Explorations on body-informed practice; boundaries; radical safeguarding and international and intergenerational solidarity.
In February 2023, we ran our first course, ENRGY, since the pandemic began. The weekend course focused on radical facilitation for young people who wanted to hold space and facilitate in their communities.
We set community principles, as outlined in our Shake! The System Guidebook, to establish the kind of environment we wanted to have during these two days of workshops. In between guest-facilitated sessions, we took part in grounding rituals, movement and energy check ins, noticing and tuning into nature at a nearby park, and games such as, Alphabet Attack, from our Guidebook.
The 10 young people of colour who joined us had a range of experiences and areas their community work focused on including abolition; Pan-Afrikanism; anti-colonisation; food justice; land & climate justice; housing justice; reparatory justice; youth work; disability justice. There was power in young people coming together in community with an interconnected focus on radical liberation.
Farzana Khan, Strategic Advisor, Editor & Mentor at Shake! And Co-Executive Director at Healing Justice London, ran a session on body and trauma-informed practice in facilitation. This workshop helped us to understand how many of us have been conditioned to not listen to how our bodies feel and its needs. This includes listening to pain and exhaustion. Being aware of our body’s needs is fundamental for liberation because as Farzana said, “we can’t carry the world on our shoulders when our knees are weak.” Body-informed practice supports us to say yes to more of what brings us joy and happiness, which is also vital for liberation.
Through activities and discussions centering healing justice and allowing us to feel more present in our bodies, we learned about how we can grow safety in our bodies, to consider the difference between ‘rest’ and ‘restoration’ and the difference between ‘hurt’ and ‘harm.’ During this workshop, Farzana’s words stuck with us: “The tool of healing isn’t to get us to adapt to trauma, it’s to free ourselves.”
With Latifa Akay, Head of Collective Care for Act Build Change, we delved into radical safeguarding. We considered the supportive aspects and barriers that exist in traditional safeguarding. Often, safeguarding is isolating, reactive and individualises an issue, designed to protect institutions, not people. It is often based on first assumptions, which can be discriminatory, and likely to harm marginalised communities. This is evident from institutional racist and islamophobic policies, such as PREVENT.
Approaching safeguarding through a radical lens requires a process of us unlearning this surveillance and mistrust of each other that we have been taught. Centering collective longings that we want for ourselves and our loved ones (from self determination, self love and safety to space to be authentic, abundance of choice and agency), helped us to analyse tools for alternative practice.
Working with others who may see the flaws in the traditional safeguarding approach can help to remove the individualistic nature of safeguarding alongside building relationships of trust that sustains us to keep each other safe. .
On day two, Annick Météfia, youth worker, racial justice activist and Shake!’s Legacy Programme Manager, led our workshop ‘caring without overextending’. Like our conditioning to not listen to our bodies, many of us, from marginalised backgrounds, have also been socialised to have porous/weak boundaries or to lack boundaries all together. Annick framed boundaries as not only a language of love and a way to build relationships, but as a tool that keeps other people safe too, by preventing us from overpromising and under-delivering.
In order to implement boundaries, we need to define what they are and understand the impact that pushing boundaries may have. In facilitation, key boundaries are focused on respect and language. People expressing boundaries to facilitators should not throw a session off direction, and if it does, it may mean that there was an unhealthy imbalance of power. We referred to a quote from The Changemakers’ Facilitator’s Guide: “The facilitator should be in the business of making themselves redundant.”
The session also explored why we can find it hard to stick to boundaries and the difference in reaction to boundaries for different demographics – marginalised genders might be expected to overextend for others more, such as Black women being expected to play a ‘mami’ role and to be ‘givers’ and in service of others. Internalised shame can play a part too, by feeling shame for needing those boundaries – for example, feeling shameful about not being perceived as ‘hard working.’
Kinsi Abdulleh, Director at Numbi Arts, highlighted the importance of intergenerational working through a conversation on the work and history of Numbi Arts. We heard about, and watched extracts from, their Coming Here, Being Here programme. This project shared stories of people in the Somali community and trained local people to design and deliver workshops and events that made up the archival process.
A truly intergenerational approach was intrinsic to this project, with young people encouraged to learn about their families and neighbour’s childhood stories. The stories were turned into animations which featured the family members and neighbours. The children on the project were also paid the same as the adult. Kinsi expressed the importance of treating young people like equals – “You can’t tell children they’re leaders then not show them trust.”
Reflecting on navigating working with young people in an age where things are constantly changing, Kinsi discussed the role that generational blame can play. Older and younger generations may both ‘other’ themselves by not identifying much with members of the same community of a different age. Young people may blame older generations and vice versa. But we all have a lot to learn from each other. Speaking about our experiences and coming together in community allows for forms of expression and fighting against oppression. And as Kinsi reminded us, “fighting back against oppression is a part of healing.”
Kobina Amokwandoh from Aya Afrikan Learning Community ran our session on international solidarity. As people of global majority, we began reflecting on our own heritage and identity. Kobina reminded us that feeling disconnected from diaspora because of separations as a result of colonisation doesn’t make our heritage or nationality any less valid.
A map of the US military’s international bases showed that the imperialist forces organise seriously and internationally – and we need to do the same. Just as imperialism is interconnected globally and transcends borders, so do our struggles and liberation. We are all connected in some way, whether this be through what we eat, wear, the devices we use. Not only do we have a lot to learn from each other, but none of us are free until all of us are – liberation can’t be achieved in only one place. It requires the distribution of resources, wealth and power.
Solidarity is a doing word – not charity or white saviorism. A powerful aspect of international solidarity is connecting through stories. This can help us to recognise and understand political contexts – an action that might work in the UK might not work elsewhere. International solidarity helps us to be more responsive rather than reactionary by centering the needs of those that we show solidarity with. For example, instead of questioning why people in another country aren’t protesting on a certain topic, we may understand the increased dangers these people may face by speaking out.
We learned so much about radical facilitation, not only from our brilliant facilitators, but from our wonderful participants. We hope attendees were affirmed in their community work, filled with warmth and held in community as new members of the Shake! family. We’re looking forward to connecting with Shakers from this course again when we run ENRGY part 2 in the summer.