and/now is our hearts’ work
and/now lives in the intersection of racial justice and social healing
and/now centers lived experiences by leading with race, first and always
and/now seeks revolutionary wellness and collective rising
We are two women of color co-founders who met in 2015 at a predominantly white institution in Los Angeles and discovered a kinship for and in each other. During this time, Dena served as the School Psychologist and Connie as the Director of Inclusivity and Equity within a senior leadership team. We were tasked with vastly different roles and challenges, and within the first month together, realized that our two roles and worlds were in fact, intimately connected.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) can be described and approached in a myriad of ways but at its core is a sense of community wellness rooted in justice, which can be measured by its:
Diversity of social experiences: who is represented and how
Access to and in: who can enter where and when
Power dynamics: who makes decisions for whom
Relationships with self, others, and space: who feels connected, safe, and trusted
And intentionality of inclusion: who is centered and affirmed
All of these exist within and because of the systems that make up a community. And the who matters because people matter; DEI and wellness is intrinsically human-centric and community embedded. Also rooted in wellness is social-emotional health and psychological safety, which can only exist when there is shared vulnerability, trust, and relational affirmation. Back in 2015, we quickly and painfully discovered that one couldn’t exist without the other, that wellness required equity and inclusion in the context of identity (specifically race and power), and that justice required healing — which is to say, social justice and social healing are interlocking processes.
Over the years, we’ve noticed that most DEI efforts begin and end at diversity, multiculturalism, empathy, or allyship, skipping over the deep examination of identity, history, and power, most notably this: the power of racial identity in a nation that has yet to reckon with a violent and traumatizing history for Black and Indigenous communities.
And yet, Black and Indigenous communities are expected to carry on without having named, processed, and healed from generational and systemic trauma.
And yet, the cycle continues and continues.
And yet, we erase, dismiss, and silence the centrality of racial identity to be unexamined in social transformation and change within the structures of our relationships, teams, organizations, communities, and nation.
As BIPOC, our racial identities have been reduced to liabilities instead of being lifted up as life-giving inheritances that root us deeply, in spite of it all. Our color, our big and small histories, our very presence here and now demands that we all be radical together — Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and White anti-racists. Racial equity and justice is not a radical concept, but in today’s context, a collective movement for equity and justice is an immensely radical act. So let us be radical together.
We put forth a different way forward that interlocks justice, healing, transformation, and growth as expansive possibilities that begin with the collective us. As we carry on, let’s put DEI and mental health on intersecting, inseparable, and undeniably ambitious paths forward. We all deserve healing.
Revolutionary wellness and collective rising begin with us.