Two years ago, we began to prioritize healing justice in our racial equity journey. The desire for this work came from many things. Racism, specifically anti-Black racism, has created real, deep-seated structural harms that are manifested in our institutions, in our interpersonal relationships, and in our bodies.
This includes our need to grapple with our organization’s history of practices and policies that have harmed Black and brown staff as well as our partners and communities. We believe that healing and accountability are inextricably connected – that we cannot do the work of healing and moving through harm if we don’t work to be accountable in acknowledging the harm.
Last March, a global pandemic brought our organization, like many others, to a halt as colleagues of color grappled with immeasurable losses, uncertainties and the realities of a system that neither loved nor cared for them. Then summer came, with another stark reminder of the violence that Black people in this country face every day. Now in September, we are still in a pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black and brown people, and across the country the uprisings have continued. These two national epidemics—the conditions leading to higher mortality rates for Black and brown people from Covid-19 and the conditions that allow police to kill Black people with impunity—are interconnected. Racialized trauma is ever present in our bodies. And in so many institutions, the expectation to show up and be productive amid all this is compounding that trauma. Our healing justice practice uplifts the toll of systemic oppression on our bodies and spirit, and works to address it, with the understanding that the foundational work is to dismantle white supremacy and work towards an organization and world that is pro-Black.
Our healing justice practice uplifts the toll of systemic oppression on our bodies and spirit…
Our practice is guided by the work of Black, Indigenous, People of Color organizers who have refused to operate under white supremacist culture and who are actively building towards healing and resilience. The healing justice framework was developed by Cara Page & Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective. Kindred was organized shortly after Hurricane Katrina in the South as a “response to the crisis of trauma, violence and social conditions” in that region.
According to Page,
- Healing Justice is a framework that identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds. Through this framework we continue to build political and philosophical convergences of healing inside of liberation movements and organizations.
- Healing Justice means we all deserve to heal on our terms, and we confront oppressive systems that get in our way. We honor the trauma and resilience of generations that came before us and use interactive, daily practices that anyone can do. Healing Justice is a reminder to social movements that the concept of action should be expanded to support the self-determination, interdependence, resilience & resistance of those most impacted by oppression. Healing Justice is revolutionary in confronting the capitalist, colonial, individualistic paradigms that tell us we are alone when we seek out healing.
Our healing justice practice must aspire to a real shifting of power to the communities to whom we claim to be accountable.
As an institution, we know that a healing justice framework requires a transformation that continues to be aspirational to us. In working towards that aspiration, there will be many dissonances that we have to hold. As such, we look at our healing justice practice as a way to hold those dissonances, acknowledge and repair harm, and to name the ways that we are complicit in the systems we are trying to change. We will not be able to fully live healing justice principles because of the interconnectedness to structures of oppression and harm that our institution is built upon, but in practicing healing justice we can interrogate those interconnections, and shift our practices, decisions and behaviors. Our healing justice practice must be in service of transforming and responding to current and generational violence and trauma. Our healing justice practice must aspire to a real shifting of power to the communities to whom we claim to be accountable.
We are sharing this report on healing justice and centering humanity to give our network a window into what we feel is fundamental in our racial equity work and our work to close racial income and wealth gaps. Some of the practices we will share in this report might feel small in light of systemic and structural oppression, but we believe in small shifts that can ripple into larger cultural shifts. Healing justice is not just about healing spaces, or weaving in art and poetry. Rather, it is creating a culture of care and accountability to each other. We again must caution that we cannot practice healing justice without practicing accountability to each other, to our grantees, to our partners and to our communities.
In this moment, we ask of ourselves and of you: What might our healing justice practice look like in solidarity and in rage with Black people all over the country who are demanding justice and freedom?