By Donna Bransford and Larry Yang, Senior Advisors to the Mindfulness and Healing Justice Program
This year has taken an incalculable toll on so many in our communities. Over 280,000 Americans alone have died from COVID-19, and the structural inequities resulting from the legacy of settler colonialism, slavery and racial capitalism means that Black, Indigenous and Latinx people have been the hardest hit by this pandemic, dying at three times the rate of white Americans.
Against this backdrop, Black people continued to be brutalized and killed by police and white supremacists, while those in political leadership refused to condemn the violence, turning a blind eye to the conditions in our communities.
In the face of these impossible conditions, young Black activists took to the streets this summer to demand justice and freedom from state sanctioned violence, giving rise to an unprecedented multi-racial, global movement for racial justice, impacting the US Presidential election and continuing to be felt around the world.
It has become more evident than ever that America is in need of healing. Especially those that are the most marginalized, targeted and ignored.
In these difficult days, the Mindfulness and Healing Justice program at The Kataly Foundation takes on greater urgency and significance. Our work supports Black, Indigenous and community of color led efforts that bring the tools of mindfulness and embodiment practice to communities most impacted by systemic oppression, with an eye toward individual and collective transformation and liberation.
Justice — whether it be social, political, cultural — is such a necessary and worthy human endeavor. The aspirations of Justice serve to continually elevate our standards of civilization empowered with integrity, equity, and dignity. And we know that the implementation of Justice always takes longer than anyone would like. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and others have said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
That longitudinal course of social transformation is stressful and oppressive in and of itself. Therefore, in the challenges and difficulties of social change, it is imperative to develop methods and strategies for resiliency, stamina, and sustainability that are interwoven and inherent within the processes of transformation. This is the ability to heal through both the paths towards Justice and the outcomes of Justice. Survival might be radical in the face of oppression, but the ability to Thrive becomes Revolutionary. This is one of the ways that we are approaching the concept of Healing Justice at Kataly.
As we acknowledge that our funding in the Healing Justice space is in its beginnings, we also want to acknowledge the lineage of this work, and leaders such as Cara Page and the Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collaborative, who, as quoted by practitioner Prentis Hemphill, founder of The Embodiment Institute, have said that “healing justice…identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence, and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.”
One additional reality of Social Transformation and Justice is that we cannot change that which we are not aware of. The first step of deep change is to become aware of what needs to be changed and to become aware of exactly what is required to manifest that change. This is Mindfulness.
As Larry has written previously, in his book, Awakening Together, The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community, it is Mindfulness to pay attention when we are faced with injustice and oppression. He describes the choice-points of what will lead to greater freedom versus what will lead to greater suffering. In those choice-points are the possibilities which allow us to transform and heal the oppressions in the world in a way that doesn’t create more oppression. “We cannot create justice through unjust means. Justice created through unjust means is not justice, nor is it freedom. Justice can be only supported by our conscious awareness and by the deliberate kindness that allows us to transform and heal the suffering of the world in a way that doesn’t create more suffering.”
This capacity to always be aware and have integrity and alignment of intentions and impacts is a deep act of healing and caring. Healing for all of us, not simply for those who are like-minded and like-hearted.
This year, among our grantee partners, we were honored to support the work of organizations such as Buddhist Peace Fellowship, The Embodiment Institute, East Point Peace Academy and BOLD-Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity, for their work focused on providing Black, Indigenous, and community of color organizers and activists with the tools for building resiliency, awareness and embodied leadership practices towards individual and collective transformation and liberation, in service of building the new, just world we all want to live in.
This is the interwoven relationship between Mindfulness, Healing, and Justice. This interrelated fabric of our humanity is what Kataly aspires to support, empower, and strengthen for all of us, and all our communities.