After decades of learning new terminology, scholarly work, attending workshops, completing surveys, and checking mandatory boxes, the change we demand has yet to be institutionalized. On every imaginable metric, progress remains elusive. Why?! At a certain point, cognitive dissonance applies - how many more decades must we try the same approach yielding the same results? The current structure leaves organizations defining their own ailment and specialist: Power. Equity advocates and professionals suffer from the "one-soldier-at-a-time" approach (isolation), presumption of incompetence, and too often leaving the battlefield wounded and alone: No power. The time has arrived: we must rebalance power and re-define strategies that result in substantive change.
How do we re-balance power to the hands of those with compassion? How do we move beyond theory and words into practice and process, and do so joyfully? Join us as we celebrate what we know, and the birth of the Future of Equity. You are not alone.
March 29, 2022 Learning by Julia
Before continuing full speed ahead with DEI as it currently exists, we take a knee. First, we acknowledge water: we call them the seven seas but in actuality, they are one. It's a matter of perspective and convenience, and so is advocating for equity. We call upon Zora Neale Hurston's recount of High John the Conqueror: no matter where we suffer, at our depth of sorrow he brings us laughter and song. How? Because we know our capability. And, we laugh because others don't know and it's time they did.
Beginning the circle we ask in turn, "Re-reading the description [above], what brought you here tonight? What did you want to hear said or say yourself?" We are furious, and many times fully ready to shake / slap / punch some sense into the next...Performative Ally, Conveniently Ignorant, BLM T-shirt Wearing, Buzzword Slinging, Privileged, Secret Supremacist who dares impede progress with their know-nothing selves.
But, we don't. We could, but we chose love. We slog on, feeling caught in the middle, trying to feel included, and say things like, "I don't want to say I've given up hope," with a full stop. The change we usher shall not be rooted in fear, and no amount of money shall placate mediocrity in equitable practice. We are Practitioners, we activate and practice equity. It's an everyday rehearsal to overcome our childlike masculinity, to be the first to pause and say, "Is this ever gonna work? That's not how Equity is done." We're not interested in changing the current system. We're building a new one.
We break, drink the water of life, and return to say that self-governance holds our keys, the designated driver while we out here drunk on oppression. How can one be clean surrounded by filth? We instead consciously choose to surround ourselves with those who are willing to learn in public as we raise the bar of equity. We ask, "What would you tell future equity advocates how to do it differently?" Best now is a list in the order we shared:
Fahamu Pecou’s self-portrait painting with his bare back to the audience is a forceful introduction to the issues of power in the exhibit. The work’s brilliant canary yellow background, the artist’s chocolate brown face in profile, and his white pants hung low like the B-boys — in many ways this is a typical Pecou image. He often casts himself in various situations and stances; his attire ranges from garb associated with hip-hop to the dandy. Pecou spins off of magazine covers to create his paintings. In Many Rivers, he takes a layout from the important anti-Apartheid magazine of the 1950 and 60s, Drum Magazine, as a point of departure. Pecou appears slightly hunched, carrying a heavy load of jute rope and large-scale bells, with falcon feathers entwined, the latter, possibly a symbol of his spirit animal or guide. In traditional African cultures the drum is an essential communication tool; therefore, its implication here is all encompassing as a symbol of African retention by the artist. Credit: https://www.theartblog.org/2017/03/high-john-the-conqueror-aint-got-nothing-on-me/
It's so hard to not sound cliché when talking about love. Why? In English, emotions and relationship concepts are limited to one dimensional words. In reality, love exists in many expressions and relationships: Love of another's humanity. Love of a friend. The love of a child. Of a dear pet. Love of work, love of the struggle...How do we normalize the role of L.O.V.E. in our working-with-equity lives? What does it entail - to love unconditionally? Come, let's talk love and receive your own flowers of gratitude. If you are capable of love, you too deserve love. Let us together understand what that love means to you.
March 1, 2022 Learning by Julia
We begin with a dedication to the artists and musicians for reminding us, through all time and space, of the power of love. Not only that fairy tale, romantic, best friends for life, kinda love that exists on every channel, but also that kinda love that gets us through. Love that challenges us to grow. We remember the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his power. We read, "[P]ower without love is reckless. And love without power is sentimental. In other words power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. And justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love..." So of course we ask, "Where do you see power and love intersecting in your life?"
We begin our 2.5 hour single answer by inviting the power of silence. The breathe holds and releases, and we find love in design. Imagine designing everything in love! In this design, we find ample room for all histories, without first weighing value compared to... ALL of our ancestors stories tell us how to love better in the now; resilience, and how to protect our children from us passing along harmful ways.
Us experiencing these same harmful ways as those before us, we rebel and love when we should be 'professional'. We weigh our words: they have power. We respect our positions of influence, as we wanted our oppressors to understand: power without love is reckless. "We must not worry about using the word Power..." (MLK) At all levels of title, we speak to the elephant in the room, and are thanked for it. With this, we practice answering with confidence, "How did you use your power?"
Sometimes, that power is simply the ability to love self. In equity advocacy, we advocate for self as a form of love of community. We give permission to self, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!" We don't hurt ourselves for others comfort, instead we advocate for celebration of self with vigor. When surrounded by those not capable of the celebration of Me, of what I know and where I've been, I heavy sigh. Patience for theft of my soul body no longer exists, "Fuck it. Imma love you in all the hard ways." Because, you can't steal what is given freely.
Down to the cellular level of existence, we are never without love. The capacity to love exists in infinite measure, we are ALL made of stardust! Love exists in the transmission of knowledge, in the sharing and honoring of power, in the "It feels good to not feel small."
We leave the second round to self: Name yo mantra. Mine? "I love myself. I know my worth. And, no one can take that from me." Mind-muscle-memory, activate! Practice.
In the name of rebalancing power in favor of love, next month we continue the learning with, "Yeah, I Said it: DEI is Dead." Stay in tune.
Julia Ismael hosts monthly Listening Circles for the masses as a way to stay informed and to find new and meaningful ways to create connection. Julia is the founder and Head Architect of Aspirations of The Equity Consortium. Monthly Listening Circles are held on the 4th Tuesday of the month, and what is learned from these circles is shared here. Please enjoy our stories.