From Trauma-Informed Care to Healing-Centered Engagement: A Youth Work Teach-In with Dr. Shawn Ginwright
5:10PM Feb 12, 2021
Dr. Shawn Ginwright
Welcome, everyone who's joining us. We're just going to give folks a moment to join us on the platform. Please take some time to introduce yourselves in the chat box, and we will get started in just a moment or two.
If you're just joining us, we're taking a moment to allow all of our guests today to join us on the platform, so please, please introduce yourselves in the chat box. We see that folks are joining us from, you know, Toronto, from Northern Ontario, from Windsor. We have someone who's joining us from London. We have folks joining us, we have someone from Texas joining us today. So take a moment and share where you're joining us from.
This is great, we have such an amazing group of people joining us in the chat room. We'll have many more join us, I'm sure, over the next few minutes, but because we have so much we want to get through today, we're going to start. So I'd like to welcome everyone to this teach-in on moving trauma, from trauma-informed care to healing-centered engagement with young people. My name is Cyril Cromwell, I'm the Learning and Development Manager at YouthREX. I'm joined by my co-host, Kathe Rogers, who is the Program Director. So this webinar is going to be focused on possibility, on hope, healing, looking at holistic and collective approaches to nurturing wellbeing for young people and their communities, including youth workers. And we certainly have a full day ahead, I'm going to hand the virtual microphone over to Kathe, who will provide us with a little bit of an overview of what we can expect today.
First, again, welcome, we're so excited that you all could join us. There's just a few pieces we wanted to go over to make sure that everyone can participate as fully as they are comfortable doing so. A reminder, you would have received some email communications from YouthREX with a virtual background, you can see I'm sporting it behind me. We invite you to download that virtual background and use it if you're comfortable. We're trying to create a sense of us all being in the same space today since we're joining from all over Ontario, all over Canada and from other parts of the world, too.
We also invite you to rename yourself 'Firstname Lastname.' You can indicate your pronouns in brackets if you're comfortable. And you'll notice in the participants list that you can see everyone who is a part of this meeting, and you can easily identify YouthREX team members, because we all have a 'YR' in front of our names. Now, of course, this is a live event, it is on Zoom. There may be technical challenges, there may be challenges in adhering to our agenda, so we thank you in advance for your patience and your flexibility. And do reach out to a member of the YouthREX team, whether you have a technical question or any other question, and we will do our best to respond as quickly as possible.
We also are offering a transcription service for this event through Otter, so you can access that by clicking on the drop down arrow that is next to the 'Live' button at the top left of your screen. And we will also provide a link in the chat box for those who are having difficulty or for those who are joining us on devices. That might also be another way you can access this live transcription service.
We're gonna ask folks to keep themselves muted, and we have team members who may mute you, and that is only because we want to limit background noise and distractions. We encourage you to connect with one another, and also to share your questions for Dr. Ginwright right in the chat box. And there is a section later on where we will be inviting folks to, to speak live and Dr. Ginwright might also invite you to raise your hand at some point to participate. So just a reminder that the 'Reactions' button at the, at the bottom of the application allows you to raise your hand and also to share, you know, a thumbs up or an applause or whatever you may want to share to participate more fully.
Also, to answer your question, we will be recording this event, we will be recording until the end of the Q&A. The recording will be available to folks within a week of the event, and we encourage you to visit youthrex.com to access the recording and also lots of other resources. And if you have questions, as I said, put them in the chat box and a member of our team will respond as quickly as possible.
And now we'll just take a moment to do a quick overview of today's agenda. You all probably received a link to the agenda on our website, and we'll also share that in the chat box. We're going to have a bit of an opening. We are having a performance at 12:40. Cyril and I will give a bit of an overview of YouthREX and let you know what services and supports can can help to support your work with young people. We have our keynote with Dr. Ginwright scheduled for one o'clock. We're really, really excited to welcome him. We will follow the keynote with a short break. We have another performance planned. And then we'll have a question and answer time with Dr. Ginwright, and that will lead into the last portion of our program, which is a Community Spotlight: an opportunity for folks who are participating to share what they may be working on, what they may be thinking about, with respect to healing. And we will aim to close at three o'clock. So we have a full agenda, and we thank you again in advance for your patience and flexibility. Any resources that are shared during the presentation, including Dr. Ginwright's slides, we can make available to folks along with the recording after the event.
