After 5 years at LDIR, our program manager Povi Tamu shares their reflections and learnings from doing LDIR work in the community
Identity matters. In over five years of doing work with LDIR, the most consistent lesson is that our identities play a huge role in how we experience the world. No matter the group I’m working with and no matter the issue we’re focusing on, time and time again people’s race, gender, sexual orientation, class or other identities that shape their access to resources are a big factor. Humans need to make assumptions to survive, when that is overlaid with social constructs like race and gender and then informed by stereotypes societies produce via these constructs we end up with a lot of implicit bias that winds up shaping small and large aspects of our lives. Whether we’re working on building a strong team through increasing communication and conflict management skills or figuring out a strategic vision, identity matters.
As more and more leaders come to understand the impact and the need for a wide range of different voices and perspectives, they also must do the work to dissect and understand why those choices were missing in the first place and what role they’ve played in that absence. Our participants are consistently impacted by taking the time to reflect on their own stories and to hear the stories of their colleagues. Sometimes it’s the lack of difference that is most apparent and sometimes it’s extreme difference, in both cases leaders and their organizations are strengthened by their awareness of who is on their team. Rather than becoming “colorblind” or ignoring difference, our clients are most successful when they develop practices and a team culture that embraces difference.
Where does conflict come from? Conflict is neither good nor bad – it just is! However, acknowledging power dynamics, team relations, and communication styles can help us better navigate through conflict. Our conflict management resources help provide effective techniques such as consensus building and problem solving skills – to better encourage collaboration. See some of our resources below.
With our program of the AJ LDIRs officially coming to an end, it means sharing lessons learned from our participants’ experiences. After completing a six month workshop (click here to learn more) on topics of building solidarity, stories of self, assessing community needs, and different approaches of change – our teams broke up into action projects to work on specific community projects. Of course, it didn’t come without their challenges. Here’s what we learned:
1. Sometimes even after deliberate planning, S.W.O.T. analyses, and major discussions over your action project – you will come until unexpected hurdles that you didn’t plan for.
2. In some cases, narrowing down your scope of work and narrowing down who your target population is a long process of planning itself.
3. How local you are in the area of your work can affect your level of impact.
4. Ageism is a real thing. Helping older community members to properly use technology to just be able to organize meetings and schedule conferences is an important skill.
5. Finding holes in your process may put you a step backward but can result in taking you two steps forward. It’s an opportunity to learn.
The nature of community work isn’t easy. However, if it was easy – would we be working so hard to build it and make it better? Thank you to all our wonderful participants this year, it’s been a pleasure to learn, pivot, and collaborate together challenging times.
During our second event in our For the Love of Justice series, we wanted to jump right into our session by asking “What does intersectionality mean to you.” However, we realized that intersectionality is such a loaded question. We didn’t want to the audience to feel disconnected and removed from the notion if they hadn’t already understood the academic, collegiate context of the concept. Yet, we knew that though people might not be familiar with the actual term – we all experience intersectionality and it helps us see the ways we’re empowered and disempowered. However the people that need to understand it the most may not even know what this scholarly term is that activists have come to use in such frequency.
So we realized we had to start smaller to go bigger. To make this concept more accessible to a larger community, we needed to break down intersectionality in more simpler terms. How do we bring people closer to that word, who DO experience it daily, who needs to understand the concept the most, who should be equipped with the language – without sounding so anthropological about it?
We started backwards. We first asked: What do people know about you… and what do they draw from that? How do you see the world and how do you move through the world?
And if we broke it down further… we realized that intersectionality really is:
The understanding of an entire person
Having no hierarchy of your identities. You are all those things at once.
How your race, culture, class, gender affects you and how people interact with you.
How it’s not JUST reduced to culture, race, class, and gender….
How it’s ALL the elements and experiences of the entire person, their actions, their thinking.
And we came to the conclusion that when talking about intersectionality it really is understanding who you are. It is simply your lived experience and it shapes how you intersect, interact, and view the world. It put a focus on the empowerment component of intersectionality and was an opportunity to define intersectionality by however the individual wanted to be defined. So instead of asking “what intersectionality meant to you” at the beginning of our session – we just prompted the question with “I Am…..” allowing themselves to define whatever, however they wanted to be.
