Facilitator Glimpse Into the 2020 Weaver Learning Lab

The Weaver Learning Lab (WLL) brings together a range of community members who care deeply about equity, justice and liberation to focus on the deep inner transformational work  necessary for outwards action and change. At the beginning of this year, the WLL facilitation team was preparing for a third cohort to go through another eight-month, in-person learning experience, but as we all know, Covid-19 changed our world and plans.

 

We recognized a different approach would be necessary given our new reality and in response, we moved the program online and condensed the Lab to five, bi-weekly, 2-hour sessions. Right before the launch of the summer cohort, our country experienced the horrific murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. The feelings of despair, hopelessness, anger, grief, and exhaustion were overwhelming. In addition, all the deaths, systemic inequities and the resulting racial disparities of Covid-19, hit too close to home. My glimmer of optimism for change has been fueled by 60 participants of different racial, ethnic, cultural backgrounds coming together to  engage in the Weaver Learning Lab this year.

 

Weavers strive for a shared understanding of complex problems, and make space for one another to learn, reflect and lead for a better future. Our goal with the WLL is to offer people the opportunity to explore a range of complex topics such as: systemic racism, white supremacy culture, identity, power, and transformative relationships, and to grow a network of people who can support each other through the challenges  encountered in creating change. In the Lab, participants also utilize a framework called Be-Block-Build to apply to their own social change efforts:

 

BLOCK: Stopping the harm from oppressive, unjust systems and institutions.

BUILD: Creating new relationships and structural alternatives that replace broken ones.

BE: Shifting our consciousness and deepening our capacity to care for ourselves and others through innerwork.

 

This framework recognizes that everyone is at a different place in their journey of anti-racism, but we all have a responsibility to address systemic racism whether it be at the individual level (what you have internalized),  the interpersonal level (how you engage with others),  or systemic level (working towards practices and policies). We believe this framework allows people to leverage their strengths, talents, and capacity in the pursuit of equity, justice, and liberation.

Still surrounded by the devastating impacts of Covid-19, widening inequities for Communities of Color, a contentious presidential election, and a federal ban on anti-racism training, IMPACT launched the fourth cohort of the WLL in September of 2020. During the orientation, we began the program by sharing personal artifacts representing how people are connected to this work. The amount of talent, care, and knowledge that Weavers bring into the space never ceases to amaze me. In this iteration of the Lab, we allowed for more spaciousness to cover the topics and incorporated more small group sharing, affinity groups by race, and contemplative practices. One particular highlight was when the 2020 presidential election results were announced in the middle of our session. It was very relevant given that we were discussing  radical imagination–a force for creativity, hope, and resilience that sustains us in the face of injustice, and gives us the permission to step into our power in new and expansive ways.

 

There is a lot of building and blocking that needs to happen in the upcoming year, but we can’t underestimate the need to heal individually and collectively, because our fight for justice and liberation requires all of us. We need self-awareness of our identities to reduce chances of causing harm, we must own the harm we cause, and have empathy and trusting relationships to build racial solidarity. To get us to our shared humanity, we need to reflect on how we’ve been dehumanized and traumatized and consider the healing we all need to do. We need spaces like the WLL to engage in this type of exploration to better see who we are, what shapes our views, and learn new ways to relate to each other. 

 

Our hope is that each Weaver will take what they learned and seed change in their families, communities, workplaces, and activist/movement spaces. The fourth cohort of the Weaver Learning Lab (WLL) finished on November 21, 2020. Since 2017, there have been over 90 Weavers who have completed the program. The learning continues in a Community of Practice that meets monthly. We look forward to the next cohort in the spring of 2021. If you are interested in learning more about the Weaver Learning Lab, please go to  https://impactsilverspring.org/wll/ for updates. 

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