Tag Archive: freedom

September 28, 2018

A Meditation: Re-Imagining Mental Health Care for Black Communities

Image by Osajus, shared under provisions of Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

 

At IISC, we are using guided meditations to spark transformation in the hearts and minds of participants in our facilitation and training rooms.

This is one I offered to thirty Black leaders brought together by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City this summer. They were asked by First Lady Chirlane McCray, wife of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, to develop recommendations to increase the numbers of Black mental health providers. But our job in the end was so much more. It was helping them to discover ways to re-imagine mental health care for Black communities, and to encourage Black people to go into mental health fields to free Black people from the emotional and spiritual binds of pain rooted in systemic and historical injustice.

It was the deepest honor to create and share this meditation with the group as I lost my mother in 2002 to mental illness and the health care system that “treated her”.

Get comfortable
Anchor your feet and back
Breathe natural breaths at your own pace

See what’s on your mind about today
See your obligations outside of this room and let them float past you and away

Call on your images of your ancestors
See the faces of your family
Present
And Past

Think about the history of Black people
What images do you see of pain?
Of pain as they face hardship? As their mental health deteriorates?

Of triumph?
As they triumph over, and their mental health improves and sets them free?

What supports did they have to help them heal and achieve wholeness?
Who helped them?
How?

Who helped you in times of need? In times of mental burden and stress?
How?

Thank your ancestors
Thank yourself
Breathe once again those breaths of life
And come back when you are ready

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April 4, 2018

Equity and Power in Network Structures

The following is an excerpt from the third in a series of posts on networks, education and learning. The full post and series are published on the Education Week website. This post builds on two previous ones –  Connection is Fundamental and Why Linking Matters – and looks at the importance of structure in supporting network effects while considering equity and power dynamics. 

Networks are not necessarily easy to control in terms of their overall structure, especially when they are large and complex (diverse and widely distributed). And it is important to note that there are network phenomena that may tend to pull a networked endeavor in a certain structural direction.

For example, homophily is a phenomenon where social networks tend to form clusters of nodes with similar properties or attributes. This is captured by the adages, “Birds of a feather flock together,” and “Those close by form tight ties.” The result can be self-segregation along various lines of difference, for example racial, cultural, or class divisions in schools. Or consider the current pronounced political polarization in our country. The key to confronting homophily is to be both aware of the tendency and diligent about creating structures and incentives for bridging across boundaries.

“Opportunity … depends, at least in part, on our inherited networks.” 

-Julia Freeland Fisher, from “Disrupting Opportunity Gaps Will Hinge on Networks”

One of the great hopes and marvels of networks is that they can be liberating, especially in the face of bureaucracy and various barriers (see more about “network effects” in the previous post in this series). While this is worthy of celebration, another important phenomenon to be aware of is that networks can be deeply inequitable.

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July 21, 2016

#FreedomNow

The tagline of the Black Lives Matter movement is “Free from violence. Free from oppression. Free to be our full selves. Free to love. Freedom Now.” Their rallying cry is a powerful quote from Assata Shakur. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

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The past few weeks have reminded me that loving and supporting each other requires us not only to fight but also to mourn together. There are opportunities around us every single day. The recent shootings of police, alongside the seemingly endless list of black and brown civilians shot by police, seem to have awakened the nation in a new way. That is good, as long as we can “stay woke” long enough to do something meaningful. Still, I can’t help but wonder what hushed and gentle conversations we’d be having on television and in communities, workplaces, and houses of worship without the deaths of the police officers. Isn’t the almost daily murder of black and brown people enough to cause somber reflection? Aren’t the calls for action coming from grieving families, activists, celebrities, athletes, and everyday folks enough to make and sustain meaningful change?

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December 8, 2015

Deepening Network Practice for Social Change

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Last week, we held an internal learning session for staff and affiliates entitled “Advancing Equitable Networks.” IISC Affiliate Kiara Nagel and I presented some thoughts about our ever evolving practice of supporting network development for social change, including situating our current approach in IISC’s mission and vision, and our collaborative change lens (see above), which lifts up the importance of understanding and shifting power dynamics for equitable outcomes, embracing love as a force for social transformation and seeing networks as the underlying infrastructure of change.

