Generating ideas, connections, and action

Leading for Racial Equity: The Reasons I Need to Be at Creating Space

I have been meaning to write a personal article about why I feel so strongly about attending Creating Space in New Orleans this year. I thought for a moment about a catchy top ten list and quickly realized that my spirit these days is anything but light. I was still reeling from Charlottesville while Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast. Twelve years after Katrina, I am reminded how natural disaster also becomes a social and economic disaster with a toll that hits vulnerable communities hardest.

This past Sunday, I joined the Resist rally in Berkeley to protest hate and white supremacist groups who had threatened to gather. I am glad I went, I will continue to show up, and yet, the response feels inadequate. It’s the same feeling I had in 1994 when I was protesting and phone banking against Proposition 187, a horrific piece of legislation that would have prevented undocumented immigrants from using state services like health care and public education. Close on the heels of 187 was 209, an attempt to undo affirmative action. At the time, as a graduate of one of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s leadership programs, I wondered if former graduates of the program and eventually other programs could be mobilized across institutions where we worked...schools, clinics, social justice organizations and media to mount a strong response and work more systemically on root causes. This was the impetus for creating LLC, and I still believe we need to build new connections and work in new ways.

 

Over 20 years later, my current impetus, sadly, still comes back to racial equity. I thought I was pretty aware. Despite my enthusiasm about the election of President Obama, I never suffered from the illusion that we were post racial, and yet, I was unprepared for the 2016 election results. I noticed that I was more surprised than others, especially friends and colleagues who are people of color, by the white backlash (whitelash). I also noticed  before the events of Charlottesville, that people who I have great respect for were using the language of white supremacy, not just to refer to extremist groups but to name the culture that reinforces the idea white people are superior and justifies structures that privilege and elevate white people. My first reaction to using this language was that people who did not understand the way we were using it, would think it was directed at extremist groups and they would be off the hook, or that we would end up preaching to the converted because others (yes, probably mostly white people) would opt out, or that we might not get funding. Of course, I also had to wonder to what extent it was me being triggered as a white woman...all of which gets me back to Creating Space.

 

There are several reasons Creating Space feels critically important to me.

  • I am aware that I need to do my own personal work in order to bring a strong race conscious lens to leadership development

  • It’s an opportunity to promote and learn from people who can lead on issues of racial equity and help us advance leadership development efforts

  • It’s a chance to understand where we collectively need to put attention and resources
     

First, I am acutely aware of the fact that I need to do my own personal work to bring a stronger racial consciousness to leadership work and understand how my bias, privilege and internalized white supremacy might be getting in the way. My observations over the past several months made me realize I needed to do remedial work. I am not going to Creating Space to be educated by others, though I know there will be plenty who I could learn from. I am taking responsibility for my own learning because educating me is not their job. We encourage everyone to do the work they feel would help them show up with a common frame, ready to engage. We have shared a calendar of excellent anti-racism and foundational structural racism trainings we have found valuable. I attended the Race Forward training in January and found the tools very helpful. I have also been doing my own reading on White Supremacy to understand the importance of language in reckoning with our history and legacy. Here are some articles that I have found helpful (humbly acknowledging that many of you already have this understanding).

 

 

When it comes to leading on Racial Equity, there are people with much depth who can lead in the racial equity leadership space better than me. The best way for me to support this work is to find ways to promote people who can lead us in this critical period. We have partnered with organizations, assembled an amazing design team and tapped staff that have a track record of working at the intersection of leadership and racial equity. We are smarter together, and I believe that under the strong leadership of people of color, who are designing and delivering Creating Space, together we can generate new wisdom, strategy and tools for moving forward.

 

Finally, I look forward to being in a space where we can connect and amplify our efforts. This means working in new ways. I hope together we can identify areas of priority that we can all support. Maybe we need racial impact analysis tools for leadership investments or to figure out how to get resources to movements. I don’t know what could emerge but if we can hold it as the work we all believe needs to happen, I for one am prepared to step outside my organization identity to help raise funds for whoever leads the work, because it doesn’t matter who receives money to do the work as long as the work is getting done. I believe that Creating Space will be a space where these kinds of things can happen. I hope to see you there.

 

___

Image from Berkeleyside