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.