Where I Came From
My enduring passion for nonviolent social justice is rooted in my life experiences which have transcended the many boxes and categories in which I was placed and allowed me to see how a diversity of truths can be present, and valid, at the same time. I grew up and lived my early life in suburban Trinidad where although I belonged racially, I did not always feel I belonged personally. When my family relocated to Harlem I became exposed to many new and often divergent realities: the neglect BIPOC students were facing in my neighborhood where we were the majority; the privileges of being labeled gifted and later attending well-resourced schools where most students didn’t look like me; the low expectations set when I attended a mostly BIPOC community college and the freedoms and support granted to me as a student in a top-tier college in upstate New York, where I was again a minority. These early experiences sparked a commitment in me to work for developing a society in which every person is truly valued, encouraged, and supported in their gifts, a world in which we all can belong.
This motivated me to pursue a career in psychology, which I saw as a way to support and nurture people’s personal development. I became licensed and practiced in North Carolina, and later California when I relocated with my new family, places which also expanded my understanding of how many different realities can be true simultaneously. While I found the work deeply meaningful, there was also something not totally satisfying. When I first encountered Nonviolent Communication (NVC) I realized what was missing; frankly, me. While caregiving is a part of my purpose, I was falling into the familiar social trap of acting as a caretaker only for others. Practicing NVC allowed me to include myself in my circle of care. It also connected me to a strategy for compassionate systems change that left no one out and created space to celebrate the unique gifts that everyone has to offer in the creation of a Beloved Community. Nonviolent consciousness invites us to not just reconsider who has a seat at the table but whether the room needs a table at all.
Envisioning Beloved Community
Have you ever watched synchronized swimmers? Have you ever noticed that some of the choreography that looks most graceful above the water requires that someone be below the water, holding their breath, so that those standing on them can shine? My vision of Beloved Community is one in which no one has to be below the water. I am dedicated to weaving personal liberation with social transformation and am inspired by the lineages left by nonviolent leaders such as Dorothy Height, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Baker and Dr. Marshall Rosenberg who called for accountability with care. Working towards Beloved Community orients us away from “negative peace”, which is defined as simply the absence of explicit tension, and towards “positive peace”, which is defined by the presence of empathy, understanding, collaboration, and celebration of how our differences contribute to the beauty of our togetherness.
When Our Powers Combine
At the group level, I am most interested in the place where personal growth and community growth come together to create new possibilities. For example, in my Coaching Across Microaggressions course, we look at the roles of Actor, Receiver, and Bystander in the instance of a microaggression, taking time to understand how each of them may be experiencing the moment. By developing empathy for the people playing each of these roles, which we all may rotate through with varying regularity, we develop our capacity to find nonviolent resolutions that truly meet as many needs as possible. Each individual must have the capacity to engage in the group level shifts from a place of awareness and empowerment for those shifts to be enduringly transformative. When they do, moments of conflict transform into moments of learning and growth for everyone involved.
When organizations and institutions become resourced enough to take on the critical task of unpacking oppressive and dehumanizing systems, empowered by capable and response-able individuals and teams, we approach the threshold of social change. In essence, all organizations and institutions are communities and at the organizational level I work to utilize the strength and knowledge generated at the individual level to guide transformation of the institution itself. Whether as a co-worker, a family member, a friend, a student, or so many more things we can be, each of us has the potential to inform, influence, and create new possibilities of structuring the world we live in creatively, effectively, and equitably.
Getting There From Here
I believe that every individual is capable of lasting positive transformation when they are provided authentic and compassionate feedback on how their behavior is impacting others for better or for worse. I use many different lenses and modalities to help me develop and reflect an intersectional and holistic sense of the person I’m working with, particularly how nature and nurture have intersected in their lives to create their sense of who they are in the world. Reflecting this integrated vision of themselves builds their capacity to receive feedback so that it can be constructively integrated into their personal theory of change, bringing them into deeper alignment with themselves and their principles.
As I work with individuals, I find purpose in helping them build connections with others who envision and believe in the value and possibility of co-creating a Beloved Community. When I think of what the world can look like for the generations that follow what I know is that in order for them to live in a world in which belonging within a loving community feels normal some of our current realities must become unimaginable. NVC provides an easily accessible understanding that we all have needs and that attending to as many needs as possible with compassion and discernment generates internal guidance and orientation towards Beloved Community. When we follow this gentle guidance it leads us to create and support sustainable systems that generate well-being for all. It is my mission that my work serve as a stepping stone into that reality.