Tag Archives: social justice

Breaking Down Intersectionality

Because it always takes some practice.

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.

Advancing Justice LA’s LDIR Program 2017

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!

Restorative justice at the CAHRO Conference

By Karen Driscoll, LDIR intern

On April 2, 2013, the California Association of Human Relations Organizations (CAHRO) held a daylong conference, “Overcoming Violence & Injustice: The Humans Relations Approach.” The conference featured a panel discussion on how Restorative Justice is helping to transform and heal communities. Rooted in an indigenous practice, Restorative Justice (RJ) aims to proactively address conflict and build community simultaneously. Through the use of “in-circle”, participants (made up of community members, the perpetrator, and victim) are able to discuss the harm that has taken place and decide how to best resolve this harm. As panelists discussed, this practice is successfully being used in schools and juvenile justices systems as an alternative to suspensions and incarceration.

What struck me as most profound about Restorative Justice is that first, perpetrators must be willing to accept responsibility for the harm committed and second, victims get the opportunity to resolve unanswered questions. By allowing both parties to lend their voices and perspectives, a deeper human bond is formed and relationships are transformed. And as this takes place, other members of the community are helping to support the process by providing insights that the victim and perpetrators might not otherwise be able to hear and receive. Here’s an example: Two students are in a conflict with each other, their peers note it and call for a circle. The circle could include the students in conflict, the parents of the students in conflict, peer support for each of the students in conflict. As the harms are being named and discussed, parents can offer support to each other and problem solve together, while the students are given space to be heard and recognize the fuller ramifications of their actions on the community as a whole. The students are provided an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions in a way that does not create further harm, i.e. suspension, missed education, etc.

With such meaningful outcomes, Restorative Justice is a dynamic practice to bring into community work and allows communities to not only address but heal from the trauma associated with issues of race, justice, and equality.

Here’s the panel description, including a list of speakers:

“Restorative Justice: A healing alternative for systems, schools and communities.” Panelists Alicia Virani, equal justice fellow and restorative justice specialist with The California Conference for Equality and Justice; Denise Curtis, program manager for restorative community conferencing for Community Works West; and Edgar Dormitorio, assistant dean of students at UC Irvine will discuss the implementation of restorative justice practices and principles in secondary schools, the community and as an alternative to the juvenile justice system

Facilitating Someone Else’s Process: Helpful Guideposts

By Carmen Morgan, LDIR Program Director

Setting the Tone
We cannot force someone to become enlightened, transformed, or aware. Our only role is to create the path by which someone can walk towards their own self- awareness. As we create that path, we should acknowledge and be aware that we are also walking that path ourselves. Our own journey continues. Our own awareness process is not over.

If we come to this work with an attitude of one-ups-manship, or as the “enlightened teacher” we will not be truly effective. If we come to this work with the humility and grace that was afforded to us as we learned about ourselves, as it is afforded to us even now as we continue to learn about ourselves, then we can do some good.

Having an Open Heart
Many of us believe strongly that the nature of our work is on the side of justice. Because we are committed to values of truth, equity, and fairness, it is easy for us as activists to become headstrong and self-righteous. It is no wonder we often do not model the values that we profess. We are angry, justified, indignant, and often burned out. And this cycle continues. The truth is that a self-righteous activist is not helpful. A self-righteous community worker is not helpful. A self-righteous, angry facilitator is not helpful.

Nor is it helpful that we position ourselves as martyrs who will burn out without self-care. And while our anger towards injustice is justified, it can often get in the way of building relationships with people. When did the issue become the person? How can we work against injustice without working against each other and ourselves? This is our greatest task.

Showing up with Grace
So then, how do we show up? We show up as a part of the process we are guiding. We are not separate from or above, merely guides. We show up with compassion and with a commitment to honor the individual, the process, and the group. All three are intertwined and invaluable. What is not valuable is our own ego or desire to control the process or an individual’s journey. “Why don’t they get it?” we might inquire. Well, why don’t we get it?

We show up with a listening ear. It’s really not our airtime or grand opportunity to expound on our wisdom. Let your wisdom shine quietly. As facilitators we can create dynamic processes and hold up powerful questions for reflection, and then step back. It’s helpful for us to keep asking ourselves, Why am I still speaking? Did I really hear what was shared? Active listening takes a tremendous amount of energy – more energy than it takes to speak. When in doubt, err on the side of listening.

Lastly, and most importantly, show up with a commitment for self-care. We must commit to continuing our own learning and healing. We need to be clear about our own limitations and when we need support. It does not mean that we become selfish, but that we remain self-aware and remember that our own journey is unfolding. We are not martyrs.

1/26/13 Come to a LDIR workshop at UC Irvine!

Asian Pacific American Awareness Conference

On Saturday, January 26, LDIR will be presenting an interactive workshop, “Activist Essentials: Becoming a Proactive Ally” at 11am and 2pm as part of the annual Asian Pacific Awareness Conference at UC Irvine.

It costs only $5 to register for the conference, so sign up and join us for some short, but sweet awareness and skills building.

Here’s the full workshop description:

Activist Essentials: Becoming a Proactive Ally

What does it take to be a truly collaborative leader? Whether or not we’re aware of it, we often come to collaboration and movement building with our own biases, stereotypes, and oppressive ways of thinking. This interactive workshop challenges participants to locate themselves and interrupt the urge to be passive about privilege and oppression, so that we can begin to figure out how to actively and meaningfully organize in solidarity with one another.