Co-Creating the Language to Embody Peace-Building

Tammy Narena invented Empatharian (np) in 1956, she did not invent a
complete language. She began creating the language, but didn’t
finish. When she passed away in 2005, she and her daughter, me, had
just started writing down the positions and the meanings. The job
wasn’t finished. But Tammy meant it to be that way. She planned
that the language would be co-created organically.

This January 2021 I have the opportunity to do a movement gestural accompaniment to a Martin Luther King Jr. speech, which is the theme of an event taking place for the next 40 Days of Service, ending on April 4. We need 10 partners to help co-create the Empatharian Movements for this piece, and at least 2 members of an indigenous tribe somewhere participating with us, all by Zoom. This would be ideal.

Models of Intuitive Gestural Languages

We will create gestures which are completely intuitive to the meaning intended, like a wave means hello. There are many models of intuitive gestures around the world:

  • American Sign Language (ASL) is partially intuitive,
  • In India and Malaysia several different traditional movement forms tell traditional stories, with vocabularies of up to 900 words.\
  • Native American Sign Language with the Navajo tribes
  • Hawaiian Hula Movement also tells stories
  • New Zealand Haka’s traditional dance is a movement language
  • Tibetan and Buddhist mudras are specific finger and hand positions that represent, and are used to attain, specific spiritual states.
The Speech       by Martin Luther King, Jr.                                                                                            

Brendan Gallagher has composed music and a song using the speech we’ve chosen. King’s words ring out in the refrain: “Learn to Live Together.”

“This is the great new problem of mankind:

We have inherited a big house. a great “world house”


in which we have to live together

– black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews,

Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu,

a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who,

because we can never again live without each other,

must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.


The Process of Co-Creation

A. Brainstorm/Thoughtstorm the meaning we get from these words of Martin Luther King, Jr’s, line by line, Each person does a drawing with their non dominant hand, with 5 colors, to get our energy on this task.  Then each person says what they want to say.  Two groups are formed:  “Movers” and “Shakers”  to differentiate who will do the movement perhaps?  And who will be just giving feedback.  Clarity and committment for all to try the movements and push the boundaries of “being cool”. 

1. Think do we want to do these words in gesture or something different? In rhythm with the song?Like: ”Hate cannot heal hate. Only Love can heal hate.”

2. Once we’ve decided, research Tammy’s videos for word hints. Her gesture for People is beautiful… Research other gestural languages, as we can. ASL

3. Put together the movement phrases, one sentence at a time.

4. Try with the music.  Get feedback, if it works intuitively?

5. Do words and music together… make a zoom recording….

6. Voila! Attend, or make a performance video/zoom session.

7. Do all this in 4 meetings total. 4 hours of work. (research can be done by Lolo, and compiled in a video rough or document, as applicable)

Our End Result Goals-Requirements for the result

1. Easy to do

2. Visually appealing,

3. Communicating clearly

4. Without national character or style, but perhaps with hip hop or rap added in?


We hope to have made a performance that the world will adore, and that people will want to continue doing, as a faith reminder of the message of MLK.

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