by Nicole Cardoza (she/her)
Each new calendar year, many feel inspired to recommit to solving the causes and challenges we face. And for many, this year is no exception. 2021 may feel like a fresh start after a devastating year, and it’s important to channel those intentions into action. But I propose using the beginning of this year to gain awareness on how your investment can be most sustainable, because New Year resolutions are more likely to be broken than executed. And movement work is no exception. My recommendation is to spend some time this week reflecting on your role in the work ahead.
A role, to me, isn’t a job title. It’s a way of being that you choose to hold yourself accountable to, regardless of the challenges you face. This isn’t always easy, and it may mean facing and addressing discomfort along the way. But necessary work is rarely easeful.
And if we expect accountability from our community, we have to stay accountable to ourself, and the space we take up in the work. If we’re not willing to be in relationship with our role, how can we hold ourselves accountable in our communities? Understanding our individual contributions only strengthens the whole, and resources everyone collectively.
“Each person has a unique role to play to shift any situation –– some might be in a good position to support the person harmed, whereas others might be in a better position to cultivate accountability with the person causing the harm. Some might have material resources to offer, others might organize community support, and still others might offer perspectives on the underlying roots of the violence. With more people, any situation can shift toward healing, accountability, and transformation." Ann Russo in Guest Post: Strategies for Cultivating Community Accountability by Ann Russo via Prison Culture
There are many ways to define your role, and I encourage you to look closely at the language used by local organizers and community leaders to guide you. But I appreciate this framework created by Deepa Iyer from Building Movement Project. Learn more about the map and definitions for each role (both PDFs linked are via the website).
Of course, you don’t have to follow a framework to identify your space. In fact, you may already have a definition, perhaps based on your occupation or volunteer efforts. Or maybe it’s not explicit, but a role you’ve already assumed in how you show up for your community. Either way, start by analyzing what you’re already doing. How have you contributed to this work? Where have you contributed: Politically? Socially? Economically? What has felt most generative to you? What has caused the most burnout?
Also, analyze your privilege. And think beyond racial privilege (although that may offer significant leverage in anti-racism work). Do you have the privilege of having a wide audience on social media? Seniority at your job? Are you the friend and family member people go to when they have questions? How does your social location influence your capacity to make an impact in each of these roles? How may it detract?
In addition to selecting a space to lead from, consider how you can “grow into” some of the other spaces that feel less familiar. The goal isn’t to become an expert in all things; that’s more likely to lead to fatigue and burnout than making an impact. But identifying micro ways to lean into these spaces may help you resource yourself as the work continues. It will also help you connect more deeply with others leading from that space and perhaps even add context when you’re looking to bring more people in with those skills.
For example, you might not be a healer, but you can identify ways to ensure you’re still healing as the work progresses. You might not consider yourself a visionary, but perhaps vision mapping is a powerful way to stay connected to your dreams.
Remember, you may find that your role evolves. You might find yourself with access to new power or privilege, or in a different community that calls for different skills. You might also evolve into another as your journey progresses. Welcome these shifts if they help you stay accountable to the work.
As you define your role, consider who else you can recruit to be a part of your efforts. Who are the storytellers around you, and what resources do they need to advocate for equity and solidarity? What experimenters do you know that apply their skills to the tasks at hand? And how can you lead from your strength to help activate them? If you’re struggling to identify where to start, consult your physical or virtual pod. Don’t have one, or unfamiliar with the term? Here’s a helpful overview – we’ll dive deeper in an article next week. Otherwise, you can start a dialogue with your coworkers, family members, or classmates!
We’ve got a whole new year ahead of us and much to be dismantled and reimagined. Although we can’t possibly prepare for the unexpected, we can certainly start with what we know – and who we know – and strive to make an impact, one day at a time.
- Identifying your role in social justice work is critical to individual and collective accountability
- Your role may already be defined for you, and you should analyze what feels generative and what is available to you based on your privilege and power
- Use this commitment as an opportunity to invite others to join the work with you
This article was originally posted by Nicole Cardoza in the Anti-Racism Daily on 1/5/21.
Yoga Foster, a national nonprofit that empowers educators with yoga and mindfulness resources for the classroom. She’s also the founder of Reclamation Ventures, a venture fund investing in underestimated entrepreneurs making wellness more accessible. Nicole’s work has been featured in Forbes, Yoga Journal, Wanderlust, Family Circle Magazine, SELF Magazine, Paper Magazine, Mind Body Green, and Well + Good. She’s a seasoned speaker, consultant, teacher and coach.
This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.
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