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Equity Work is Healing Work (Part 2)

 [In the previous (Nov. 12) blog post, I talked about the connection I see between justice work and healing work – acknowledging the reality that our society is built upon acts of brutality and actively maintains systems of domination. I promised to next offer practical steps for dismantling oppression and to create and sustain liberation for all.  I hope that you will take one or two of these to begin practicing within your movement or organization.  Please do share what you learn!] 

Important and critical practices for any group intending equity and justice falls under what I’ve named: Systematic Repair – Living Equity.  These are concrete steps that, through practice, cultivate a culture of truth – a repaired foundation upon which we can institutionalize equity and justice.

Systematic Repair Practices
1.     Make sure that your team has as a part of its training (as early in its development as possible) a clear framework for understanding the difference between individual or interpersonal power dynamics AND systemic or societal power dynamics.
2.     Prioritize capacity building with a goal that everyone effectively give and receive feedback.  Build a strong foundation in naming and understanding the difference between “what I saw/heard,”  “what I felt within,” “what I assumed/believed,” and the ability to own “what I did was…”  This framing and the resulting practice will strengthen your ability to name and to eliminate Patterns of Diversity which are the building/sustaining blocks of systems of oppression.
3.     Share the definition of *Patterns of Diversity (or a similar framework that points to specific behaviors) and then, watch a film or review current events while members practice naming *Patterns of Diversity.
4.     At every meeting (Staff meeting, Board meeting, design team meeting, etc.) assign one person (or two if a larger group) to act as Power Process Observer.  Their job is to simply record and report out patterns of diversity that they saw happen during the meeting.  This process will take a strong commitment.  Not everyone sees patterns as easily as others so encourage people to take turns.   Expect that there will be resistance – mainly in the form of defensiveness.  This practice is about building muscles: eyes (ability to see what is happening), voice (ability to name what is happening), heart (ability to stay engaged and connected even in the midst of acknowledging what may be painful).  All of it is essential!
5.     DECLARE ACTION STEPS (OR ACTIVATORS) to shift patterns that are noticed over time.  Be rigorous in naming the changes to be made, the commitments and specific timing for checking in/monitoring the change or checking back in.  Those with greater institutional power need to step up here in both owning their part in upholding the status quo and their particular responsibility in dismantling systems of oppression.  (In so doing, you immediately challenge the familiar pattern of “those in power” acting as the guardians of the status quo.)
6.     Allow people to make amends.  There may be rituals that arise –  don’t resist them.  Holding each other accountable is essential yet, sincere apologies and true forgiveness has the power to transmute the poisons like nothing else.    

*Patterns of diversity are behaviors that we see having to do with difference AND Institutional and/or Societal POWER.  They are important to notice and acknowledge in order to build a JUST community.



Unknown said…
These are powerful practices, Niyonu-- THANK YOU.
I feel I am very much a novice at seeing the power and how it plays our around me and my own role as "guardian of the status quo." I yearn to understand this better and to grow and change.

I serve on a board of a Quaker institution, wherein a process observer is appointed for each meeting. The point is to report back on adherence to ideal Friends Process at the end of each meeting. When it was my turn as observer recently, I decided to simply record how many comments were made to each item of business by women, men, European-Americans, and People of Color. Predictably, white men spoke twice as much as white women. Also, (sadly) predictably, whites spoke 4 times as much as POC. I presented these results as observations without judgment attached. The feedback was received openly and several people told me later they were very glad to have received it. whether any change will come of it is another thing...
Nivibes said…
From Liz on FB: " These are the very specifics I have been searching/hoping for! As I bring these questions/observations forward into my own work, I also wonder about the question/observation, “How my position/action in this group/organization either reinforces barriers or promotes healing/justice is...” Thoughts?"

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