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Q&A: Kresge REED partners share the power in holding space for rest, healing, collective learning

This blog post was originally published on the Kresge Foundation’s website and describes work Community Wealth Partners facilitated with grantees working in community development, arts, and culture. Read the original post here. Images created by Brandon Black of Drawnversation.  For six months throughout 2022, a group of more than 50 nonprofit representatives and grantee partners …

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This blog post was originally published on the Kresge Foundation’s website and describes work Community Wealth Partners facilitated with grantees working in community development, arts, and culture. Read the original post here. Images created by Brandon Black of Drawnversation

For six months throughout 2022, a group of more than 50 nonprofit representatives and grantee partners working in community development, arts and culture came together to learn, dream, heal and be in community with one another. In the process, they created a space grounded in joy, liberation, rest and healing.

In the Q&A below, a few members of the group – also known as The Kresge Foundation’s Racial Equity Exploration and Discovery (REED) community – share tips to help funders create learning spaces ripe for this kind of engagement.

The REED community was first convened in late 2020 by Kresge’s Arts & Culture Program to connect leaders of community development and arts and culture organizations. Together they exchanged ideas about ways to advance racial justice, identifying new practices to adopt and the systems support their organizations need to thrive.

“These groups harness the creativity and imaginative power of artists and residents to envision and build a more inclusive future,” said Michelle Johnson, senior program officer with Kresge’s Arts and Culture Program. “Lessons learned from their work can be of use to everyone who seeks a more equitable, prosperous and healthy America.”

What did you most appreciate about the space that was created through REED?

  • “I really appreciated this learning series. Particularly during these collectively turbulent and uncertain times, not only is holding space for rest and healing needed – it is a revolutionary act.”
  • “What I appreciated about the space was that I realized that I was not alone. I wanted to just be angry about how artists of color have been treated and I didn’t feel there was anything that I could do to change the systemic racism in my country.  But we were not allowed to languish in that helplessness.  The focus on joy and personal health took a while for me to embrace, but when I did it was liberating.  I also grew to enjoy reading the objectives each time we gathered because I began to ponder what those objectives truly met.  I now use that process in my class because my students need to see where they are in the process. I have a new appreciation and joy for the persons I have met and hopefully will meet them again in person.”
  • “I most appreciated having an opportunity to hear from my peers in the field – the learnings + validation I receive is inspiring and grounding. I get a lot of ideas from folks across the country that include perspectives I would not necessarily get from my region of the country.”
  • “I appreciated the intentionality in planning the sessions, the topics and the follow-up emails with additional resources. I also appreciated the compensation to participate in the sessions.”
  • “[The spaces created through REED were] such a welcomed change for how professionals can meet and gather. It invited me to reimagine how online meetings can feel and ways to make connections with like-minded individuals and organizations.”

What from REED would you recommend to other funders in the field who are doing other similar convenings or capacity-support efforts?

  • “I would recommend providing stipends to participants and facilitators, asking for recommendations for speakers from grantees, and including participants in shaping the content for each session.”
  • “I would recommend Reed – I think communication has been great, the stipends have been helpful in being able to ensure I can participate.”
  • “The stipends did help a great deal because I don’t know about others, but many times I am asked to participate on panels, but no money is offered because it is my social responsibility to participate. There is a saying that all African American artists that came up in the 60’s and 70’s are social workers at heart.  We feel responsible.  I would have participated without the stipend, but the stipend said what I had to say was important, my time was important, and my presence was important.”
  • “My hope is that these spaces will become common practice and that funders continue to provide participants with stipends to honor the time and intention they bring into these spaces.”

For more from the REED community, read two previous articles:
Kresge partners share 8 ways to advance racial justice through culture and creative practices
Advancing Racial Justice: 5 Practices to Adopt from Arts and Culture Organizations

 REED Resources
Throughout the sessions, the group and guest speakers shared the following resources related to the learning topics the group chose.

Changing Organizational Practices to Confront Anti-Black Racism

 Prioritizing Rest and Healing

Divesting from Oppressive Systems and Creating a New Reality

REED Principles
The REED group co-created these principles and grounded each gathering in a group-led reading of each principle.

  • Why race: We lead with race because race is the greatest predictor of how one fares in areas such as health, wealth, career, education, and civic participation.
  • Why focus on anti-Black racism: Anti-Blackness is at the root of racism. Therefore, we make explicit anti-Black racism, which both voids Blackness of value, while systematically marginalizing Black people and their issues.
  • Why racial justice: We seek to advance racial justice where there is the systemic fair treatment of people from all races through proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts, and outcomes.
  • Why liberation: We seek to transform the conditions of our society so that we all can live into our full abundance and self-worth.
  • Why not white-centered: We actively center the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in our conversations and use intentional racial identity-based spaces to do our respective work.
  • Why joy: We refrain from reducing experiences into singular narratives of victimhood and intentionally lift up joy and resilience in who we are, in our stories, and in how we connect with others.
  • Why arts and culture: We see culture and creativity as core drivers of more just communities.

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