Greetings good people, Geri Peak here. I work to transform ‘selves and systems, countering racism through evaluation, training, facilitation and arts integrated learning with a collaborative of professionals in Baltimore and Beyond.
Mindelyn Andeson and I hosted a thinking and healing space inspired by how white privilege, superiority and fragility infringed upon program activities, quality and outcomes. We hoped to engage evaluators in a collective power building and evaluation quality improvement wisdom mining process at a think tank during AEA’s Speaking Truth to Power-focused 2018 meeting. We make the cut, so we repurposed for CREA 2019 in what spontaneously evolved from sharing innovation/Information into a healing circle, as evaluators released the pain of being undermined, judged, minimized and discounted.
Creating Brave Space
We designed a five-segment space that engaged three of the Five Strategies of the Virtues Project™ starting with breath to “honor the spirit” and “setting clear boundaries.” We acknowledged that reviewing our trauma and that of our clients and the communities served requires courage.
Hot Tip: Invite Brave Space v. Safe Space: don’t try to minimize or sanitize the courage required for this work. Invite participants to lean in despite the risk.
Telling Our Stories; Honoring Our Pain
Using a group “companioning,” we shared experiences, applying collective healing through appreciation, self reflection and caring feedback. We used wisdom mining to envision a dynamic next workshop answering the question? what should a workshop space look like? and ended with a closure exercise.
Hot Tip: Honor individuals by remembering to ask for pronouns.
Hot Tip: Bring. Boxes. Of. Tissues.
Our Bold Idea
Participants agreed creating a separate healing space (that includes counselors on call, embodied practices, quiet space) open throughout meetings would allow recovery from microaggressions and challenges we experience.
Our Signs of Success
- Truth talk — knowing we share experiences helps us organize and respond purposefully.
- Tears — remind us transformation is heart work, not just head work and it impacts our wellbeing. We take back our power when we acknowledge and release our pain.
- Triumph — CREA invited a full pre-conference workshop!
Lessons Learned: Our experience requires acknowledgement in professional spaces. We need to network between workshops and meetings and build community beyond such sessions to strengthen individual and collective healing and action, foster 1-1 connections and share resources and readings to build understanding to guide our healing and inform our practice.
- Invite local healers and artists to guide/support your efforts. In Baltimore, Shawna Murray Browne and crew at Kindred Wellness support activists intentionally Wombwork Productions integrates healing w/social change theater. Listen to their experience with Emotional Emancipation Circles after the Baltimore uprising.
- Get trained up! Seek framing for counter-racist healing and action, e.g. People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Adapt The Virtues Project strategies to augment your work and life with healing language and routines.
- Share transformative readings, such as Joy DeGruy’s Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Multiethnic Issues in Evaluation (MIE) and Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse (La RED) TIGs Week with our colleagues in both the MIE and La RED Topical Interest Groups. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from MIE or La RED TIG members. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.
10 thoughts on “MIE & La RED TIGs Week: No Tricks, Real Talk on Healing Racialized Trauma on the Evaluator’s Path by Geri Peak”
Greetings, Geri Peak. Thank you for sharing your work on healing racialized trauma on the evaluator’s path. I learned a lot from your article, especially as a person who’s skin is white. I try to be informed about racism and how it effects different people of color, but there is no true understanding until one walks in another’s shoes. Every piece of information helps on that path. As an outsider, I see racism very clearly through big events or life threatening. On occasion, I notice the subtle forms of racism that occur on a daily basis. I do not always though. I liked what you said about ‘how white privilege, superiority and fragility infringed upon program activities, quality and outcomes’. This is every day situations through not just the evaluation processes but through daily activities.
I particularly enjoyed your hot tip about inviting a ‘brave space vs a safe space’. In any group, the word ‘safe space’ can automatically turn the person into a victim with victim mentality. It changes the dialogue of what is shared. By having a ‘brave space’, you are empowering the person, changing their dialogue more for the positive.
I watched a short clip on ‘Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome’ by Joy DeGruy and there was so much that I didn’t even think of before. She talked about the adaptive behaviours and gave the example of a white mother showing pride in her son’s actions in school and noticing that the black mother’s son had actually done better in his academics. The black mother did not praise him, she just denigraded him. To her, she is doing what she thinks is best from her ancestral history of when a black woman would be a slave and the ‘owner’ comes up to say that her boy is doing well. She could not show pride in him as, otherwise, what would happen to him? She had to downplay his achievements. It stays in the dna, to which the little current black boy does not understand and wonders why on earth his mom is not proud of him. And so it continues!
Thank you for the awakening into my mind and heart.
DeGruy, Joy. (November 8, 2019). Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. How Is It Different From PTSD? | AJ+ Opinion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rorgjdvphek.
Thank you Natasha,
I really appreciate your heartfelt response. Ironically, Joy is a friend from high school. Her work is stunning. Thank you for your reflections.
Wow. What a small world :). I plan on watching more of her stuff. Unfortunately, my life is very busy and only read through audio and amazon does not have her book on audio.