All right, we also want to acknowledge Dr. Joey-Lynn Wabie, who has been doing some really great work with us as the Academic Director of Indigenous Initiatives here at YouthREX. Again, you can check out our Knowledge Hub, because we have so many amazing resources that are there, and so that was just a quick acknowledgement. I want to move on right now, before we begin, to also take a look at where we're at right now in terms of situating ourselves on the land that we're situated on. The land acknowledgement is so important, and I know that we're all coming from various places around Ontario and beyond, and so please just take a moment, use the chat function to acknowledge the land that you're coming from. And I want to actually do a land acknowledgment from York University, which is the headquarters of YouthREX, so that we can all kind of just join together, and just taking that space to be grounded.
And so, both York University and YouthREX acknowledge their presence on the traditional territory of many Indigenous nations. The area known as Tkaronto has been taken care of by the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Huron-Wendat, and is now home to many Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, and we acknowledge the current treaty holders, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations, as well. We also acknowledge that this territory is subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement to peaceably share and care for the Great Lakes region. Thank you for that. I'm gonna hand it over to Kathe, who's gonna introduce our first performer.
Yes, hello! I'm sorry, I'm still figuring out the muting myself on and off piece. Yes, we're really excited to have two performances as part of today's agenda, and the first is from Dwayne Morgan. We're so excited that Dwayne is here. You'll notice Dwayne's website on this slide. We'll also share it in the chat box. Dwayne is a two-time Canadian National Poetry Slam champion. He began his career as a spoken word artist in 1993. In 1994, he founded Up From The Roots Entertainment to promote the positive artistic contributions of African Canadian and urban-influenced artists. Dwayne is the 2018 winner of the Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for career achievement and the spoken word. He has published 13 books and his audiences have included President Barack Obama and Governor General Michaëlle Jean, and now all of us today! So welcome, Dwayne, and thank you for being with us.
All right. Thank you, can you hear me now? Yeah, okay, I see some nods. Okay, so my apologies, I tried to get the little thing around the thing, and it was just acting really weird, so I apologize for, you know, not being able to make that work. But thank you so much for the invite. I have two poems that I'm going to share with you. The first one, you know, when we look at, you know, race and young people and systemic racism and a lot of these things, a lot of times we have to ask ourselves, how does this happen? Like, where does this come from? And there are so many subtle things that are part of our society that reinforces notions around race, and so this first poem is inspired by a study that was done in the 70s and then my experiences with my own daughter, and this is called Dollhouse.
Michelle, age four, white. Michelle, which doll is the pretty one? The white one. Raquel, age four, white. Michelle, which doll is the mean one? The Black one. Natasha, age four, Black. Natasha, which doll is the nice one? The white one. Kesha, age four, Black. Kesha, which doll is the ugly one? The black one. Kesha, which doll looks like you? The Black one. By the age of four, the seed of racism, self-hatred and inferiority is already subconsciously planted in the brain like sugarcane, like cotton, like cash crops that will benefit those who grow it more than those who sow it and don't I know it. As a father of a daughter who struggles to see herself on store shelves. These are little Black girl blues. You can find darker-hued versions of white dolls that look nothing like you, straight hair, straight nose, forcing parents to have to straighten things out, removing the kinks of self-doubt, becoming vigilant, parenting becoming militant, but only if they get it. Only if they understand the damage being done and the need to protect her identity by any means necessary. Birthday invitations included the postscript 'please no white dolls,' which created their fair share of conversations, protection seen as reverse hatred, the few dolls of a lighter hue that managed to sneak past our border walls who found themselves missing like Indigenous women in Canada. It's funny. This little thing called race, how it plays out from day to day and has us worshiping things that look nothing like us, where the dolls on store shelves are their version of Jesus, and these are the things that are always so much bigger, which is why she forgets cartoons but remembers every detail from Hidden Figures, and some will still see this as nothing. But I saw her desire to become a doctor after watching Doc McStuffins because representation matters. It matters to see yourself reflected in the society in which you live, not as a cliche or stereotype but just as normal and positive, and maybe, this is too much to ask when the fabric of our economic quilt just happens to be anti-Black. Periodically, I will ask, "If you could, is there anything about yourself that you would change?" At 13 years of age, her answer has remained the same: "Nah, I'm pretty awesome." "Yes, you are," I always reply, fist of pride held high beaming on the inside, emanating out, proud that there's one less Black girl who refuses to play and be shaped by society's dollhouse. Thank you.
