Decolonizing Race is an emergent project that began with a small group of five race transformation practitioners dreaming together. We were inspired by a question that brought us together – what if the starting point and endgame of our work was to cultivate wholeness and repair relationships within and between the branches of humanity? Starting from a place of deep love, our goal was to tackle racism by centering healing and transformation at the individual, group and movement levels and to create tools that could be used by movement leaders locally and internationally.
After years of experiencing how our movement struggles, involving issues of race, often led to breakdowns in relationships and an exodus from the movements we love. These struggles were often framed as processes of reckoning, making the invisible visible, and having those with power and privilege take responsibility. This approach was often leading people to re-enact habits of oppression and recycle trauma instead of radically transforming relationships across race. We wanted to find a different way.
This small group has since grown into a community of 17 decolonizing practitioners. Here is the story of our journey thus far.
Our first seed of inquiry…
…led us to begin by literally sitting around kitchen tables, by fires and in gardens together. We shared stories of our experiences, questions and journeys to date and our hopes for our work together. In this process we uncovered a critical insight – our work was ultimately about helping people decolonize and discover their own decolonizing journeys so we can be in right relationship with each other, the land and other beings. We also recognized that these journeys would look different for different peoples, and that we needed to create pathways to reconnect, recover and repair our wholeness. We also explored how decolonization is not a metaphor, but a practical practice of re-matriating land, stewardship, and spiritual recovery.
Our Decolonizing Race Research & Applied Experiments…
…began when we launched Decolonize Race with seven “birth partners” each who represented different “branches of humanity: Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American, Latinx, Asian American & Pacific Islander, SWANA (SouthWest Asian and North African), Mixed Race Peoples, and white/European American. Individual birth partners did personal research and inquiry about the story of their peoples, decolonizing and cultural practices, and innovative work that was being done around decolonizing race in their own communities. We shared reading and reflection. We also took on a handful of “applied experiments” with groups who wanted to apply a transformative and decolonizing approach to addressing race in their organizations and communities.
Our cross-branch decolonizing journey deepened…
…in our second year when we expanded our team; each “birth partner” invited another practitioner to be their partner and hold their branch work with them. We held our first full-team gathering in February of 2020, right as the covid pandemic was emerging. The combination of the pandemic, and the rapid expansion of our community, led us to design a decolonizing journey for the whole team across branches. The purpose was to allow all of our team members to experience and participate in developing a decolonizing journey before we turned outwards to engage others. For the rest of 2020 we held a series of zoom sessions monthly where every branch designed a session for the others to share practices and cross-pollinate ideas. Team members also engaged in reflection around critical questions like who are my people? And what has been the impact of colonization on my people? And what is their medicine? These journeys are represented in the tree on this page.
We pivoted to designing branch-focused decolonizing journeys…
…at the end of 2020. We knew that each branch pair would design a project to engage others in a decolonizing journey. We identified lessons from our year-long cross-branch journeys and reflections, and we thought about our own experiences with being in community with each other, including learning from habits and tensions in our own group. Each pair began to define “their people” – those they wanted to engage in a decolonizing journey – and to design a project which would be branch-specific. We are now in different stages of doing the outreach and development for these projects. Over the rest of 2021 and early 2022 branch pairs will be engaged in implementing these projects and our team as a whole will be involved in cross-learning and sharing insights across branches.
In the future…
…we plan to do writing and reflection to share the fruits of our work with a broader community. Some of the things we have planned:
- A Decolonizing Journey Guidebook
- A creative piece called the Grandmother’s Story about the creation of a new world
- A more formal report about insights and lessons learned from this work.
- Continued application and workshops by our community of practitioners.