But why story? Because “…people need opportunities to feel deeply in order to transform their pain. We spend much of our life hiding our feelings so that we do not appear weak or unstable. We fail to recognize the basic conditions that make us human and provide stability in the long run. Stories connect us to our emotions and show us how to process them.” (source: Diane Rooks, Spinning Gold out of Straw: How Stories Heal)
For the young people who attend Mosaic’s Voices of Youth program, the value of expressing their own stories is confirmed over and over again. This particular program, which works with at-risk youth from all over the state of California, seeks to give young people a voice in a culture that has an odd relationship with youth: we love the appearance of being young, but the idea that the young can give voice to wisdom is rarely accepted. Old people, we think, have that. But Voices of Youth gives a place for them to speak out and express what they know of life, to make that an offering to their community.
Part of the program has young people telling/hearing stories, reading poetry they’ve written and experiencing traditional creativity from all over the world whether in the form of music, story, etc. Another part of the program has them working within their communities and yet another working with elders in the community, which gives both elders and youth a chance to witness the wisdom in one another. In addition, their performance at the end of the program is followed by a discussion, opening up the entire audience to a different way of thinking and experiencing the so-called generation gap.
Overall, “Mosaic seeks to find dynamic remedies for the alienation, spiritual dislocation, and personal isolation that increasingly characterize modern life for both youth and elders alike. More and more, young people ask about the end of the world. Whether it be educated youth considering the dangers of global warming and climate change, less privileged ones who feel the bite of poverty and the growing disparity between rich and poor, or those exposed to the increased threats of violence and extremism—modern youth grow up amidst threats of natural disaster and nightmares of terrorism and can’t help doubt the future of the world. In the midst of radical changes in nature and the rattling of cultural institutions the point may be to turn again to the inner realm where old practices and deep awareness can produce moments of wholeness.”
Where’s the social change? It is in that place between the elders who have experienced the world so thoroughly and the youth who have so many questions about it. We have to wait to see where the spark will land, but the program gives young people a chance to experience the importance of their voices and what those voices might lend to the future if applied with thoughtfulness and authenticity.