Saturday, February 4, 2012

Conscious Accountability: Moving from Theory to Action Part 1

Conscious Accountability: Moving from Theory to Action Part 1
 Published by Dayanara Marte  1/31/2012

The sustainability of social justice movements lead by people of color  will depend on how committed we will be in having self awareness, creating self care action plans, hold personal and collective accountability for how we are showing up and have integrity with our word.  A good way to measure where you are in this process is looking at your personal relationships. Being in relationship to another human being is collaboration in of itself. The challenges start to present themselves when our individual trauma starts showing up and we are not aware of it but our partner feels it, sees it and experiences it. With no tools to go through the journey we create co-dependent and un-healthy relationships and play out negative beliefs and attitudes. Ultimately recreating violence and dismantling what we are trying to build. Often times we meet people that mirror to us the things about ourselves that we need to work within ourselves. This holds true when we are creating coalitions, collectives, networks, organizations, campaigns, teams and movements.

 When I think of creating another world free from violence, I think about myself, my sisters and the community that I collaborate with in social justice every day. I think about us, women on the frontlines, grass root workers and change makers. I call us warrior women because we often, are too from the very community that we are fighting for and with. We experience first hand the injustice, the poverty, the abuse and the neglect that our communities face every day. I think about us because even when we attempt to create them, we still feel like there are no systems in place, nowhere to go to talk about the trauma that we have witnessed or experienced in our personal lives and the ones we face every day while on the frontlines, leaving us with a few trusted friends. If we the warriors don’t take a good look at ourselves and see how we have internalized the very oppression that we are fighting against,  if we don’t create systems of personal accountability for how we show up in the movement and in our lives, then we will surely replicate the same world.

We are dying!  Our movements are dying, our coalitions or collective efforts don’t last, our organizations are not sustainable and our collective health is deteriorating. The political times are getting worse and we are getting confronted with police brutality and death of our community at an increasing rate. We are workers on the front lines transforming the world with a bag pack full of fear, guilt, shame, loneliness, resentment and anger that is killing us. In our life time many of us  have experienced sexual assault, child abuse, rape, immigration, homelessness, and addiction. While there is a resiliency we bring to this work , we often feel powerless in the mist of the many wars we hear, see and experience in our own lives and we have mastered so many ways of dealing and surviving that we go home to do the very things that we are supporting our communities’ not to do. How many of us drink, self mutilate, eat, sleep , don’t eat, don’t sleep, have unsafe sex, are in abusive relationships, are the abusers, violent, or getting violated. We are dying from the various dis-eases that we are being  diagnosed with, depression, chronic stress, anxiety disorders, drug use, mental  illness, abusive relationships, self mutilation, disordered eating, smoking, STD’s/ HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, cancer, that  render us powerless to create another world, to advocate, to organize and effectively lead.

I am writing this as blunt as possible because we no longer have the luxury to hide behind institutional rules that say that our personal story should be kept out of the office or that we can’t mix business with “pleasure”, what’s happening in our personal lives. The reality is that, that has never been and will never be possible. There is no way that a women, a person who is being abused at home can show up at work and be productive without someone noticing a change in her behavior or without an internal change happening that impacts their self esteem, their self worth, their dignity, their humanity and as a result the way the show up in the world. There is no way that our past doesn’t creep into the way we lead, the way we dream, the way we love, the way we create communities, families and  the way we work with each other.

Have you ever wondered who is really sitting next to you at work, in your organization? Who are you really collaborating with, what is their story? Why is that they show up with great ideas to a meeting but never follow through, or why is it that they follow through on other people’s dreams but never have a dream of their own?  Not too long ago we called that people with different strengths. You know the list we make to see if we have found people with all the skills we need to create a great team.  How many of you have done that, created a great team based on peoples resume and still something falls short and a year later  you are evaluating what happened that you didn’t reach your goal, or wasn’t effective or why that person didn’t show up they way they sounded on paper?

I call that trauma, trauma showing up disguised as people’s strengths rendering them powerless to show up in their full capacity.