We then elicited and shared some questions that are at the growing edge of our network consulting practice, including these three: Read More

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May 21, 2014

We’ve Lost an Unsung Hero—Remembering Vincent Harding

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Vincent Harding died on Monday and our world is emptier for it. Vincent is an unsung hero of the Civil Rights era, whose work as a speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was essential if not widely known. His best-known speech was Dr. King’s speech Beyond Vietnam, where Dr. King boldly extended his critique to U.S. foreign policy, connecting the struggle for civil rights in the U.S. with struggles for justice in other parts of the world. You can hear Vincent explain the significance of the speech in an interview with Democracy Now! You can hear or read some of his thoughts on spirituality and justice in an On Being podcast called Dangerous Spirituality. Read More

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May 2, 2012

Why Not Exhilaration?

fireworks

|Photo by Amani Hasan|http://www.flickr.com/photos/amani1306/2357549928|

A blog post on the Management Innovation Exchange site has got me thinking.  In a post entitled, “Forget Empowerment – Aim for Exhilaration,” Polly LaBarre profiles Ricardo Semler of Brazil’s Semco Group.  Semco is noted for its dramatic turnaround as a business, and for its unusual way of managing itself under Semler’s leadership, as noted by LaBarre -“no organizational chart, no fixed offices or working hours, no fixed CEO, no HR department, no five-year plan (or two- or one-year-plan), no job descriptions or permanent positions, no approvals necessary.”  All of this is geared towards increasing individual autonomy and agency, participation at every level, and trust.  The results are reported to be quite astounding with respect to business outcomes as well as employee fulfillment, with a long line of interested prospects at the door.  Semler himself has even freed himself up to pursue interests in the realm of helping to reform primary education and the legal system!  So how can I not help but be curious about some of what I/we might bring into our organizational life and work at IISC? Read More

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September 29, 2011

The Evolution of Revolution

The whole globe is shook up, so what are you going to do

when things are falling apart? You’re either going to become

more fundamentalist and try to hold things together or you’re

going to forsake the old ambitions and goals and live life as an

experiment, making it up as you go along.

-Pema Chödrön

I’m blown away by #occupywallstreet.  And I am thrilled by the conversation it has unleashed – sometimes amused, sometimes frustrated and often moved.  I’ll be at Liberty Plaza this Friday.

I’m appreciating the political discussion, the strategic questions, the desire for racial inclusion in this emergent process.  However this turns out, it is way bigger than a protest.  Something is changing, Kevin Kelly points to it: Read More

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September 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Photo By: Procrastinations

I spend a lot of my time plotting the next revolution.  Considering what it will take to usher forth the next movement.  Preparing myself to participate.  Sifting through the preconceptions of what movement has to look like.  Calling forth the evolution of revolution itself.  Instigating, prodding, inviting, conspiring, hoping.

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August 29, 2011

What do we want badly enough: Invest and Pursue

Photo by: Beorange

What do I want badly enough to invest in pursuing it—in spite of the obstacles and competing claims on my time and attention, in spite of the risks and the guarantees of uncertainty, in spite of the risk of rejection and the possibility of failure?

I have asked this question for a couple of weeks running. I offered a few thoughts from a Barbara Kingsolver quote to get the conversation started: “elementary kindness…enough to eat, enough to go around… the possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed.

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August 9, 2011

Which Way to Zion?


I am honored to be part of a listserv called “The Gamechangers Salon,” there is brilliance and passion in it.  There is also a lot of anger these days, particularly given recent events in Washington.  Following is my recent contribution to the conversation, coincidentally, my colleague Cynthia Silva Parker, just wrapped up her blog series on Power & Privilege with a post on Pursuing – something in the air at IISC!  Here is my post:

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