LOL, she told me about this work in 1994 I think while working on her dissertation. I’m just now getting to read her book. She is featured in (In)Visible Portraits and she said that is the most meaningful thing she has done in her career. you can get the video on Vimeo for a decent price to view or own.
Hi Geri Peak!
Thank you for sharing some of the lessons learned and outcomes yielded from the thinking and healing space hosted by you and Mindelyn Anderson. Your story resonated with me, particularly when you discussed “Brave Spaces” vs. “Safe Spaces”, particularly because these two poles often create tensions that pull hardest on the most vulnerable stakeholders in our work. For instance, when choosing how we present data to clients, particularly data provided by marginalized groups, who gets to choose what gets lifted up and what is left on the cutting room floor is problematic — to say the least. The fact that there is a cutting room floor at all is contentious. Sometimes that brave space looks more like a vacuum.
yes, Kimberly, how are we to illuminate truth when the very mechanisms we are expected to utilize limit what truth, whose truth and how truth is expressed? The cutting room floor is indeed covered with our stories and the truth they tell. we also have to consider to what extent reductive analyses and some of the processes contribute to dropping those gems on the floor and leaving them overlooked, possibly because the truth they tell is a beauty too rough to be accepted and fit into the current social norms and expectations.
Hello Geri Peak,
I appreciate your post on the topic of healing racialized trauma. I valued how you described creating a “brave” space. The acknowledgement that it takes courage to share trauma’s was very valuable to me. In my work as an educator I have created and participated in a variety of ‘healing’ type circles. I often I have not had the courage to share. I think your ‘hot-tip’ to bring tissues is a must. I believe most of us (myself included) do not want to be exposed as vulnerable or fragile in front of others. Sharing takes courage.
I value the signs of success that you included, particularly, “transformation is heart work, not just head work and it impacts our wellbeing. We take back our power when we acknowledge and release our pain.” This statement promotes the release of pain and the freedom to cry as part of the transformation experience. I believe it is valuable to give yourself permission to fully experience this (which would require a brave and safe space).
I am curious if you could elaborate further on the lessons learned? You write that, “Our experience requires acknowledgement in professional spaces.” In my mind this is about increasing awareness and promoting change through acknowledgement of our traumas, but I would be curious to know if further explanation can be provided on how this process can and will work to heal racialized trauma in the profession or in general.
Thank you again for writing about this, it was eye opening,
Greetings Aileen! Thank you for your affirmations. This is groudbreaking work, in that we didn’t even mean for our presentaiton to focus on deep healing, but on illuminating anti-racist evaluation practice!
regarding “Our experience requires acknowledgement in professional spaces:” by having a healing session we noted that there is a need for us to have space within our professional meetings and environments to address the way we are treated and not treated and develop support mechanisms as part of our practice as professionals. To that end, we are working to see whether the upcoming annual meeting will be able to host space for people to take respite from the all-too mainstream eurocentric environment that typifies professional meetings. We’re also open to learn what makes sense to do and expect very diverse approaches are needed. We hope to share our progress through MIE, La RED, IPE and collaborator and ally TIGS.
Hello Geri Peak,
Thank you for writing about something that a lot of people with “White Privilege” (myself being a white male) do not really understand. Sometimes people with privilege do not even understand what that privilege looks like or how it may be involved subconsciously in their thought process. By explaining that biases can appear due to privilege is very interesting and something that should not be overlooked. When evaluating someone or something we need to make sure that biases or privilege’s do not play a factor because if those factors do play a part then the entire process will be flawed, ultimately leading to skewed data results. On another note, I really enjoyed how you included “Hot Tips” in which you explained something that a facilitator can do to make the participants feel at ease.
Thanks for your comments, Will. I appreciate your interest to learn and grow, which is what we all require to do to keep our tools sharp, the mind being he best tool we evaluators have.
The issue of bias is an interesting one. I don’t have room to really address it here, but I am very clear that our teaching in sciences and social sciences seek to eliminate bias and that is to some extent a fallacy. in my practice, I try to make clear my own biases and usually share them with clients when relevant. For example, one of my biases is that collaborative evaluation is most useful for the kinds of programs I support. I find that many white people accept the notion of unbiased as a given, but in fact, we all bring bias to the table. When we presume that tools and methods we use eliminate our bias, we introduce error. Rather, but acknowledging bias, we are able to account for it and allow our tools and methods to support getting a clear vision.
This view has led to the idea that having no knowledge of a program, community or culture allows us to be unbiased, but we have plenty of data at this point to counter this attitude. Of course, bias/unbias is not a strict dichotomy, so there is certainly room for a much more robust and dynamic understanding of what we are trying to avoid introducing and what we are trying to identify as filters that can obstruct or contort our view of programs, their data and their efforts.
There is a lot more thinking that needs to go into this area. I thank you for reminding me I want to give bias my attention in the near future.
Thank you for your comment and for raising this issue.