So, to move things forward, I'm going to, the second poem is going to just kind of look at, you know, for the Black community, an overview of some of the things that we've gone through and how we look at and approach the future. And this is the poem that I was able to remix with two younger artists that I mentor and performed for former President Barack Obama last year.
On your mark, get set. And so it begins on the dark continent of enlightenment, the place from where all history comes, people who are so ahead of their time they were sending text messages when they only had drums. Out of the starting blocks, we were off to an early lead as world travelers and explorers, sharing our philosophies, creating universities and structures that would make the world stop and wonder before passing the baton on to the relays, next runner in the Caribbean Sea, who lost a bit of ground through the Middle Passage and slavery but nobody said that the race would be easy.
So for over 400 years, they continue to run limping through the pain when the cramps will come and it's going to hurt sometimes, but you've got to focus and keep going through the plantations, the lynchings and the hate, even when the spectators in the stands call you other than your name because it is not what we are called but what we answer to that is important. Victory is an uphill climb and we've got to continue to rise like Lazarus, knowing that even the slightest of steps can mean so much. Sister Rosa Parks sat down to stand up so I can't give up as I try to make sense of this baton that's been placed in my hand. Well, I struggle just to be accepted as a man in this world that seems more concerned with whether or not I'm endowed down south and I'm all about being endowed in the places where it counts, in my family, in my community. Because knowledge of self is like a garden: if it is not cultivated, you cannot reap a harvest. Victory will come to those who choose to run the hardest. And it really doesn't matter if you know the secrets because not everyone will believe enough in themselves to do something with the information. No one was made to be a spectator in life. We are all the active participants in the race to fulfill our destiny. So when the baton comes, take it and run because failure isn't a crime but aiming too low is. Because if you reach for the top of a tree, you might never get off the ground, but if you shoot for the stars, you might at the very least get to the top of that tree and I might not get to the finish line with you, but I will continue to strive to carve out my own space before passing this baton on to a new generation of runner, confident in victory because success, it runs in my race. Thank you all so much, and I hope you enjoy the rest of this afternoon's program. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Dwayne. There are, there's so much applause and there's so many snaps coming at you, that people are sharing in the chat box, on their screens. We really appreciate that you were able to be part of this event today. Thank you so much for being with us, Dwayne. Check out Dwayne at dwaynemorgan.ca. We really wanted to create space for different voices and different expressions, you know, this topic of healing is very nuanced, and so we're really, really pleased that we could have a few performers join us for today's program.
That was amazing, Dwayne, thank you.
We're just going to take a few moments, not only to share a little bit about YouthREX with you, but really to share how YouthREX can support your work with young people. YouthREX is a provincial initiative. We're funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and as Cyril mentioned, we are based at York University. We're in the School of Social Work. YouthREX is Youth Research and Evaluation eXchange, and our vision is an Ontario where shared knowledge is transformed into positive impact for all youth. And our mission is to make research evidence and evaluation accessible and relevant to Ontario's youth sector through knowledge exchange, capacity building and evaluation leadership.
