What a difference a year makes…
I was more than a little reluctant for 2017 to end. This past year marked some serious milestones in both personal and professional development and I am supremely grateful. I considered an A to Z review of the year, but instead, I am going to note the “sparks” of this year and what those smouldering embers ignited in me.
January 2017- Collaborative Spark!
Collaborated with the best team one could ask for to establish business #1, The Real 8. Our process and products revolved around the need for transition support when searching for a new job, moving to a new city, or looking for a new purpose. With a 75% client success rate we happily coached, trained, and revised with our clients as they tackled the new year with new processes.
February- March- April- Flexibility Spark!
I was approached by three different North Carolina area nonprofits for project support ranging from a design charrette for a group of twenty to organizing thousands of people for a one-day event. I quickly realized that this was a call requiring my project management skills and experience organizing to action. It was also time to launch Facilitate Movement, a consultancy that had been brewing for years in the guise of small, yet consistent projects/ panels/workshops from New York to California to Peru.
Facilitate Movement, LLC. Founder and Principal Consultant, Janeen Bryant
While I have been consulting for years, it was truly exciting to launch a company dedicated to this work full-time. I quickly gained three wonderful clients and begin to work on the projects that would deliver lasting impact.
Pauli Murray Project or the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice. I crafted a two-day intensive design charette to foster big thinking for the future of the center.
The Center for Reconciliation in Rhode Island was another interesting project. Imagining a space designed for reconciliation in a
time of such socio-political upheaval was challenging to say the least.
Equally, On the Table CLT became my long-term link to the Queen City. As the director of the project, I set the direction of our entire project management process and rekindled partnerships from the years I spent at Levine Museum.
May- June- July- Complexity Spark!
Specifically, the work of Social Media journalist for American Alliance of Museums and the following expectations provided a new layer of complexity to the ongoing work I am involved in with Museums and Race, Empathetic Museum, MASS Action, and my Next Gen collaborations from 2011.
Despite the complexity of wearing so many hats, 2017 is the year that I saw a major difference in museums response to overwhelming demographic change. My hope is that this is deeper than the threats to arts funding and more in line with how to create accountability to the community, including the community of people who staff museums.
Our institutional posture (thank you, Empathetic Museum) towards the work of museums seems to be shifting towards a recognition that community is a fluid proposition and requires more than the occasional funding or one-off program to increase visitorship. I was pleased to see the work of Eastern State Penitentiary as a sign of a significant complex relationship with a community. I was grateful to see the ongoing work of Atlanta History Center to build dialogic processes into their docent practice. I am thrilled to see the hard work of Kate Baillon and Kamille Bostick (both formerly of Levine Museum of the New South) garner recognition and desire for replication of millennial engagement practices. I am always grateful for the part I play in creating informal and formal design strategies that lead to more equitable spaces for staff and visitors, especially when it is complex!
August- September- October- Accountability Spark!
August has always represented a time of heightened expectation for me, usually aligned with the start of a new school year. As a former classroom teacher, August represented the bittersweet last tug of the summer and the wide-open possibilities of the new school year. This year, I was reflective of what it means to be accountable to those around us when they NEED real change. I was prompted to run, yet again, for school board in Charlotte due to my deep need to see transformation rather than simply information from our elected officials. My 11-year-old daughter clearly understood what was on the line when we did not civically engage. When we try to be “neutral” in times of great need, we fail ourselves and our loved ones.
These months were a constant battle of responsibility to self, family, and community- and there was never enough time. Even as I was running a full campaign and preparing for the public launch of On the Table CLT, I was creating dialogic spaces in Atlanta, guiding staff power and purpose in New York, building aggressive empathy in Austin, and designing listening sessions in Raliegh. By October, I was grateful to end my time of urgency (I thought) in the warm embrace of Minnesota Institute of Art as they hosted the second MASS Action gathering. As I was greeted and given my ring-bound tome of strategies and best practices, I felt a resurgence of accountability. Over 50 national practitioners had dedicated time, energy, and talent to create a free resource, available online for anyone who had the time and the printer paper to access it. This was demonstrating dedication to what you started.
November- December- Justice Spark!
If you saw me at the end of the year and I made you cry, or cringe, or crumple, I apologize. I am not sorry for what I said, but I am sorry if you could not hear what I was saying or the vein in which I intended it. This spark is met with the all the exhaustion and exhilaration one can fit into the last of the year. I had not planned as well as I had hoped and ended up in 8 cities in 4 weeks, hot on the heels of the failed bid for school board. I was tired. I was tired of trying to figure out the right way to say the right thing so that people did not run from the room. I was tired of couching every statement with the overburdened demographic/education/housing/ incarceration statistics in the hope that someone would be moved to change their behaviors with the weight of those numbers. I was tired of sacrificing the comfort of my own bed to sit in yet another room in a distant city and “prove” myself. I am not interested in being the sacrificial black sheep on anyone’s social advocacy altar. I have done the “diversity dance” at Davidson and in the 17 years since, when I see it I say something. I am hopeful that anyone who is considering me to act as a fill-in blackface to prove their racial consciousness- don’t.
If you have seen me in the last two months, I want to recognize that you saw me at my most fragile and ferocious. Looking for justice is not a pursuit filled with recognition. Building equitable practice means that you do have to be discerning about your clients and their commitment to change. Dismantling oppressive systems means you feel vulnerable much of the time since you are occupying and unknown and unchartered space. It is not for the timid.
I am moved towards justice. I am moved towards truth. I am moved towards equity. It helps me gather the steam I need each day to create the world I want my daughter to enjoy. 2017 was my most collaborative, adaptive, complex, accountable, and justice filled year yet. I plan to top myself in 2018. If you feel sparked, join me.