TO RACIAL HEALING
Teens Grow Greens’ vision is a world of healed and healthy humans leading change in their communities.
We define “healed humans” as individuals who are able to utilize tools to overcome barriers to self-actualization and wholeness, including implicit and explicit racist, ageist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, geographic, economic and other biases and discriminations; lack of equitable access to healthy food, physical and mental health resources, school resources, job and higher education opportunities, green spaces, and restorative justice practices, especially in communities of color; and even, existentially, newer technological and biological factors like social media and the pandemic that can cause isolation and a lack of a sense of belonging.
We define “healthy humans” as individuals who are able to implement lifestyle habits to meet and sustain their needs in all areas of life--physical, mental, spiritual--not only to survive but to thrive.
And we define "humans leading change in their communities" as individuals who are able to recognize what is not healed or healthy in their communities and who can become active agents for positive change and community actualization.
We operate under the knowledge that the words “healed" and "healthy" both come from the Old English hælþ, which meant "wholeness." To be healed and healthy, then, means to be restored to a state of wholeness. We know that there are innumerable ways that the world eats away at our wholeness, suppresses and oppresses certain parts of our identities, and sets up barriers to self and community actualization. But we know that personal health and the ability to create authentic changes in the world requires whole, powerful, and thriving human beings able to live into all of their multiple identities and to live into their full potentials.
In order to examine whether we are doing the best we can as an organization to ensure that our staff, our interns, our apprentices, and the communities in which we work can see pathways to personal and collective wholeness and power and thriving, the Teens Grow Greens staff is committing in 2022-23 to work closely and vulnerably together as we journey through Dr. Anneliese A. Singh’s Racial Healing Handbook as the focus of our professional–and personal–development.
Dr. Singh repeats things that Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other marginalized groups of people–plus their allies–have known for way too long: “racism is pervasive, structural, systemic, and feels overwhelming to change.” This means, obviously, that it is pervasive, structural, systemic, and difficult to change in Milwaukee. And this means, we acknowledge, that it could be pervasive, structural, systemic, and difficult to change–let alone detect–in our own organization: our structures and policies, our language and marketing, the way we write our grants and from whom we seek them, who we recruit and hire, how we teach and learn from our interns and apprentices. Our professional development together this year will help us examine and interrogate this assumption and work toward collective healing and improvement.
As a practice, we commit to holding regular decentralized discussions, with each chapter’s examination being prepared and facilitated by a different staff member each time. In between in-person discussions, we commit to continuing dialoguing within ourselves and with our colleagues virtually and applying new knowledge and ways of being in our work. Along the way, we will hold a microscope to ourselves and our organization, asking essential questions such as What does “transformative”--a key word in our mission statement–mean in the context of identity, including racial identity? What does a “healed and healthy human” look like in the context of racial identity? What needs healing in our organization? What gaps should we be filling? How inclusive are we? Are we in authentic partnership with the communities in which we work or are we still on the outside? Are all our interns and apprentices receiving culturally responsive, culturally sustaining, anti-racist, and asset-based learning and leadership experiences?
We know these questions won’t be easy to answer, so we give ourselves permission to not rush through the process and to give time and space to conversations which need it. Most of all, we are committed to learning and unlearning the ways in which we have been complicit personally and organizationally in perpetuating a lack of wholeness–then to work toward healing. We need it because Milwaukee needs it.