2019 Du Bois Legacy Festival Remarks

This weekend we uplift Du Bois and recognize him for his courage and brilliance. I personally want to celebrate his spirit of inquiry. As an activist, this is something Du Bois modeled for future generations to come. Du Bois was a discerning thinker who asked such important questions in his lifetime.

Du Bois is important to me for so many reasons, but I especially love how he was not afraid of complexity, the nuances of identity, or contradictory ideas as the world and his relationship with several nations of the globe evolved. He held many perspectives and truths, and he shared them readily.

Leading Against the Odds: Lessons Learned About Grassroots Nonprofit Leadership

You must know the “why” at the core of your work. Then it’s a matter of nurturing your “flock” of fellow leaders… Surround yourself with folks who are further along in the work, but who share a similar vision. Engage them as mentors. Connect with folks who are different from you in terms of socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial background, skill set, and capacities. This makes you stronger, which makes your organization stronger. Your flock may shift over the years and letting this be ok is part of the process. Shared values and diversity are essential.

Digesting 2018 As You Intentionally Move Into 2019

Here's an exercise best done between the eve of Solstice and New Years Day! To get started, create some personal retreat time, a quiet afternoon or evening in the next couple of weeks. Think of this time and process as a way of gaining creative power in your life. I suggest three total sessions. Allow yourself to embody this personal inventory.

Full Remarks: “Towards a New Reconstruction: Land, Racism, and Economic Emancipation”

Leah and her colleagues are at the lead of a national Black Community Land Trust conversation and a re-emerging movement that is gaining even more traction and momentum in 2018. You can read more about Leah’s incredible accomplishments in the program, and I invite you to follow her work as author and activist when we leave here this evening. At Soul Fire Farm, which she co-founded in 2011, new Black, Latinx, Native American, and Asian growers participate in agricultural training workshops that focus on healing people as well as the land. Soul Fire Farm is also responsible for the Black-Indigenous Farmers Reparations Map, a project to promote “people-to-people” reparations.

Connecting the Dots: Health Equity and Justice in the Berkshires

Our approach to health equity, like anything else, works because we start at home and only then focus on integrating the other. Our highly trained and experienced staff support the development of organizational capacity to respond and be accountable to areas of cultural deficiency in order to address those areas. We are not trying to change political views or simplify human interaction and identity development but rather value each individual on a professional (and oftentimes personal journey) to improve cross-cultural interactions, priorities, and approaches. This is why we have been successful working with medical professionals, law enforcement, public safety, and municipal leaders to provide better individual and/or public health outcomes.

Accountability Within Equity Work: Measuring Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility Goals

An integrationist approach to equity and justice work is ideal, yet almost every organization I encounter starts with an attempt at inclusion and inviting in with insufficient regard to the power differential embedded within that very invitation. With inclusion, teams run the risk of tokenism if they aren’t also doing the intentional work on how to identify, listen to, and integrate differences. In short, an organization that truly aims to better “include” members of marginalized communities within its ranks and leadership, decision-making, and operational processes will develop a culture of authentic, emergent leadership with a commitment to safety.

Western Mass Health Equity Summit Remarks 2018

I was recently invited to speak at the Western Mass Health Equity Summit closing plenary session to share the public health work of Multicultural BRIDGE, its strategies and recent successes. Along with my fellow panelists Danielle Winters of Arise for Social Justice, an organizer for environmental justice, and Pablo Ruiz of Raise Up Massachusetts, an organizer of millions of members of unions to raise our minimum wage, I was asked to speak on new ideas implemented to move health equity forward. Here are my remarks.

Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact Remarks 2018

I was invited to the inaugural cohort of LIPPI in 2011 as a brand new founder who had an idea of how to help community members and organizations move towards integration and mutual respect. Within two years I was tackling systemic barriers of race while working with public safety officials and community leaders. I needed affirmation, information, and support. And WFWM was offering this new leadership program fashioned after the White House Project… LIPPI is needed today more than ever.

Working Alongside Versus Welcoming In: Moving Beyond Inclusion Toward Authentic Integration

The simplest step toward real equity in teams and organizations is the most important one and is often completely missed: establish and frame mutuality. Cultural competence is the framework of mutual respect. I tell leaders, you have to prepare yourself and your team to truly integrate an “other” by embracing the needs, values, and value of the person and their perspectives being invited in. This takes cultural humility.

