A Note From Alicia Jones-McLeod
This month, I am leaving my leadership role at Challenging Racism. During this process, I thought I would share a few things I have learned in my position and how I have used them to make a difference in my life and my work.
First, I learned the definitions used to create the common language of dismantling systemic and individual racism. When I came to Challenging Racism, I felt the impacts of racism, but the words I shared in those moments did not have the fullness of what I was experiencing. Now, I am able to call out the actions with specific terminology, I am able to name it. I use terms like microaggressions and triggers. I am more understanding of allyship and what it means to have privilege in the world. To be clear, I don't think the language made my feelings more or less valid, but it allowed me to communicate effectively and see ways to change behavior or solve a problem. As Kimberleé Crenshaw said, “When there's no name for a problem, you can't solve it." Now I can call out these issues and start conversations about solving them.
I also learned about acknowledging where I have privilege and how to use it. I am a woman and that identity can often be marginalized in spaces, but I also have privilege because I identify as a cis-gender woman. My privilege is because I am afforded benefits that may not be afforded to a transwoman (I.e. bathroom access). So in other words, I can see the world from both lenses, a lens of privilege and a lens of marginalization. Similar to what is explained in this video, I can use these experiences to better connect with others and understand their experiences. I use the insight to help me to be a better ally.
Since being in this position, I have often thought about how we can create more space in our sessions and prioritize the safety of marginalized people. To this end, we recently included the following statement in all of our programs - "We prioritize the safety of the marginalized over the comfort of the privileged." This is important to make sure we are treating people equitably in our sessions, we are embracing safety and calling out discomfort. It is an important step in the process of creating a more equitable world.
To that end, I ask you to acknowledge your privilege, seek out how you can support others, learn to use your privilege for good, and create space for others. I urge you to be uncomfortable so someone else can be safe. Be quiet so someone else can speak. Extend a little more grace and sit with a little more discomfort each day. Practice being an ally and supporting others.
I am not leaving CR for good right away but will transition to an internal role to support our new executive director, Monique "Moe" Bryant. She has been a constant supporter with her vision and encouragement and above all she is an inspiring leader and an undeniable social justice warrior. I am excited she has decided to take on the full breadth of this work and am honored to support her as she takes Challenging Racism to the next level.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you who have been with me on this journey and have helped to build a more sustainable and amazing organization. Thank you for your grace, your support, and your friendship. I am grateful for what we have been able to accomplish in the last three years. I look forward to Challenging Racism's future success in the continued effort to disrupt racism one compassionate conversation at a time.