We’ve just graduated a new cohort of LDIR Alumni this past summer and it was the first time we’ve implemented a program like this. Over the course of 3 months, Advancing Justice Los Angeles clients and volunteers came together to raise their awareness of the impact of their identities in a US context. 12 participants were accepted across various background – and together we workshopped the skills necessary to be advocates and develop community based solutions to systematic issues. Leaders gained storytelling, communication, conflict management, and team building skills to create action projects that can effect change in their communities.
In those three months and intensive weekends, they touched on various aspects of the LDIR program curriculum such as: building solidarity: stories of self, getting activated through different approaches of social change, community needs assessment, embracing difference, finalizing their action project, and moving it into action.
Here’s what our participants had to say about the program: “I think it’s really important to have the program. Events like this and seminar are so important. I really really feel like a big need because so many people are just in a habit and grind in life, so you don’t have the opportunity to have deep conversations or to get to grow with other people cause different environments and don’t have the space to do it. The seminars are important because you’re learning tools – hard skills. and LDIR did a good job and it did a good job to do so.” – Marissa Nagiri.
“The curriculum was set up in the way that able to express yourself. It was the effect of the curriculum. Everything we learned was really valuable and though we may already know some of it, we always need practice – social issues are always changing and our ideology needs refining.” -Maneesha Horshin.
And now our participants are well on their way of developing their community projects and implementing it into action. The developing of an action project was arguably the most powerful part of the program and a big reason our participants joined this program. Here they had the chance to not just develop their leadership skills but also apply the tools and resources they learned as well, but have the space and resources to guide them. At times like this, when people want to find a way to take meaningful action… the points in which someone new can enter social justice work can be confusing. That’s why we wanted to create this space and opportunity. We now have two groups – one working on increasing caretaker rights and awareness and one conducting surveys on health issues in the undocumented API community. We’ll share more updates on their projects soon!
The LDIR team here at Asian Americans Advancing Justice is seeking a social media intern to join our team! We’re looking for someone with a commitment to social justice and is interested in diversity, inclusion, and solidarity work through community building. Our intern will work closely in assisting in the programming of our new For the Love of Justice events – our art activists engagement convening – developing a social media strategy, and also digitally connecting with our communities to engage them further into our work.
Here are the details below:
The ideal candidate will be an innovative risk-taker with a good sense of humor and not afraid of conflict. The position creates opportunities for creativity and thinking outside the box. In addition, the position offers an incredible opportunity to support a community-based program working to address issues of structural and institutional oppression, equipping new leaders with skills and analysis to create sustainable community projects. It will be part time (16 – 24 hours/ week).
Responsibilities and Duties:
Co-develop a social media strategy that supports the LDIR program;
Regular maintenance of and updates to the LDIR website, email newsletter, and Facebook/Twitter pages;
Provide support to LDIR marketing and alumni engagement efforts;
Provide support in developing and launching email campaigns;
Provide support in the development and coordination of LDIR program events and trainings;
Assist with other programmatic and administrative duties as assigned.
Commitment to social justice;
Ability to handle multiple tasks with support and supervision;
Good oral and written communication skills;
Familiarity with Word Press, Mail Chimp, Salesforce, Wufoo, Facebook, Adobe Design Suite, Microsoft Word, Excel, and the Internet preferred;
Experience with creating and curating social media content related to social justice campaigns preferred;
Ability to initiate and coordinate projects in a timely manner;
Ability to attend some evening and weekend meetings and events
Valid driver’s license and/or access to alternative means of transportation.
Interest in photography
Send any questions you may have to Natalie Bui, LDIR’s program coordinator, at email@example.com
For 25 years, Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations has invested in social change through supporting the development of leaders who embrace difference. In 1992, the city of Los Angeles was embroiled in racial tensions. The brutalization of Rodney King at the hands of LAPD, the murder of LaTasha Harlins alongside shifting demographics in various parts of Los Angeles, signaled a deep need for communities to understand each other both through their similarities and their differences. These realities shaped the initial need for community work that focused on bringing community leaders together from different racial and ethnic groups together to develop skills that would enable them to support their communities to move through challenges, address systemic oppression and struggle together for a more just society. This is the legacy of Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations (LDIR). As we look back over our work, 25 years after graduating our first cohort, it’s clear that a lot has been accomplished but that there remains a lot more to do.