Our services and supports. I'll start off by talking a little bit about Knowledge Exchange, what does that mean? Really, as the name implies, we're talking about how do you share knowledge, knowledge coming from research, but also from practice and lived experience? How do we create resources and curate resources that will connect that knowledge directly to youth work practice that amplifies the experiences, the knowledge of youth workers in different contexts and working with different communities? How do we create spaces like today for us to share knowledge? And really, that's what we try to do at YouthREX is to create those spaces. We have an online library, we have other online spaces that we've created to allow for the exchange of knowledge between different stakeholders in Ontario's youth work system, but also, as we know, like, folks are joining us today from all sorts of other places, across the province, across the, across the country. So we have so much to learn from each other. And today, you know, Shawn is joining us from from California so there's lots of opportunity for us to share and to learn from one another, and to really amplify the voices and experiences of youth workers and also of young people.
Absolutely. We also have two other pillars that are part of the YouthREX services. The first one, YouthREX ED, or Education is really the capacity building arm of the evaluation exchange, and so we provide workshops, we have a community of practice that we share, we have a number of certificates. In a sense, right now, most of our work is done virtually. We started to move a lot of our certificates online, as we've been doing for the last few years, and so there's a really exciting opportunity I want to share with you in a minute, but I also want to talk about the Youth Program Supports. So Youth Program Supports are supplying evaluation supports and consultation to grassroots youth sector organizations, for, how much is it, Kathe? I forgot how much our starting rate is. We charge...
Zero. Zero dollars.
It's incredible. So yes, it's free services, everything YouthREX is doing is free for the youth sector. So, please take advantage, check out youthrex.com because you'll find out about the evidence briefs that we've been creating, research summaries that have been created as part of that knowledge mobilization and exchange. Everything is connected, everything is working together to just mobilize information so that we can all do our work a little better. And to support that, around the theme of Black youth wellbeing, we've just launched a certificate. Hopefully everybody here is part of the YouthREX newsletter because you probably just got this a little while ago. We've just launched a four module certificate on supporting Black youth wellbeing, combatting anti-Black racism. This is going to be running from March 1 to March 31. That's the window. Register now. You only have until the 26th of February to grab your seat for this certificate. We have 17 narrated lectures by professionals in the field, dynamic community activists, as well. The reviews are in because we have a pilot and they're great. So I really want everybody to take advantage of being able to engage with this free online learning.
We also have certificates around program evaluation, we have certificates around cannabis and youth. That's also free and running right now if you'd like to take a look, so be sure to check out youthrex.com, sign up for the newsletter, you'll find out more about these opportunities that are offered. So that's all I think that we want to say right now about some of the learning opportunities that we're offering. We do want to get ready for this keynote address that's coming up but outside of the learning opportunities that we're offering, there's also a few platforms that we've built in. And so we've mentioned already the Knowledge Hub, and that's the, kind of like, library repository of information for you. But we also have a couple of different tools and resources. Kathe, do you want to mention a few of these?
Sure, yeah. In addition to the Knowledge Hub, we have an online community board where you can access and share opportunities of interest to the youth sector. We also have REX Virtual Cafe, which is an online platform. You can sign up, create an account, and connect with other youth sector stakeholders, ask questions, share resources and opportunities. We have a blog. We encourage folks to read, to share and to possibly contribute to that space. And of course, our newsletter, as Cyril mentioned. So we know that this pandemic has shifted the ways that people work. It's shifted the needs of youth and families and communities, it's amplified the needs, and so we want to be able to provide the sector with as many resources and supports as possible by making as much of that accessible online as possible, including today's session.
And so with that, I am very excited to be able to introduce Dr. Uzo Anucha, who is not only the Provincial Academic Director at YouthREX, but she's also the York Research Chair in Youth and Contexts of Inequity. This event is being co-presented by YouthREX and the York Research Chair, and Uzo is Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at York University. So I'm happy to welcome Uzo who is going to introduce Dr. Ginwright.
Thank you so much, and I'm really delighted to welcome Dr. Ginwright to today's teach-in on this healing, on his healing-centered engagement model. This teach-in is jointly organized by YouthREX as well as the York Research Chair in Youth and Contexts of Inequity that I was awarded by York University in 2019. The York Research Chair extends YouthREX mandates by developing and undertaking community-engaged research on the experiences of youth, youth workers, and the systems and policies that create and sustain inequitable outcomes for youth and their communities.
