When I first joined Move to End Violence as a Movement Maker, one of my first blogs was about the power of relationships to build a sustainable movement to end violence against girls and women. After attending the Rockwood Art of Leadership training as part of my participation in Move to End Violence, I developed a deeper understanding of the importance of relationship building from the concept of coniociomento. I immediately applied this practice within my youth work at Peace Over Violence and at the YMCA. I found relationship building through ice breakers, games, play, laughter, art, and fun to be key to youth engagement. As a Movement Maker in the program, I’ve learned it is just as important and vital as it is for young people to connect and relate in order to build trust—that adults, perhaps even more so, need to build a sense of deep relationships in order to really go deep and work together.
As leaders within the violence against women movement, and here within Move to End Violence, we have wrestled with the issues of race, class, power, and privilege in an effort to learn to identify dominant culture habits and shift our ways of being, working to develop our own sense of what cohort 1 called Beloved Community. We have made significant strides in our cohort culture (integrated art response, starting each meeting with circles to connect to our humanity, infusing music breaks, engaging in physical practice, and participating in “organized fun” which includes karaoke, Nintendo Wii Just Dance, and marshmallow-roasting bonfires, during our evenings together). Through these relationship-building practices, we are pivoting towards a new way of being with truth telling at the center, naming habits, calling in with love, and seeking common ground with one another. At the root of getting to this new ground is the foundation of trust which needs to be built before and after issues such as race, class, power and privilege arise. As shared by Pamela Shifman, Executive Director of Novo Foundation, trust is needed for building a movement: “As in most social justice movements, a lack of trust and unacknowledged power dynamics often undermine collaborative work in the movement to end violence against girls and women. To ensure sustainability and impact, it is essential to engage in difficult conversations about gender, race, class, and other social identities.”
Building a true sense of community and grappling with power, privilege, and oppression are inextricable, and they lay the groundwork for collaboration. Time, space, and intentionality are required for these conversations to occur in a transformational way. But strengthening leaders’ ability to apply social identity analyses to their work strengthens the movement; it enables leaders to better collaborate and address deeply intertwined issues such as violence, racism, homophobia, and patriarchy.”
Recently, as I transitioned from organizing youth in violence prevention, and became a team member with Move to End Violence, I’ve experienced the importance of integrating relationship-building into “the work.” During our recent team’s weeklong in-person planning session, we also “walked the talk” of the Move to End Violence program. As a team, we explored our strengths through art response, engaged in rich, tear-shedding conversations about race, class, power, and privilege, spent an evening of “organized fun” painting, and I brought from home, my own Nintendo Wii Just Dance game console for our “physical practice.”
Move to End Violence Staff Taking an Evening Painting Class
These practices of intersecting our own personal humanity within the work, is such a critical piece to really drive transformative change (as we know, the personal is the political in terms of transformation). As Rockwood Art of Leadership Executive Director, Akaya Windwood, encouraged in her blog, “Let’s look for ways to enliven our leadership, and humanize our work by returning to basic human capacities that need no agendas, flip charts or work plans. Let’s grab a partner, a funder, a staff or board member and sing, dance, write or play – it will be good for our souls and even better for the world.”
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