Fort thirteen years I have provided trainings and organized healing circles for community wom(y)n, activists and organizers, locally, nationally and internationally using the model of emotional release. In a safe space we would  use our tears as healing tools and walk through hard issues like how does power & violence and internalized oppression impact us and show up in our lives. We would create a safe space and used our culture & spirituality to support each other in breaking the pattern of individualism, isolation, guilt, self-blame, self -doubt and dis-ease.

Some of these womyn were the womyn I work with, build coalitions with, organize with, and dream with. But it wasn’t until we shared this space that  I started to understand who they  really were and what life experiences kept them from being the powerful women that they are. It was in sharing stories that we can mirror to each other the potential to strengths we didn’t think capable of having while also bringing awareness to the ways of being that didn’t let us build anything sustainable beyond the moment. It was in these moments that we shared why even though we were showing up to meetings, to our families, to our relationships, still at the very pit of our stomach what was determining our future in these spaces was that we didn’t trust anyone. It was in this space that I understood what were my own ways of self sabotage, of being afraid of success or where my own fears of failure where coming from.

It’s a new year 2012 and the conversation of violence against women, gender justice , sexual assault, domestic violence  and all other institutional  and  interpersonal oppressions  and violence’s are being weaved  into the conversation of  healing trauma. We have come a long way and our movements are incorporating meditation, yoga, health and wellness, natural medicine, acupuncture and deep conversations of how trauma is being replicated in our movements because there are no safe spaces to address it leaving us to address them alone or go through trial and error often times leading us into what feels like a hopeless cycle.  

While there are papers of transformative justice, post traumatic slave syndrome, emotional justice, and self care we have yet to have people in our lives that can mirror to us what a healthy sustainable relationship looks like or what it looks like to disagree and still be connected?

In real life we are still struggling to live these theories and create healthy boundaries, practice self love and be in partnership  without the other person feeling neglected? How do we ask community to disclose stories of rape, child abuse, and sexual assault when we have not set up another system of accountability? How do we create safe spaces for self awareness that supports us in disclosing our stories that bring us shame, that have grave impact on our families if we disclose them, or that we have not come to terms with and to some degree have buried far into our subconscious?

Unfortunately, the answer lies only in practice.

The Process of Conscious Accountability
  1. Build self awareness of behavior
  2.  Contextualize it in personal and historical trauma
  3.  Identify Impact on personal and collective relationships
  4. Take conscious accountability for behavior and impact
  5. Create self care action plan A, B and C to transform behavior
  6.  Share and communicate with people who can hold you accountable
  7.  Commit to a process of healing/transformation towards sustainable relationships
  8.   Develop a system of evaluation and self reflection
 Conscious accountability  depends on our commitment to take ourselves on first and others second. To create spaces and movements that have systems of accountability where you can show up in your past and trauma and it can be processed without punishment or gossip? We are so use to living in a world where we get punished for our actions or lack their of that we get addicted to punishment. How great would it be to create spaces where no one is going to punish you or let you punish yourself, instead, we have a great conversation of impact that leads to your healing and transformation.  

Conscious accountability provides healing tools so that individuals and collectives can delegate, make decisions and share a common goal because everyone at the table is committed and responsible for the whole to win.  When this process is excluded it leaves one person or a group of people exhausted and burnt out because they feel like they are doing all the work while at the same time being blamed for the lack of integrity the other members have.

Creating a structure with a system of personal and collective accountability that creates self discipline is about one of the hardest things to do because it requires being humble, listening, letting go of being right and truly practicing collective power and responsibility. Everyone wants power and no one wants the responsibility that comes with it. Currently in most organizations all meetings and workshops start off  with laying out ground rules creating what I call a superficial  safe space that sets people up for failure and  that at best deals with people’s behaviors but does not address the trauma that impacts their decisions and actions during the meeting nor does it create a system of accountability when people don’t follow the rules.

