- Stefanie Cohen
Our Spheres of Leadership: #BLM
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Greetings to each of you, my students, clients, colleagues, teachers, and friends,
in this time of ravaging societal and viral illness made all the more visible. In this time in which the revolution for racial justice steadily moves forward, after centuries, and with decade upon decade of diligent social activist work. I stand firmly and humbly with all involved in the Movement for Black Lives. I likewise extend my support to each of you whose life has been deeply altered by the pandemic.
I’ve been writing to you all.
Or trying to do so... for well over two months, actually. (But that’s another story)….
You are brilliant artists, healing artists, teachers, and leaders.
Many, but not all, are White or White-presenting. Some, are Black. Some, People of Color (or Culture); and some, Indigenous. Some, non-binary. Some, male. Many, LGBTQIA. Several, disabled. Some, parents. Many, women.
Some of you have been negotiating multiple, intersecting, marginalized identities,
and both trauma and resources of different flavors.
I've been [not] writing to each one of you....
holding you in my heart and thoughts. Stopping and starting. Witnessing myself become frozen, at times, often when I’d most like to engage in action. Or frantically doing -- most likely so as to relieve myself from experiences of feeling.
Then assessing needs of my nervous system.
Then meeting a need to:
notice, identify, and lean in to discomfort;
to breathe; shake; gather; walk; listen; read;
shut up where I ought;
speak up where I must;
donate; study; protest; re-invest;
get incrementally more honest;
get necessarily more humble;
and settle in for work that must be sustained as a life-long marathon, rather than a sprint.
Then picking myself up to do, as they say in 12-step programs, “the next right thing”. And the next. And the next.
Among those "right" things has been to carefully consider my areas or "spheres" of responsibility and influence. To determine, with a refreshed dedication, where and how I can most effectively turn up the volume on my commitment to anti-racism work. I've been examining this in terms of my roles as an artist, a healing artist, a parent, and as one of the stewards of a performance space in Detroit.
I invite any of you to drop in to that question, specifically, for yourselves:
Where are your spheres of leadership? To what can you most effectively apply your energy, calling, and resources in service of anti-racism and collective liberation?
I write this all, most assuredly, NOT to center a conversation around myself, (as a White, cis-gendered, able-bodied woman) — particularly now, as we must all continue to challenge unrelenting, internalized systems of racial inequity. I write, specifically, to offer empathy and to say that I see you, many of you navigating both compounding traumas of the last three months -- and the last four centuries -- AND your need to participate in making change.
Within one of my spheres, as an educator in embodiment, I've been clearly called to dive deeply in to Somatic Abolitionist work with both a local group and an international community. We have committed, through moving with the brilliant, nuanced work of Resmaa Menakem, to attending and upending the ways in which the traumas of white body supremacy are lodged in our bodies; and to support ourselves, our communities, and subsequent generations in healing at the sites of our bodies, themselves. I cannot recommend exploring this work highly enough, and though it's thankfully in super high demand, do try to get your hands or ears on a copy of My Grandmother's Hands.
I have also been receiving a series of generous, wise teachings by QTBIPOC practitioners involved with TRACC (Trauma Response And Crisis Care) -- including Teresa Mateus, Vahisha Hasan, and Detroit's Healing By Choice's own Amanda Hill and Diana Quinn Inlak'ech -- in order to consider how I might better serve folx involved in social justice movement work.
To my Black, POC, and Indigenous colleagues, clients, teachers, students, and friends, I wish for you the supportive containers in which you may settle in to access rest, grief, agency, ease, and joy. I commit to life-long excavation and transformation, and in particular, to a process of de-colonization of the somatic work that I do. I commit to working in such a way in which I may do less harm. If you feel that I can or have served as a trustworthy witness to you, I will certainly continue to do so. If you would like support, specifically, to find educators and practitioners of color, I will refer you to some of my excellent colleagues.
To my White and White-presenting clients, students, colleagues, teachers, and friends, who, with honesty and humility, are likewise examining your complicity and your responsibilities, I commit to serving as a trustworthy witness, I hope, to you as well, and to help to bolster you to stand in your own integrity and expand your capacity for resilience.
I will continue to offer two, weekly, virtual slots of Moving Stories Groups in Authentic Movement throughout the summer. If you have prior experience in moving and witnessing in Authentic Movement or Contemplative Dance Practice, I will happily fold you in to any of these sessions from wherever your body lives on the planet. Please, let me know if you have not had prior experience but would be interested to learn more.
Whether or not you have experienced Authentic Movement specifically but would benefit from an opportunity to listen to your body, address current needs, and self-regulate in this time, I have also expanded my schedule for individual sessions and with that my reduced-rate, sliding-scale slots for those in need. Sessions may be held virtually, or depending upon geography, while walking/rolling or sitting outdoors.
Do, please, reach out to me and/or to other educators and healers in the time ahead. The world (still) needs your presence, authenticity, well-being, and creative spirit now, as much as ever.