By Rhea Bailey
Movement work can be affirming, invigorating, validating, and nourishing. But for leaders in the struggle, the work can also be rife with internal and and external conflict, isolation, overwork, and oppression. In the midst of the current political landscape, many of our grantees are grappling with the ways they have been personally impacted by trauma and oppression even as they battle the same struggles in their communities. At GSF, we’ve been exploring how we, as funders, can support movements in creating ample space within their organizations to cultivate resilience, wholeness, vulnerability and strength. We spent the past few months talking with funders, organizers, and practitioners who are thinking deeply about how to develop and expand healing and transformation resources in our movements to learn about how we might engage.
For generations, individuals and collectives have been engaged in practices such as song, dance, storytelling, laughter, and prayer as pathways to liberation. These healing practices are rooted in the context of community and relationship and have served as an essential component of successful social change and power building efforts. More recently, “healing justice” has been developed as a movement strategy by queer and trans movement leaders of color who saw a need to center their wholeness and collective wellness in response to the wounds caused by the cumulative effects of racism, homophobia, and systemic oppression. They assert that our collective liberation is tied to the healing of trauma, both past and present. In fact, some would say that healing work is the most essential component of the pursuit of justice. As Cara Page of the Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective has said, “our movements themselves have to be healing, or there is no point to them.”
Healing justice is about honoring the sacred fabric that binds us all as one. It is about re-imagining our movement organizations to be simultaneously spaces of power-building and healing. It is about measuring the success of our movements not just in campaign wins and losses, but also in how well we take care of each other, the quality of our relationships, and the ability of our teams to bring their whole selves to the work. The goal is to create a global society free of oppression, isolation, inequity — and to embody those values within our own organizations and networks.
Lessons for Philanthropy
As GSF begins to explore how to meaningfully contribute to the healing of communities whose well-being has historically been overlooked and undervalued, we’ve identified key lessons from our philanthropic colleagues, grantees, and practitioners that will guide our strategy.
The field is still learning and exploring healing within the context of movement building and social change. Funders such as the Groundswell Fund, Ford, the Third Wave Fund and others have paved the way to supporting this work. Various tables are being convened to share current funder practices and to strategize about future directions. At GSF, we’ve begun to develop short and long-term strategies to contribute to the healing of movement builders, and ultimately the effectiveness and sustainability of the movements themselves. We also see our investment in healing justice as a way to further our commitment to improving the leadership capacity of our grantees. We look forward to continued learning from organizers, healing practitioners, and funder colleagues as we endeavor to understand how best to contribute to the overall wellness and resiliency of those who are on the frontlines fighting for justice. If you are a funder supporting or considering support of this work, please reach out — we would love to learn together.