LDIR alumni have gone on to become leaders in the city of Los Angeles and beyond, developing connections and relationships that would serve them well beyond their four to nine months time in our LDIR programs. These relationships and this investment in social change is necessary especially in this precarious time with a federal administration that is working very diligently to remove and disrupt protections that have been hard won and have allowed communities on the margins to have more access to resources and services. LDIRs you have done a wealth of service and work to bridge gaps, heal wounds and shift culture. WE NEED YOU NOW to amplify the reach of that work and to support LDIR in doing the same. As we witness a staggering number of hate crimes across the nation alongside policy changes and instituting decision makers who have troubling track records for supporting marginalized communities, we know that now is a time for action, now is a time for us to come together and strengthen our work to create change, a lasting change that moves us closer and closer to equity and to justice.
We know that our alumni, networks and communities will show up For the Love of Justice because as Janet Mock shares in Redefining Realness, My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, “telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. [It]…helps to empower [us] to step into who [we] are and encourage [us] to share [ourselves] with those around [us].” We look forward to to hearing your story, revitalizing our LDIR story and empowering our communities.
In August, LDIR had the opportunity to work with supervisors at the Children’s Bureau to support them in exploring how diverse identities within an organization influence approaches to difference and the impacts that has on an organization’s culture. We spent the day engaging in challenging but fruitful dialogue. One participant reflected, “It was the moments of discomfort that actually moved me the most.”
Participants were especially impacted by the introduction to cultural humility. The practice of cultural humility encourages people to be aware of and acknowledge their own barriers to understanding another’s culture. It helps to mitigate the distinctions between learning about another culture, relating to that culture or being a part of that culture. As the Children’s Bureau team discovered, this approach to navigating diversity is one that can create a culture of embracing difference.
If Donald Sterling had the opportunity to become a LDIR, what would be different? LDIR participants learn to understand the way their positions in society shape how they interact with others and, in turn, how others interact with them. As a LDIR, Sterling would have had a chance to think about, discuss and understand the way his life was shaped by being able to afford to own a NBA team, being able to walk through the world without being negatively impacted by his race, and being able to benefit from his gender. This type of deeply personal reflection could have opened Sterling up to understanding the ways our different experiences–and intersecting identities–impact us. Sterling could have reflected on and changed his interactions with friends, colleagues, and the Clippers team with a critical awareness of how he has had a different level of access to resources.
Besides growing awareness, LDIR would have helped Sterling to build the skills needed to create equitable professional and social environments for those around him. LDIR would have helped Sterling understand that action is necessary for change. Sterling could have been a powerful ally, advocating for change that was informed by Clippers team members, women colleagues, LGBTQ peers and more. If Sterling were a LDIR, we would have a different NBA.
If every team owner in the NBA were to become a LDIR, the league would be stronger. When you understand that leadership requires self-awareness, you are positioned to create major shifts. Employees, players, and fans could have stronger investments in teams and the league, knowing that the leaders in the NBA understand the impacts of their power and are invested in building strong teams and relationships across difference. There is so much to be gained from having LDIRs at all levels, not the least of which is healthier work places and personal relationships. If all team owners were LDIRs, maybe no team would ever feel compelled to warm up hiding their logo.
After 23 years, the LDIR program is changing its name! Yes, we are. We’re changing our name from Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations to Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations. A subtle change, we know, but intergroup better emphasizes our commitment to working on issues beyond race and ethnicity. We are committed to an approach that values addressing the many ways that people identify as human beings – and have experienced injustice. Addressing intergroup relations also allows us to better express the way that collaboration actually happens in our communities. The “I” in LDIR may have changed, but our mission to equip individuals and organizations with awareness, skills, and the action steps necessary to foster inclusion and equity, remains the same.
In addition to our name change, we have also changed the way we do our work. Many of you know that for over 20 years we have been known for our signature six-month training programs. They were intensive, requiring a commitment of time that was not always feasible for those who wanted the skills and learning experiences that we offer. After much thought and a year of field testing, we are embracing a new training format and taking a new approach. We now have a public calendar, accessible to all on our website, that allows for easy registration for our one-day and half-day sessions. We have taken the themes and issues that have been at the core of our training and have made them more accessible for an expanding audience.
Lastly, if you haven’t noticed, we have refreshed the look and feel of our website. Check us out. So, in 2014 LDIR has a new name, a new approach, but our same commitment and values. Spread the word!