Two previous community-engaged research projects that I led, the ACT for Youth project and the NOISE project, actually laid the foundation for YouthREX, and by extension, my current York Research Chair. Both research projects focused on understanding youth in the Jane-Finch community, and they both drew extensively from Shawn's writing on the necessity of his social justice approach in youth developments that recognizes that youth in urban communities experience social, political and economical forces, such as racism, sexism, poverty, zero tolerance, unemployment, that are very toxic to their wellbeing.
Sean's work understands young people within broader contexts - their families, their communities, the systems and structures that constrain them. He recognizes and validates the role of the youth worker, the importance of healing - not just for the young person, but for the practitioner as well. Most importantly, his work with healing-centered engagement sees youth as more than their challenges and trauma. This positive youth development frame is really at the core of our work here as YouthREX and my Youth Research Chair in Youth and Context of Inequity. Healing-centered engagement gives a young person a way to transform their trauma into a story - an important story, no doubt, but not their whole life.
Shawn is one of America's leading innovators and thought leaders on African American youth, youth activism and youth development. He is Professor of Dducation in the Africana Studies Department and a Senior Research Associate a San Francisco State University. Sean is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Flourish Agenda, a national nonprofit consulting firm whose mission is to design strategies that unlock the power of healing, and engage youth of color and adult allies in transforming their schools and communities. Oh, by the way, if you check out their website, they have really cool pictures of their whole team. I'm like, YouthREX needs to step it up a little bit. Shawn also serves as Chairman of the Board for the California Endowment, whose mission is to improve the health of California's underserved communities. We are so very delighted at this opportunity to learn together with Shaw at today's teach-in. Welcome, Shawn.
Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Dr. Anucha. I am so humbled and thankful to be able to share these ideas with you about healing our young people in our society. I want to say thanks to the entire YouthREX team, Kathe and Cyril, your work in making sure that this is going flawless is on point. And brother Dwayne, your words inspired me, your words have lifted me and really reminded me of the importance and the necessity for us to be rooted in a healthy sense of identity for Black and Brown young people in the world, and so thank you for your words, Dwayne.
Today, I want to share with you some ideas about healing-centered engagement. Many of you have had an opportunity to read an article on healing-centered engagement and review my past research and work on healing-centered engagement. And so I want to do three things today. I want to, one, I want to provide a context, like, what, why do we even need healing? What is, what is the, what is healing for? What are we healing from, and why do young people need it?
And the second thing I want to do is really provide some scaffolding and really talk about what healing is, and why it matters in our efforts to transform the lives of young people. And oftentimes, when we are trained, I know, as I was trained as a youth development worker, I was trained that if I had the right curriculum, if I had the right set of tools, that I could actually have an impact on young people. But my experience, as well as the research, suggests that it is not only the tools and curriculum that we use, but it is the adult, the adult and how the adult shows up. And oftentimes in our work with young people, the adults are wounded, the adults have trauma. And so if we are not thinking about healing as a parallel process where the adult, youth, the adults and the youth are in a process of working through their own trauma, then sometimes we recreate the same challenges that our society presents with young people in institutions such as schools and prisons and jails. And so, our work that I will share with you today is really trying to get us to understand a much broader way of thinking about, not just what harms young people, but how we heal young people from exposure to various forms of trauma.
And then, the third thing I want to do is provide some steps, like here's some things that you can do, some takeaways that you can begin to implement in your work, to really begin to infuse and build healing-centered strategies in your work with young people.
I'm going to share my screen. This is the part where I always get nervous because things don't always work right, so just one moment, make sure it's, it's okay here. Okay, I need some thumbs up if we're okay. Just thumbs up? Yay, it works. All right.
So, I want to start off with a story. This is a true, a story that happened to me about six or seven years ago. But I think this story captures, for us, the context that we're in right now, the challenges that we're facing right now in our society, in our institutions. And so, I want to share this story as a sort of a segue into why we, why healing matters. About seven years ago, I received an email from a prison outside, not far from my home, here in California. And the email said, Dr. Ginwright, we have a group of men that have read some of your work - a book I wrote called Black Youth Rising - they read that and it's about Oakland, and they want you to come and speak to them about your work. I had debated whether or not I was going to go and I decided to go out to the prison and made arrangements to go to the prison to talk to this group of 10 men who had read my book.
