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July 25, 2011

Beloved Community, Spaciousness, and Movement

For the last 10 years, the team here at Close to Home – local youth, neighbors, organizations leaders, staff and friends – have been working to figure out how to make domestic and sexual violence public, priority, community issues in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Boston.  During this time, we have learned a lot about engaging community members as partners in the process of analyzing the problem and identifying, then developing local solutions to this violence.  It has been an amazing journey and I continue to be inspired by the commitment, energy, and innovation of the Close to Home network and the Fields Corner community.

This experience has only reinforced my belief in the power of local community driven social change work.  I also believe local community driven work is an under-utilized asset in our movement to end violence women and girls here in the US.  I am part of Move to End Violence because I am interested in seeing that work grow.  As a movement, I believe we need to radically expand our definition of leadership and include all community members as key stakeholders in our change efforts.

I am also part of Move to End Violence because I recognize that to bring my fullest and best self to this movement, I have a lot of my own internal change work and growth to do.  I feel honored, humbled, and thrilled to be part of this initiative and the wonderful group of pilot cohort members, faculty and staff.

As you can see here in preceding blog entries, central to the conversations at the first Move to End Violence convening were the concepts of Beloved Community, Spaciousness, and Movement.  In the days and weeks that followed, I have both struggled with and delighted in the continued exploration of these concepts through Grace Lee Boggs and Martin Luther King Jr.’s prose, my own reflections, and conversations with fellow activists.

I have also had the good fortune to collaborate with colleagues to bring conversations about the concepts and frameworks into our movement spaces – conferences, meetings and the like.  In early June, I wove the themes of Beloved Community and Movement into an opening plenary at the Texas Council on Family Violence’s statewide Make it Real prevention conference.  Later in the month, Cristy Chung and I opened the California Department of Public Health’s annual forum on Teen Dating Violence and Violence Against Women with a plenary session where we offered up this core question:  How do Beloved Community, Spaciousness, and Movement help us create self-transforming and community-transforming social change?  Through that plenary and the three days of the forum, participants grappled with the following questions:

  • What is Beloved Community?  How does my thinking about Beloved Community relate to who I am in the world – my stories and intersecting identities?  When have I experienced Beloved Community?  How does my activism foster Beloved Community?  What are our visions for Beloved Community, small and large?
  • What are the elements of Spaciousness?  What are the opportunities Spaciousness can provide us in our work to end violence?  What are the barriers to Spaciousness?  What do we gain when we resist them?
  • Do we feel our work to end violence is part of a Movement?  Which Movement or Movements?  In what ways do we need to find alignment in our work to end violence?  What is the vision that we might align around?

The conversations about these concepts and frameworks at the first convening, here at home in Massachusetts, in Texas, and in California have been rich, energizing, and have momentum.  My sense is that we are hungry to think about social change in new ways.  We have utilized many tools in our history as a movement: shelters, law enforcement, policy change, health care responses, public awareness, the science of logic models and evidence based practices, and more.  However, perhaps it is time for something deeper or more foundational.  Perhaps the place to begin now is in finding the spaciousness to build a community, and network of communities, in which we can find a renewed, intentional alignment around our vision and our values as a movement.

Art by lizar_tistry