The Importance of Trauma Responsive DEI, Systems Change & Social Justice Work
Trauma is a chronic disruption of connection -Stephen Porges
Trauma is a blow to the psyche that breaks through one's defenses so suddenly and with such brutal force that no one cannot react to it effectively. -Kai. T. Erikson
I was in a class on trauma healing earlier this week when Kai Cheng Thom shared this statement. “Trauma Healing Work is Social Change Work and Vice Versa.” Those words rang deeply in my heart as a truth I already knew. It was just so refreshing to have it confirmed. It has been so very important to me to provide social justice work that is not only trauma-informed but also responsive. It is this missing piece.
When I wrote Healing our History and Co-Creating a Culture of Oneness, I intuitively had this awareness, but I didn't yet have the science and the language to back it up. I was just a person who was trying to process the trauma I had experienced in the world because of my identity as a displaced descendant of Africa, born and raised in America, and also an advocate for humanity and creating social change. In different capacities, I spent my life advocating, educating, and focusing on human relations by building authentic communities and relationships across differences. Unfortunately, by 2016 the social division was rising, and my work became more frustrating and overwhelming. It was exhausting to justify my feelings and experiences and create change. Finally, I reached a breaking point, and I just needed to heal myself. I remember having a picture in my mind of me standing in an operating room over a body that I was trying to put back together, and then I realized that the mess of organs on the table was also mine. How could I work in this condition? I am bleeding out, and I don't know where my mess ends, and theirs begins. It was at that moment that I knew that my healing was where I needed to place my focus. I was no good to myself or anyone else in my current state.
I gave up the work of fixing the world and entered into my practice of healing myself. I assessed my trauma, my social conditioning, and the lies. I internalized my value and worth and accepted them as truth. I learned how to own and occupy my inherent power and dignity. I applied the reality of my equality and the necessity of my unique expression of being. I reconstructed my inner authority. It transitioned to bolding, reclaiming my unique identity and purpose in this world. I was healing my disconnection from myself and all that is. As I did this, I recognized that we all required this healing.
I decided to publish my intuitive healing process into a memoir/workbook, Healing Our History & Co-Creating a Culture of Oneness, which was supposed to release in early June, for a presentation I was sharing in Milan. However, the pandemic canceled the conference, and I felt strongly to instead release it on 5.5.20. Twenty days later, the world watched the murder of George Floyd, which ignited an uprising and call for reform, truth, justice, and healing. I knew that my work and I had been practicing would be tested now by fire. This practice not only sustained and carried me through, but it allowed me to safely navigate this reckoning with our collective historical trauma in a responsive and healing way. I know that the work and space I took for my healing were divinely timed and provided me with the resilience and resources I needed to sustain my continued recovery and be an instrument of healing in my sphere of influence. It was clear my work was not through. My work was full of renewed purpose and transformation, and I was at a new beginning. I was no longer working from the disempowerment of my trauma. I was now working with the power of my capacity to heal.
We are all experiencing trauma, but our wounds don't all look the same. We are traumatized by our own experiences of not-enoughness that our social systems have perpetuated. We have separated ourselves from ourselves and have been indifferent in how we have wounded others through our lack of care for our shared humanity.
Healing is recognizing and disowning mindsets of fear, scarcity, self-centeredness, apathy, and insecurity that cleverly disguise themselves in supremacy. Recovery is acknowledging our inherent equality and interconnectedness with all that is. We also need a deep healing work that helps those who have been othered to disown disempowerment and reclaim the beauty of our existence, personal authority, and inherent power. It invites us into empathy and humility while lifting us. It centers on justice and equality. It is rooted in integrity in our values. It requires we take responsibility for healing our trauma so that we do not harm others and demands we make amends for how we have harmed, willingly or unwillingly. And this is the work. It is what I practice daily to be and bring about positive, impactful unifying social change, justice, and equality in all the places I exist and have influence.