Conscious accountability requires that we stop and take a look at ourselves, show our vulnerability and lay it all on the table. This is who I am, this is the self awareness I have about my life, how its impacted me and my behavior and this is what you can count on me to do when I show up in trauma or in my past. It requires us to be responsible for the future we are creating and the experiences people have of us along the way so we can say, if I for whatever reason don’t keep my word this is how you can hold me accountable; returning the power to the individual and the group at the same time.

How great would it be if we started coalitions, organizations and movements, relationships, families, collectives and communities with a simple question, who is in the room? With the process of conscious accountability we provide an opportunity for people to make informed decision on how to proceed but more importantly it lays a framework for us to create  a system ,a plan of action that can help us plan to address trauma when it shows up and create plans a, b and c when we are out of integrity.

Self awareness and communication is the key to conscious accountability. Accountability without judgment looks like getting your work done, showing up and keeping your word no matter what is happening in your life. Its about communicating in time so that we can have a conversation about plan a, b or c. Once you have created these plans then its about sharing it with someone and being in communication about them. When there is no time to create alternative plans to get the work done then accountability holding comes with judgment and we are good at judging ourselves before anyone else does. If your trauma shows up as gossip, blaming, suffering and excuses then by default you can’t be in collective work and responsibility because these are the same self destructive patterns that destroy communities.

In addition, conscious accountability creates an internal check and balances system where no one else is responsible for you. It requires those of us on the front lines to rethink the culture of the organizations, coalitions, networks, and collectives that we are creating where we require folks to create self care action plans and quarterly evaluations of how they are being.

 How great would it be if we had the tools to process folk if we  knew that seven out of ten of us in our  organization have experienced some form of sexual assault , or that we have been abandoned, don’t have money, had abortions, dealing with sexuality, child abuse, domestic violence, are addicts or live with addiction and violence  in their homes. If we gave ourselves a chance to know those stories before hand, before dreaming, before committing, before setting goals then we would know what to expect. It would also give us time to know that those traumas will show up as fear, anger, people not keeping their word, lack of trust, not following through, people feeling like they are not good enough, silence, and not thinking they deserve to live in anything different, to be loved, heard or seen. If we knew that then we would be prepared to deal with a group of folk that might have the best intentions but will replicate their lives and all its dysfunctions within the group because they have lost their ability to dream anything different from what they know or change the way they want to be.

You would think that being a healer, an organizer and human rights activists for the past 13 years  would  save me from having to go within and look at who I had become and the past that shaped me but it didnt. In fact, the more I fought for justice the more I knew it was imperative for me to do the internal work necessary or it would get to the point where I could not stand for, by or with anyone not even myself. So for the past 5 years I have been on journey of self healing, self love, rebirth forgiving and letting go.  It is from this space that I have created Conscious Accountability.

Most recently, I took the time to do my own evaluation of the experience of  violence, sexual assault, racism, and oppression that where played out during the Occupy movement in New York. It got me to think about unspoken myths that drive organizers. For one we believe that movements unto themselves, coalitions and organizations will somehow automatically undo the racist, classist, sexist, trans/homophobia/, xenophobic, patriarchal ways of humanity by the mere value of good intentions or political unity.  We believe  that if we document, label it, write it, name it, publish it, create it into models that internalized oppression will get transformed  on its own. We also believe that interpersonal oppression will magically disappear once people come together for any cause. But the most important myth is that we believe that the past and histories of trauma, women and people of color carry will hold their own when we have to experience and witness violence during rallies, protest and movement building.  And because of this we enter relationships with so called like minded folks with our guards down, I mean after all  isnt this suppose to be a safe space?,  then why would men exercise patriarchy? Why would white folk be racist?  Until we don’t get that people take themselves everywhere they go replicating the violence they know , until we do not create systems of accountability for peoples way of being and until we don’t create safe spaces of healing and self a people we will rise, over throw and recreate the same world , unjust and violent. Coalitions, campaigns, relationships, organizations and communities will not create sustainable change or relationships.

