For many organizations, this year began with a renewed sense of optimism. In January and February, (time that feels so long ago now), my inbox and meeting calendar began to be filled with kick-off events and strategic plans related to vision and seeing with clear eyes. This theme made complete sense given the calendar had turned to 2020 or 20/20.
And then in late February and March our health, work, education, and social worlds were upended by the burgeoning pandemic that began to move into our communities. Early data of its impact reflected the disparate toll on BIPOC individuals. In the spring and early summer, we witnessed the murder of George Floyd and voiced an emphatic cry for justice and true change. Summer moved to fall, and social and political unrest continue all while the world reckons with the pandemic. Reflecting on these collective experiences, I observe that 2020 delivered on its promise to help us see clearly. Just not what some or even many of us had optimistically and naively hoped we would see.
This afternoon I had the opportunity listen to Brene Brown’s podcast featuring Aiko Bethea. The focus of this episode is on Inclusivity at Work: The Heart of Hard Conversations. The topic germinated from their ongoing work together and an open letter Ms. Bethea had sent to organizations to outline meaningful steps to put real action behind words of diversity, equity and inclusion. By absorbing these both together at a time of year’s close I am reminded of three takeaways that I respectfully offer here for your own reflection, introspection and action.
1. Racial Justice and Trauma-Informed Care are intrinsically tied. One cannot truly exist without the other. To make real and sustainable gains in individual and organizational practice transformation we must invest true intention and attention to bring the best of what we know to recognize, respond, avoid re-traumatization. Dr. Shawn Ginwright’s conception of Healing Centered Engagement offers insight to how this is possible. And why this is essential.
2. All Hands (and Hearts, and Heads) on-deck! This work must be conducted with our whole selves -rushed action that is thoughtless or heartless at best results in nothing. At worst, it harms. Yet bold ideas, critical thinking, compassion or empathy without action perfectly supports a system that operates as designed to continue to perpetuate trauma and disparity. It is also essential that we recognize that this is work that we all must undertake. There is a role for everyone.
3. The stakes are high, but we all can come out winners. The opportunity presented by the clarity of 2020 cannot be denied. There is a palpable sense of a tipping point that is way past due, yet welcome, nonetheless. As trauma-responsive champions if we let this opportunity pass by, we commit to the perpetuation of trauma for millions of New Yorkers. But if we seize the opportunity and progress, we will challenge the lie that tells us that for someone to gain, another has to lose. By doing the work and leveraging our own individual circles of influence to drive change we can contribute to a health New York for all.