12 Principles for Organizing in Rural Communities

Some "best practices" for organizing in rural communities work almost everywhere; others appear like they may apply, but actually require specific attention to place and context. This is important because if relational organizing work is done with proper care and resources, policy work often becomes much more facile. Activists and communities are able to draw a much simpler, cleaner straight line to implementing policy changes.

Raising Up a Rural Organizing Agenda for Equity: The Berkshires

The issues that individual rural communities face are unique, but there are also similarities across all communities. After the Equity Summit focused on practice and policy, politics, and power—the ingredients needed for transformative change—I am so clear that we must keep learning from each other, creating unlikely but necessary partnerships and speaking truth to power. It is critical that we continue to build power across our regions and learn from each other and show up for each other. 

Liberation from a Living Systems View: Women, Leadership, & Feminism

For the most part among feminist thinkers, equity and justice resonates. We want systems that uphold these values. To work toward equity and justice, we have to be in relationship with ourselves first (knowing our personal values, goals, and aspirations) and pursue knowledge from those communities we see ourselves advocating for or call ourselves a member. Interpersonally, we have to work first and foremost on relationship: communication, working with, and sharing space of all kinds (labor, emotional, psychological, mental, and vision/aspiration). And at the institutional level, we must find our points of intersection, learn how to be in better relationship at those intersections, and learn to follow when it is time to fall back.

Focusing Language: Inclusion Versus Tolerance

One of my favorite conceptual frameworks of tolerance explains tolerance as a necessary practice of assessing how an individual or an organization demonstrates its valuing of diversity. It’s a measurement practice that can be employed at certification and evaluation times and in assessment processes for individuals, supervisors, departments, and workplaces across all sectors. When a team of people at an organization practice tolerance, this reflects their ability to make space for individuals and communities with their cultural context of attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and practices.

On Translating Talk of Reparations Into Practice

Reparations is not an act of charity, it is a deliberate practice in humanity. We repair our present by being truthful about history through education by expanding access to critical resources and services. We can make reparations every day with simple gestures (i.e. invitations) and grand gestures (i.e. scholarships and policy-making). 

Yoga Dance: An Embodied Practice for Holding On to Justice, Strength, & Fun

Yes, it’s a thing! And I’m almost done crafting my social justice playlist for my yoga dance workshops.

To me, a justice-focused playlist needs to feel energized, determined, and loving. It needs to make way for reflection, charge, and heart. And it needs to help people tap into joy and sometimes, sorrow. The dancing itself needs to be liberating. Otherwise, we can’t move through the barriers that we encounter in this world. We cannot heal...

Gwendolyn VanSant and Tuti Scott on Embodied Leadership

By working intentionally with high impact cohorts of women leaders and through trainings with organizations, I know we can shift the tide. People are ready for systems change. People are owning that our systems don’t work, owning all the “isms”. Now it’s just figuring out how to be brave enough to move through them. This is the time we’re in: people have to act, and there needs to be some guidance. Anybody doing anything positive and well-intentioned is better than nothing. Then we can get organized to do the really powerful work.

Honoring W. E. B. Du Bois, Restoring a Civil Rights Icon’s Legacy

Just earlier this week, as I sat with my colleagues looking at one of our legacy accomplishments —a Du Bois family photo in Great Barrington’s Town Hall—I felt Du Bois smiling upon us. Through his legacy, he continues to change the tide… restoring, repairing, and helping us all forge ahead. After a year like 2017, in which we discussed what statues and figures we need to take down as a nation dedicated to equality and justice, we must also ask ourselves who we choose to lift up.

I am so proud that we have come together to lift up the legacy of one courageous African American man, Dr. W. E . B. Du Bois. May we continue to lift him up, celebrate his life, and make him proud.

Coalition Building Always Starts At Home

True collaboration takes time, attention, and intention. So often we feel the urgency in our racial and social justice organizing and cannot wait. Both are true. We all must work while educating, self-assessing, and building relationship... and there is no time to spare in any relationship: home, work, and government

Lean In: What I’ve Learned Working for Equity & Justice in The Berkshires

Yes, this personal and cultural work around racial and social justice is challenging. We will encounter barriers and fail, sometimes miserably, or see things we don’t want to see. What will we learn? How will we rebuild, work through, repair and restore? How will we do something different next time? As we advocate for and educate others, we must start with our own commitment to ongoing self-education. It takes the practice of an athlete or a pianist to work for justice. Self-care, training, education, and practice in cultural humility.