white antiracism & racial healing: racial healing in community by Lenka Berkowitz & Libby Smith

Lenka Berkowitz
Lenka Berkowitz

Hello, my name is Lenka Berkowitz (she/her) and I’m an internal evaluator for Episcopal Community Services, a nonprofit organization that aims at challenging and reducing intergenerational poverty in the Philadelphia area. I met Libby Smith (she/they) through a book club exploring anti-racist works and her breathwork practice. 

Libby Smith
Libby Smith

Libby created a community called Being Human At Work – a space for fellow evaluators and others to engage in the breathwork practice, share and reflect together.  We’ve been coming together weekly since spring of 2020. 

How does breathwork and anti-racism connect for me?

Lenka: The breathwork practice is not an anti-racst practice per se, yet it has become an important tool for racial healing for me. I’ve become more aware of what happens in my body when I’m discussing race – for instance, I recognize how white fragility and white shame feel in my body. By being more intentional about my breathing, I’m more present to issues of race and racism in my daily life and work.

I’ve read books on racial trauma and anti-racism, but I wasn’t embodying what I learned until I embarked on the journey of intentional breathing. Breathwork helps me to break cognitive patterns by bringing my attention to my body. It helps me access my inner wisdom and reveals what is out of alignment. I’ve slowly started to heal the trauma of white supremacy in my body with each intentional breath I take. I am also co-creating a space with others so they can do the same. 

Community as an antidote to white supremacy

Libby: We can’t dismantle oppressive systems alone – creating intentional community around embodiment and healing is one antidote to white supremacy culture. The disconnection from our bodies that many of us experience is rooted in oppression. While I didn’t set out to create a space for racial healing, I’ve realized that anti-racism must be a part of everything I do. I was recently reminded of this quote from the Combahee River Collective Statement, “Eliminating racism among white women is by definition work for white women to do”.  This community heals me as much as it provides healing for others.  

Lessons Learned:

  • Anti-racist work starts from within. Resmaa Menakem introduces us to Somatic Abolition.  
  • Allow time to reflect and integrate your learning. Breathwork and other embodiment approaches are a crucial piece of reflective practice. In the past, I was absorbing a lot of information about racism and white supremacy without properly processing it. Breathwork became an intentional space for this integration. 
  • It’s a collective effort. Find a community of people to be with in this work. Minnesota Evaluation Association recently launched a book club to explore social justice issues. Radical (re)Imagining is inviting people into conversations about embodied healing. Start something of your own!
  • It’s a process that takes time. The racial healing journey will be life long, it’s a commitment to a different way of being. Living a life of intention and humility will continue to reveal layers to heal. Embrace the concept of spiral time.

This week, AEA365 is hosting white antiracism & racial healing week where contributing authors explore the theme: What does it look like to be a white person committed to antiracism and racial healing? 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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