And so, one Saturday morning, I got in my car and we drove out there and we had arranged for me to be there at about noon. And so I got there at noon, and I got to the gate, and the correctional officer said to me that the men were in the cafeteria waiting for me to come and speak to them. She gave me a set of instructions when I got to the prison. She said, on your way to the cafeteria, you will see colored lines in the hallways. And as you get to those, each of, each door, they'll give you directions on which way to go to the cafeteria to meet the men. So as I entered the prison, the correctional officer said, first follow the blue line all the way to the end of the corridor. And so I followed the blue line all the way to the end of the hallway where I was met with a door that buzzed open, bzzz, and I walked through the door, boom, and it shut behind me.
There's another correctional officer there that said, Dr. Ginwright, I know you're going to the cafeteria. If you follow this red line all the way to the end of the corridor, you'll be near the cafeteria. So I looked at the lines on the floor. And I followed the red line all the way to the end of the hallway, where I was met with another door, that door buzzed open, bzzz, and I walked through it, and it shut behind me, boom. Now, I was met with another correctional officer. And this time, she said, Dr. Ginwright, you're almost near the cafeteria. Just get, just find the green line and take the green line all the way to the end of the corridor. So I found the green line, I walked all the way to the end of the hallway where I was met with the door, that door buzzed open, bzzz, and I walked through it and it shut behind me, boom.
But by the time that third door shut behind me, something shifted inside of me. I began to feel the sense of enclosure and incarceration. I began to feel trapped. I began to feel like, a suffocation. And I began to imagine that those men, what those men must feel like, who I was about to speak to. These men couldn't feel the sun on their face, these men couldn't smell rain, these men couldn't embrace their children, and who am I to go talk to them about anything? And I became deeply insecure. What am I going to say to them, because they can't even experience the basic pleasures of life. And so on my way to the cafeteria, I decided, I took my speech and my papers out and I threw them in a trash can because I didn't know what I was going to say to them but I certainly didn't want to recite to them research that I had done on Black youth. And so as I entered the cafeteria, I finally reached the cafeteria and two doors at the, two big swinging doors. The correctional officer opened the doors. And what I saw inside that cafeteria shocked me to this very day.
I expected to see 10 men waiting for me, and instead of 10 men, there were about 350 men waiting for me in their orange jumpsuits. And they came up, and they were so happy to see me, and one came up to me, this young man, brother, he said, "Hey, Dr. Ginwright, my name is Chris, and I've been in here since 1987." My heart dropped. And another brother came up to me, "Hey, my name is Greg, Dr. G, we can't wait to hear you talk. I've been in here since 1989." And my heart sank. And one by one, these men came up to me and said their first name and the year they entered this place. And each time they did that, I began to have a sense of compassion and humility for them not being able to see their families. And so, the time came for me to speak, and so I came to, they put me up on the podium.
And I, family, y'all, I didn't have anything to say. The speech that I had prepared, I had put away. I wasn't prepared to speak to 350 people, and so I spoke from my heart. I shared with them the challenges that I'm experiencing raising a 6 foot 3 African American 16-year-old boy in Oakland, California, and how I fear for his life sometimes. I shared with them my concern about my aging parents and how it was difficult to be able to raise my kids, but also my parents are aging. I shared with them all of the things that I was dealing with, and I spoke with to them from my heart. And one of the things I said to them is that you are not what brought you here. Whatever brought you to this prison, you are much more than that. And that no matter what brought you here, who you harmed or who harmed you, there's always a possibility for healing. And I said a couple of other things and moved on, and you know, the speech was over and they had to usher me out of the cafeteria.