Conscious Accountability is the practice of self awareness, self healing, self love and self empowerment where one takes totally responsibility for our actions and contextualizes our behavior in our personal history of trauma and collective oppression towards building sustainable relationships. Dayanara Marte teaches, facilitates and consults with people and organizations about this model through IN BOLD REBIRTH @
Copyright © 2012 In Bold Rebirth, All rights reserved. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

" In the Pursuit of Justice" by Dayanara Marte

Rusia Naureen Mohiuddin was born in Bangladesh 1973, the year that two important cases dominated the United States news; Roe vs. Wade and the start of the Water Gate hearings.  Born an identical twin, middle children of four, her journey of social justice started before the age of 13 by which point she had lived in 5 countries; Bangladesh, Australia, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and, completing her high school and college education in America.

Although she was not aware of it at the time, Mohiuddin was being prepared to be a pioneer in the community organizing movements of New York City.  After having lived in Bangladesh for nine months after graduating from college, Rusia launched herself as the lead organizer for the Moshulu Woodlawn South Community Coalition. Without any formal training Mohiuddin successfully organized the first bilingual Bengali program in New York City at PS 20 in the North West Bronx, a community with a high concentration of Bangladeshi families. There she organized more than 100 community members to start tenant associations and run four campaigns in their neighborhoods.

This was the start of the many wins Mohiuddin would have in her 18 year run as an organizer in New York City. Since then she has co-directed organizations, passed bills, wrote curriculums and trained over 500 youth, men and women in leadership development and organizing.

 One of her greatest accomplishments to date is the co-founding of Social Justice Leadership (SJL); an organization based in New York City supporting leaders, organizers and supervisors to build authentic open relationships with who they work with as part of their organizing strategy.  Having worked in the 5 boroughs of New York City, Florida and California with both youth, women and people of color, Mohiuddin started seeing a pattern among them no matter where they were at.  For one, people where feeling stuck in old habits, old ways of  being  that no longer served  a purpose in their lives  and yet not  knowing how to be any different, two, staff across the board are under paid and over worked with no real structure in place  to appreciate or value the work they do and three, while there is a range of organizers the needs of communities are so vast and global, that the day to day does not as much as put a dent in the work;  unintentionally creating the exploitation of staff who get burnt out and leave.

In late 2004, Mohiuddin crafted a 5 year vision for the work she felt she must do to infuse highly skilled, balanced and sustainable organizers into the social justice movement. Already in development, Mohiuddin, as the chief architect of ACTIVATE! The Community Fellowship Program, decided to house this intensive 3-month program for intermediate, entry level folks and whole organizations to train together and develop skills sets that take care of their human and organizing needs as one of the launching programs of SJL in the Fall of 2006.

During the first year, Mohiuddin generated over 100 applications from all over the world, each vying for a spot as a fellow in the program. For the past three years she has supported folks in providing a real assessment of who they are both personally and as organizers. In her coaching she reflects back to them the ways that they are showing up while at the same time helping them understand the  impact that their way of being has on other people.    “ Some people want change that is tangible, that you can feel but the most stark changes are small and  have huge impact but we are only able to see them if we are engaged in day to day relationships with people” says Mohiuddin.

Over 5 years later, ACTIVATE! has not only become the staple of how Social Justice Leadership does their organizing work today  but also has revolutionized the  way that organizers think about themselves within the movement. It was through ACTIVATE! that Mohiuddin solidified integrating somatics into community organizing work forever changing the way organizing is done while having a transformative impact in the lives of the people who attend the training. Ultimately, this innovative integration became the basis for what will be the SJL model of transformative organizing.

“Somatics is the missing element in organizing,” says Mohiuddin, “it forces people to see their own humanity and the humanity of others in the pursuit of justice”.  As a women of color in various leadership positions, Mohiuddin always had the opportunity to connect with the staff of where she worked but found it hard to be taken seriously by her male peers in leadership no matter the race. In addition, the many displaced and disempowering positions she found herself in at the end were a direct result of her being a women. No matter the injustice or oppression she faced, Mohiuddin made the struggle  for gender equality secondary for the sake of maintaining relationships and getting her work done.   “ When our humanity comes up against what is being done to us we have to choose between ourselves and the work as if they where two different things when in fact our humanity is intrinsically tied to who we want to be in the world”, says Mohiuddin. 

