Shared Liberation

May 12, 2009 7 Comments

I’m proud of us, we are just getting started, but I’m still proud of us. The IISC staff just wrapped up four facilitated days (over a number of months) on the question of race and oppression and how these affect our organization and our work. The conversation wasn’t always easy and no one believes the rest of the process will be easy either, and yet we know that we are committed and I think that fact came through. We have so many ways of looking at this thing, so many stories, experiences, wounds, reactions, aspirations, hopes, demands and dreams – but there was one thing that was clear, and that’s that we are ready to shift.

I feel like I’ve had such a long and contentious relationship with this topic, like race consciousness helped me to become more free me but it has also been a lens that held me back. I’m still grappling with it, and I’m evolving as it does, but it feels good to do this work in the context of IISC. I know that here we can make headway and wherever we succeed we will be able to give forward to the people that we serve.

I’m looking forward to making the right structural adjustments, and to helping develop a space where we can all do our own work while also tending to the collective that we are. I’m looking forward to doing those things that we know work as well as to finding new approaches that will allow us to innovate in this field. I am looking forward to an expansion of my own heart in this process, to holding the awareness that we live in a social context where oppression still strives while also reaching forward to the liberation that must also become mine.


  • Linda says:

    Beautiful Gibran. My hope as well – for deep work, great compassion and movement toward liberation. Not views that hold us back, but holding the whole of where we are and working to move through it. Very exciting place to be!

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    Thanks for launching this part of the conversation, Gibran. I am constantly amazed by how challenging this work is, and how at the same time it’s so simple. The fundamentals seem to cut across all of our work: Growing and practicing justice as a values-driven, spiritually grounded, heartful and intellectually rigorous person; stretching oneself to see and engage and honor the humanity of others; building community, with all of the joys, pain and vulnerability implied by that; and being unafraid to confront deep historical and present-day wrongs, while being a willing vessel to hold and channel the outrage so that we can move toward more productive and generative and just spaces in our work and in our world.

    To me, the most simple thing to unlearn, learn, and re-learn is George’s phrase “community building and anti-oppression activism. To be whole, we have to be building community, not just raging against or dismantling some abstraction called “the system.” And, I think that without that wholeness, we cannot be successful anyway!

  • Curtis says:

    Just had an interesting/frustrating conversation today with someone who was talking about the individual “versus” structural approach to fighting oppression. Why does this so often get framed as an either/or, or as a fight between extremes? Why is it so hard to hold on to both?

  • Linda says:

    Curtis, this was where I was trying to go with the post recently about bridging. My sense is that this is a real area for exploration – how to make visible the “bridge” or connections between these two so that we can help people being in both!

  • Andria Winther says:

    I’m curious to hear about responses to your question Curtis….And, thank you Gibran for writing about our aspiration. Our community has come a long way and yet has many, many miles of challenging and rewarding work in front of us. What a gift to ourselves and to others that we have chosen this path, together. Looking forward to experiencing my own growth (which will have steps forward and backward, no doubt) and to witness the growth of others.

  • Melinda says:

    Thank you, Gibran, for such a tender reflection. Its a wonderful memorial to where we’ve already been, and a testimonial to what we might become in the process of our real-time transformation.

    Curtis, I believe that it gets framed as an either/or because those who are doing the framing find themselves socially located in either one space or another, and seldom are those who have facility, experience, skin in the game of (if you will), both social spaces (and/or several of the many spaces in between). Im essentially tracking along with the “bridging” thesis of the unidentified IISC writer above. 😉

    I want to underscore my belief that, in order to be effective in a new-frame, or a frame that at least can hold a both/and approach (if you will) comfortably in tension === the framer must have had some social-cultural experience and genuine location in/along both ends of the trajectory.

    And, I’m sure that to (continue to) think of this dilemma in a linear fashion is probably inaccurate, inadequate and incomplete….but this bi-lateral, bridging approach is a first step away from the limits and frustrations of the either/or on the road to getting to a more wholistic, integrated, transformative, analysis.

  • Curtis says:

    I also wonder how we may be “set up” neurologically to fall victim to either/or thinking. I’ve read research that suggests that operating only out of our analytical (so-called higher) brains yields the unfortunate tendency to divide the world into opposites. The (so-called) lower limbic brain does a better job of reconciliation, of making whole, and is not so coincidentally the seat of emotion and love (of limbic resonance). This would suggest that dropping into a different part of the brain may be a beneficial practice. Hence meditation, hence creative process . . . . I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m feeling the urge to get someone in to talk with us about the new frontiers of brain science.

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