Years ago I heard a motivational speaker urge the audience to, “feel the flinch and do it anyway.” They were speaking to a group of nonprofit professionals who were leery of taking any risks in the post-2008 economic meltdown. They spoke of the fear that crippled individuals and organizations after the catastrophic year of financial chaos. It resonated with me that fear was shaping how I experienced my transition into nonprofit leadership. Having just started at Levine Museum of the New South in 2007, I was quickly promoted as a decision-maker but found that I felt less brave with more responsibility. The speaker urged us all to imagine the worse, go ahead and feel the flinch, and do it anyway. The flinch phrase and the nudge to be brave in the face of perceived danger really stuck with me as a way to approach my work and at times, how to approach life.
Here are 5 Flinches from the year:
- Building Momentum, Changing Beliefs. When we understand what it means to build community leveraging history we understand that we cannot build collective power without unflinchingly facing some historic atrocities. Ranson Middle School launched and sustained #ThisisRISE, self-advocacy in the truest form by facing the reality of resegregation in our schools- even when they did not want to believe it. After taking more than half a year to deeply understand how racist social practices and policies led to the current flaws in our public education system the group led by honoring the voices of children first. As the champion for R.I.S.E (Raiders in Support of Equity) I served as a part of the effort to understand racialized privilege by providing training support and organizing more than fifty people in an effort to gain equity for our district and school.
- Writing/Working in my TRUTH. Ironically, I spend a tremendous amount of time steeped in “controversial” topics: dismantling white supremacy, addressing DEIA strategies as a matter of organizational development, the legacy of segregation and its continued impact in our communities, and understanding Confederate monuments. These truths are self-evident, they fuel my work and drive my passion. There is tremendous resistance in predominantly white spaces to make time for necessary learning in order to truly connect and optimize our work together. I am still in meetings where people are scared to talk about the “worrisome” topic and the initiatives have already successfully happened! Go figure.
- Real Non-profit to Community Connection. Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice- what a joy to organize authentic engagement BEFORE a project is fully formed! Kudos to Barbara Lau and her team for their ongoing think-tank work towards a radically welcoming center dedicated to healing and connection at our intersection, not in spite of our complicated identities. I remain deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve as the lead facilitator and strategic thought partner.
- Building Across Difference. 2018 has been marked by divisive rhetoric, divisive politics, and divisive personalities. Through it all, I was so pleased to partner locally and nationally as a bridge builder, connecting like-minded people in support of justice.
- Root & Raices- small-group learning revolving around race, history, and advocacy across Black and Brown communities. What happens when we build the ship we want to sail? Comunidad Colectiva y yo en 2019! Watch out for the next cohort announcement!
- America to Me- I facilitated one of the national workshops offered in conjunction with the screening of the America to Me series. Parents, teachers, and community members worked hard for more than 2 hours to understand their role in countering inequities in our schools. All my workshops end in ACTION!
- Ignite Talks for TFA Charlotte- Piedmont Triad- as a former teacher, I am always inspired by spaces of real connection across the racialized history of our experiences in Charlotte and beyond. What can we really do to advocate for our beloved children?
- Impact Despite Resistance in Museums
- Museums & Race most highly attended sessions this year were at NYCMER in New York and SEMC in Jackson, Mississippi. We know museum workers have a hunger to create real change in our institutions. More webinars in 2019 as we create working coalitions of anti-racist practice in our institutions.
- Empathetic Museum’s workshops and coaching are available to small and large museums committed to uplifting an institutional posture of empathy. Our work with the Delaware Art Museum offered a glimpse into professional development design that includes staff, docents, and volunteers!
If you are reading this as a nonprofit leader, educator, or museum worker interested in learning more, please let me know. We will offer two opportunities this spring for the Purpose, Power, Pivot series that was launched in 2017.
In reflecting on all my “flinches” this year I recognize that our bravery in times of instability, uncertainty, or even hate is what makes the difference between apology and justice. When we see an obvious educational disparity and shake our heads instead of raising our voices we are choosing to apologize before choosing to act. When we lament our inadequate infrastructure, but make no inroads to creating access; when we simply write diatribes on Facebook, but select that virtual forum rather than attending to real people; when we wring our hands about poor leadership but are too meek to call it out- all examples of when we deliberately opt into apology rather than seeking justice. This year I decided to act in ways that demonstrated my commitment to community power and to collaborate for change whenever possible.
2018 was a fantastic and fun year of hard work and creative connection. There were plenty of flinch moments, but we did it anyway. See you on the other side!