Using her own experiences as a catalyst, in 2007 Mohiuddin embarked on her own healing journey. “I grew up all over the world and was always the new kid. I had to learn to do things fast and, in many ways, that hardened me. I had never cried in public or revealed my weaknesses. In time that life gave me a hard edge that most of the time was coming from a place of fear. I became meticulous to never become overcome by my emotions in order to survive” stated Mohiuddin. 

What Mohiuddin was not aware of was that that was not the initiating incident that would drive her to go through a yearlong intensive somatics healing journey for herself, instead, she would have to go back and visit March 12th, 1979. At the age of 6, Mohiuddin found herself in Melbourne, Australia witnessing her father grieving from a death of her maternal grand father, a revolutionary and founding father of the Republic of Bangladesh, Mashier “Jadu Mia (Magic Man)” Rahman.  He was sitting in the dark and when she asked him why he was crying, he would not explain. At this very moment Mohiuddin made the biggest agreement she would ever make with herself, my father is crying and it is because of me, because of something wrong I did. “From that day forward I excelled in everything, I promised I would do my best so I would never find my dad crying in the dark again” shares Mohiuddin. And she has been living powerfully into that agreement ever since.  Sometimes at her own expense she saves her parents from being upset especially from anything that she might have caused.

In order to get a deep assessment of who she had become as a result  and who she needed to be to win in this game of humanity and organizing Mohiuddin attended the Strozzi Institute, where she was mentored by Richard Strozzi-Heckler and Staci Haines, where she would embark on her own journey of healing as well as  get her certification as a somatic coach.  It was through this training that Mohiuddin, realized that not only could she transform herself from her “old shape(old way of being  to a new shape (new way of being)”,  but she could  also transform organizing  by using the principles of somatics to create a new model and methodology for organizing. They where a match made in heaven. 

The training in somatics softened her edges, it deepened her connection and relationship to people while it also served as personal development to build her capacity to continue to do her work of coaching people competently and responsibly. 
Somatics is the understanding and integration of mind, body and mood, as we are continuously being  influenced and shaped by people, experiences  and the world. Soma is the living body and all its wholeness. When our mind, body and mood  are misaligned they work against who we want to be in the world because we become fragmented. Fragmented organizers need a methodology that can help them navigate and figure out who they need to be to get to have,  create and live in their vision of the world.  In order to win battles and struggles as front line organizers we need to be whole and complete say Mohuiddin.

After 5 1/2  years of successfully working at  SJL, Mohiuddin is embarking on taking her work into the Universe reaching as many people as she can. “I want to be a part of something that has personhood at the center, I want to work for an organization not looking to be bigger than itself, where the expansion becomes more important than the work it is doing” says Mohiuddin.

The only way to secure that she will get to find this place is by creating it herself. This  Winter,  Mohiuddin will be launching Universal Partnership. A consulting and training institute that believes that at the heart of sustainable movements must be the beat of sustainable people. In the meantime, Mohiuddin believes that you don’t have to have an ego to make it in the world. “We must remember that there is no light without darkness and that justice cannot be justice without love. But not just remembering as mere rhetoric as egos often can askew but as a modality for basing actions on and a true orientation to life. The world has no room for ego-driven intentions and our work cannot and should not tolerate those seeking identity at the expense of what we must truly do to bring forth a just society.” Movement work is all encompassing and affects every single living being and by nature there is a place for everyone in it.

For those of you in on the front lines, Mohiuddin says “ Its important to believe in yourself even when everyone tells you not to, surround yourself with people who care about you  and allow yourself to be impacted by the work that you are doing. It is not about changing the world , its allowing the work to shape you and who you need to be” Of course this is easier said than done so look forward to Universal Partnership to support you on your journey of finding  your humanity and dignity if you have lost it along the way.