We Do Work Here: Healing Spaces and Our Best Selves

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I have just started work at Sadie Nash for my summer job (also the place that I did my fellowship to create As[I]Am, which you should still check out!), and I have been thinking a lot about space. Not just in that dreamy way that you get when you're apartment hunting and you're thinking of all the amazing ways that you could create a space that feels like 'home' - although I am doing that too - but in the sense of all the intentional work that we have to do to create spaces that feel safe for some really tough conversations to occur.

In case folks don't know, Sadie Nash is a young women's leadership and empowerment organization that really takes to heart the idea that every young person is a leader. Right now. Not when they finish the summer program, not when they are given permission, but in their homes and communities as they are. We just simply give them the tools to enact that if they would like to.

But spaces, unlike the young leaders, are not immediately safe for those tough dialogues.

When I think about the place I work and places that I've worked in the past, it's with this idea in mind: we have to reframe a lot of conversations to make the spaces we're in - whether online or in the actual world - feel ready for people to come and be the best they can be. Through respecting others, through listening to others, we create spaces that can welcome in all that work that we have to do together. Why we don't get that in other parts of our lives?

It seems to me that the primary view of what will motivate people to be their best selves is giving them a task and telling them to shoot for it, whether those are skills or tangible accomplishments (jobs, earnings, education, awards, etc.). The other motivator is power, whether that's over another person or animal or object. Both of these things are necessary in some measure to survive and feel safe. But they can also mess up our treatment of others, create conflict and hierarchies, and just make people feel like they have to hide parts of themselves so they can 'focus on the goal' or gather more power.

Activist spaces can sometimes feel unsafe too, of course. That's where the work piece must be underlined. We do work here. We do the work of healing ourselves so that we can help heal others. A space is the just one of those ways we make this possible. In the next few weeks, I'll be writing more about healing work and how I think it plays a big part of the work I am and want to be doing - stay tuned.