A place for solitude, community, and healing for attendees who identify as Indigenous, Black, and People of Color (IBPOC) at Evaluation 2019! by Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro/Bidabinikwe, Leah Peoples, Geri Lynn Peak, Ivan Lopez, Vidhya Shanker, and Dane Verret

Happy Evaluation 2019! This post, and the space that it discusses, were created collaboratively by and on behalf of members of the evaluation community who have experienced exclusion and harm in professional spaces and in cooperation with AEA: Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro/Bidabinikwe of AEA’s IPE TIG and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center; Leah Peoples of the MIE TIG and NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools; Geri Lynn Peak of Two Gems Consulting; and Ivan Lopez, Vidhya Shanker, and Dane Verret of Rainbow Research.

A Respite & Healing Space will be available for Evaluation 2019 attendees who identify as Indigenous, Black, Peoples of Color (IBPOC) in Director’s Row 2 of the Hilton from Thursday through Saturday from 8:00AM to 5:00PM.

The Respite & Healing Space will be a separate room where conference attendees who identify as IBPOC can find space and time conducive to rest, healing, and community. It is intended to provide affirming opportunities for IBPOC evaluators to cultivate peace, as well as to individually and collectively process the stress and traumas that we experience. IBPOC conference attendees and local community members will offer rejuvenating activities such as zine-making, quilting, and yoga. The space will also offer refreshments and other soothing items.

Participants in the space must agree to:

  • State clearly the priorities and purpose for the space and help allies support it with accountability.
  • Respect that the space is created very intentionally for those healing from racialized settler colonialism, imperial war, and exploited and enslaved labor.
  • Center people healing from racialized trauma intersectionally, across multiple dimensions of identity and oppression.
  • Honor people by clarifying how they identify and would like to be referred to in terms of gender, heritage, and other dimensions.
  • Respectfully accept people’s self-definition and trust people’s self-designation to participate in the space—because the lies of race and gender manifest in the diversity of physical attributes of otherized peoples.

As IBPOC evaluators, we experience the stress of navigating and working in white-dominated spaces such as AEA’s annual conference. We also experience direct and vicarious trauma when we present on or hear about evaluations of programs that disproportionately involve our communities. The conference can be overwhelming if not painful for many of us—for example, when white presenters’ evocation of Black-face and minstrel shows is rationalized as “research-based.” Without opportunities for respite and healing, it can be difficult for us to be fully present at the conference. We take our full presence within AEA seriously; in the spirit of self determination and self-care, we see this space as part of an ongoing effort to sustain it.

In the spirit of solidarity, allies and accomplices who share that interest can contribute financially and otherwise to ensure that similar spaces exist at future conferences.

Rad Resources:

Creating Healing Spaces: A brief post describing the work of Esther Sternberg, MD, whose research has illuminated the “science” behind the mind-body connection and the importance of healing spaces for those affected by their physical environments.

Why People of Color Need Spaces without White People: A deeply poignant and unfiltered essay about the need for separate spaces as a response to the emotional, mental, and physical effects of oppression that occurs in predominantly white spaces.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

5 thoughts on “A place for solitude, community, and healing for attendees who identify as Indigenous, Black, and People of Color (IBPOC) at Evaluation 2019! by Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro/Bidabinikwe, Leah Peoples, Geri Lynn Peak, Ivan Lopez, Vidhya Shanker, and Dane Verret”

  1. Pingback: White Evaluators: Step Up

  2. Thanks for the affirmation. The intention is that this will be ongoing–as long as IBPOC need a separate space, which is as long as we are excluded and harmed by spaces that are not created for us and by us.

    Hopefully, we will have a chance to meet!


  3. Hello Sheila,
    My name is Catrina and I am a recent graduate from the Bachelor of Education program at Queen’s University. I am currently enrolled in a Masters program at Queens and for my Program and Evaluation course, I was asked to comment on an author whose work stood out to me. I am an Indigenous studies major and for the purpose of this course I am interested in looking at the Ontario Native Women’s Association and their goals for helping empower Indigenous girls and women. I was really interested in your article as it speaks to providing Indigenous people with a place for solitude, community and healing. Like you mentioned, there is actual science behind mind-body connections and the importance of healing spaces for those affected by different issues, usually surrounding their race. Since evaluations can be really taxing on people, especially depending on the evaluation I think it is essential that the team works together to create a healing space for the participants. For example, an evaluation for Residential School Survivors can be a very intense and difficult time for participants. By providing them with a space for socializing, quilting, singing, drumming and even yoga like your mentioned can help to make participants feel at ease and more comfortable throughout the process. I would even suggest having a healing fire where participants could offer tobacco. This would be another excellent way to offer a healing space for participants. Overall, it is important to look after our participants since they are helping us with our research. Appreciating their efforts to help in any study should never go unappreciated. It is essential that we continue to provide not only Indigenous people but all people with healing spaces depending on the subject matter. Thanks again, I really enjoyed reading your post.

    1. Dear Catrina–

      Thanks for writing. Just for clarity’s sake, while posted by Sheila, this blog entry was actually written by Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro/Bidabinikwe, Leah Peoples, Geri Lynn Peak, Ivan Lopez, myself, and Dane Verret. I say this only so that you feel free to contact any of us along your evaluation journey.

      I love that you’ve connected the need for such spaces at the conference for a comparable need for such spaces in the context of evaluation practice, wherein knowledge generation involves the expenditure of emotional and spiritual labor by those who have already experienced harm. I agree that it is necessary in the spirit of reciprocity and interdependence.

      For what it’s worth, within the confines of the conference hotel, we considered incorporating more ritual/ ceremony, which we had to weigh against practical concerns about fire safety. It would be great to be working in the type of space that could balance concerns for physical, emotional, and spiritual safety in a different way. If you try some ideas out or know of others who are already doing so, please post whatever is shareable outside the specific community in AEA 365, so that other communities of color and indigenous communities can learn.


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