Our Love Letter to the Movement
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
CHJL Co-Director Sarah Jawaid writes about the experiences that led her to creating Coaching for Healing, Justice, and Liberation and why the coach approach is so necessary for BIPOC social justice movement leaders. This school is truly a love letter to the movement that we are writing with our actions, words, souls, and bodies.
I’m writing this letter to all the spaces I’ve been apart that have professed justice for all. This is a letter to all of us that have suffered in the name of collective liberation but got lost along the way. This is a letter to my past self. You cried so many tears for so long and were made to feel like you were reading things wrong by people who were supposed to guide you. I love all parts of you. And thank you for not giving up on this work.
First, I must name my broken heart, all of our broken hearts. It is through you that I saw the harm hidden in liberal and latent white supremacy culture in social justice spaces. I saw well-meaning white people perpetuate paternalism in hiring practices and lack of transparency in salaries. I was left wondering as a woman of color if I wasn’t valued because I was offered less money than my male counterparts. I heard of conversations happening behind closed doors due to bro-relationships that I should have been a part of or that shouldn't have happened at all. I heard through the grapevine about how leadership thought I was too sensitive, imbuing that I should be tended to with kid gloves. You broke my heart when my Muslim identity was seen as a helpful token story to add to a meeting. You broke my heart in the countless hours I spent ruminating, reflecting, marinating on what was happening with you and whether I should say something. I couldn’t turn it off. This was countless hours of emotional labor I lost when I could have been doing, well…anything else. You sent me emails and called me after 9 pm on a weeknight. You encroached on every part of my life, tapping into the wellness of my family by forcing your way through my boundaries. And if I didn’t answer, you questioned whether I loved you by wondering if I was really ready to progress to another position.
You flooded me with grief, insecurity, and fear. I felt unworthy, not enough and it was unclear to me how to “perform” better. You made me feel like I was deficient. It all became about winning but I don’t know if you cared about how I got there, how we got there. Winning means no one gets left behind and that we are whole along the way. Whole. I’m clear I’m whole now and moving towards great wholeness. This letter is a step towards that greater.
And for all of this, I deeply thank you. You pushed me to the brink, on the verge of burnout where I had to contend with my values and how I wanted to be in alignment. You forced me to see who I really am and I wanted to feel inside THIS body with this heart.
Thank you for all the good moments, too. You brought me hope on hard days. You showed me the power of transformation through policy wins that changed the lives of many formerly incarcerated community members. You taught me how to crumble the walls that separate us through race, class, gender, status, etc. You taught me so much about power.
I love you for all of these reasons and more. You do change people’s lives for the better. You give people integrity and dignity. You help people see their power. You change policies and you use anger as a clarifying force for good. You are the drumbeat of feet marching down a boulevard demanding justice for the murder of black lives by police. You are the reminder of a strategy session with the mayor's staff on how to make the most robust justice reform policies. You are the tenacity of a door knocker during pre-covid GOTV. You are the resilience of a single mom bringing her baby to a leadership meeting on how to get more affordable housing in the neighborhood.
And, I want you to know that I need things to be different for me to feel like I’m growing in this relationship. I need more from you. And I’m willing and ready to bring my best self for you too.
You are the blood that pushes through change in this country. But never forget, you need heart to push that blood. I’m your heart. We are your heart. Here is how you can have more of me in you.
I want you to value the work and lived experiences of BIPOC leaders. I want you to invest in my sustainability. I want you value interdependence, collaboration and abundance. I want you to value my life, my wholeness, my healing and my liberation. I want you to see me. Like really see me. I want you to be centered on this idea of Self, beaming with curiosity, creativity, and connection.
This whole school, Coaching for Healing, Justice and Liberation, is actually THE love letter. Developing a liberatory coaching approach is rooted in naming all of the harm experienced by BIPOC leaders, transforming it so that it’s grounded in ancestral wisdom and giving it back to movement work as a magical golden lantern lighting the way.
Liberatory coaching is about centering justice, healing and liberation. Regular coaching that supports people to be their best selves is not enough. We must be able to name how white supremacy and setter colonialism and other forms of oppression impact a person’s ability to believe in their wholeness, possibility and resourcefulness. Our work is uprooting oppression, remembering the ways of the past that worked for our ancestors, loving ourselves right now and lighting the way for future generations.
The stakes have never been higher to step deeper into healing, justice and liberation. With the uprisings across the country, the US plunging deeper towards facism, the climate crisis continuing to gain steam, the divide between the richest and the poorest continuing to widen as COVID-19 rages on, the time is now.
If you do this, we will win. And we will win with whole people along the way. I hope that we can get there. I know it will take work from me to communicate and it will take work from you to understand and reflect too. And what awaits us is the stuff of epic love stories that will span lifetimes and generations...Will you take my hand?