This year, those of us advocating for system changes – leading to justice-inspired outcomes for underserved and marginalized communities – continue to face challenges within all layers and contexts of our shared experiences and efforts, including within our institutions, organizations, and communities.
Whether for the purpose of advocating for greater access to vital resources for underserved communities, or ensuring that all voices are included in any process, having the potential to impact the lives of those who have most often, and historically, been excluded from such processes, this work has never been more urgent.
Encountering Resistance to Change in the Most Marginalized Communities
For those of us representing the very communities most marginalized, traumatized, and adversely impacted by unjust systems, we are consistently navigating, absorbing, and experiencing multiple, and sometimes, extreme versions of intersecting resistance to change.
This happens even as we continue to advocate for justice for all identities, communities, and populations that are most harmed by interlocking systems of oppression, which are meant to preserve the interests of the privileged.
Even as we observe encouraging signs of increased and renewed investment of social justice advocates – mostly within institutions, organizations, agencies, and communities – it has become clear that they are pushing more aggressively for resources and justice-inspired approaches to mitigate the historical, current injustices, and oppressive realities. While these realities continue to inform the foundation of our systems and structures, make no mistake, significant challenges lie ahead for us.
In addition, for those of us pushing for change from our various positions of power and influence – whether within our organizations or communities – we need to be prepared to do more in 2021 from where we are, no matter where that might be.
The Importance of Leadership Support in Inspiring Change
As an experienced DEI consultant supporting those leading initiatives that are actively prioritizing social justice and antiracist strategies, as they engage in their practices (and learn to question not only what they do but how they do it), I often discuss the ways in which leadership support is paramount to any justice-aligned agenda. Given the essential and specialized role leadership positions play, they also affect how these values and outcomes are realized across all dimensions, levels, and spaces or practice for any organization or initiative.
While leaders are responsible for and have the opportunity to model these critical values and outcomes for the benefit of their workforce and communities served; in reality, all individuals – no matter where you are – have the power and potential to inspire change in the interest of social justice even if it’s in the most modest of ways.
Of course, it is important to note that dynamics of power, privilege, and dominance are often at play in any space or context of interaction and engagement, and such dynamics need to be weighed with respect to where you have the greatest potential to inspire change in the interest of justice.
For example, in what spaces/places are you most empowered, validated, supported, and safe in expressing any social justice-inspired ideas, thoughts, or intentions you might have? Where do you experience feelings of being suppressed, silenced, or invisible?
How you experience these dynamics in any given situation can help you determine which decisions you feel safe and courageous enough in making toward the interest of social justice for underserved, marginalized communities.
For instance – consider the following:
- In the interest of equity and justice for underserved or marginalized individuals and communities, where do you have the greatest ability to inspire change in your daily work or life?
- Which individuals within your network are most supportive of your vision for social justice? With whom can you collaborate and/or join efforts to engage in social justice-inspired initiatives to challenge oppressive systems, policies, or actions?
- What programs, movements, or initiatives are currently underway within your community to which you believe you can contribute your time and energy in helping existing groups make meaningful social justice progress meant to mitigate and/or disrupt the reality of unjust, oppressive systems?
- In general, where can you speak out and/or actively demonstrate your advocacy for social justice for all identities, communities, and populations?
- Engage in self-reflection. What might be holding you back from doing any of the aforementioned things?
- Promoting, advocating for, and prioritizing social justice for the purpose of realizing equitable outcomes for all identities, communities, and populations is a choice that requires our individual and collective power and voices to influence and inspire in favor of this work.
How will you use your power in 2021?
Contact Carmen from Project 986 at (301) 447-0270 for more information or schedule a free DEI consultation today.