And as they ushered me out of the, they were ushering me from the cafeteria, I heard a loud voice behind me: "Hey, Dr. G!" And I turned around and there was a brother. He was tall, he was big, and I looked up at him. And he said, "Hey, man, I just want to let you know, the words that you shared touched me. They really moved me. They really, they really reminded me of my own childhood." And I said, "Thank you. I'm glad whatever I said, made you, you know, made you, made you feel better." And he said, "No, I need you to understand something, Dr. Ginwright. In this prison, it's hard living here. When people see me they think I'm a threat because I'm tall. And I got in a fight not long ago, and they cut me in the face." And he had a scar on his face. And I said, "Man, I'm so sorry to hear that."
And he said, "There's something that you said, man, that really reminded me of my own childhood and, and there's something that I do every single day in here because it's hard living in this prison. But there's something that I do every day that heals me." And I say, "What is it that you do?" And he reached into his pocket - and I got a little nervous because I didn't know why he was reaching in his pocket - but he reached into his pocket, and he pulled out a little bottle, and he opened the bottle, and he blew bubbles. And the bubbles floated over my head, and my first thought was, "Did this big brother just blow bubbles in my face?" And then, he said to me something I'll never forget. He said, "These bubbles remind me of when I was a child, and my father used to bring me to a park and put me on a swing, and he would always buy me bubbles. And so when I blow these bubbles, that heals me, it reminds me of a time when I was free. And living in a place like this, I need to have a reminder of being free because it heals me."
And so as I left that prison that day, I was really curious about how do we think about healing? What are our bubble stories? We have just come through one of the most traumatic years of anyone's life. Did we have a bubble story? The young people that have come to your afterschool programs and your classrooms and your Zoom meetings and your Zoom classrooms... Did you give them bubble stories? Did you share your own bubble stories with those that you work with? In other words, our bubble stories are a way or a space that ruptures our ability to, that opens up our ability to heal from the context of racism and homophobia and the fear of COVID.
So what I want to share with you today is what, one, why do we need healing? Just like the man in prison, the difficult context that he lived in, despite that, that he always had a possibility to create some form of healing. And so the first question that I asked is what and when we talk about healing, what is the context? What is the context that we need to understand? What are we healing from? And we all, we all know that COVID-19 has created perhaps one of the most dramatic, difficult contexts that we've ever experienced. The rates of COVID in the United States, I'm sure those of you who are following, are off the charts, and has really dramatically changed not only how we work, not only how we deliver youth development, but it's changed how we relate to one another. Isolation, boredom, the inability to connect with our friends and young people who are, have to be on Zoom or are not able to see each other, we know that COVID has transformed everything that we know about how to deliver quality youth development.
But we also know that COVID has, has revealed the racial inequality that has existed in our society well before COVID. I call it racialized trauma, this notion that, that inequality, racial inequality exists in our schools, exists in our juvenile justice system, it exists in our policing, and that it exists in the, that the disinvestment in health and welfare of Black and Brown communities, and that, that these years and years and decades of disinvestment have created gross forms of inequality that continue to harm our communities.
And the reason I call it racialized trauma is that it is not just blocked opportunities to quality health care, it is not just blocked opportunities to housing or blocked opportunities to higher education. But these disinvestments create harm to the wellbeing of communities, psychospiritual harm that makes it difficult for systems to respond to. And if we're in schools, and we think that young people can learn if we give them the right curriculum without addressing the trauma and trying to restore their wellbeing, then sometimes we reproduce the trauma that young people experience.
And so when we talk about racialized trauma, it allows us to think about a different model to understand how trauma occurs. Some of you may be familiar with the term 'the social determinants of health,' suggesting that there are social issues that determine how, that determine our health outcomes. Well, just like there's social determinants of health, there's social determinants of trauma. That is an important pivot and shift that we need to think about when we talk and think about trauma.
My own training in thinking about trauma-informed care was that trauma happens downstream. In other words, that trauma is, happens in incidences and accidents, and sporadic things that occur. You see someone shot, your father or your, your mother abuses you. The trauma, these are traumatic events. The traumatic events paradigm is what we call a medical model, way of thinking of trauma, that we see trauma as episodic, we see trauma as happening to individuals. But if we look upstream, we recognize that there's a social ecological model, that tells us that trauma is not only, does not only happen through, through, through the medical model. Trauma is not just episodic, but trauma is systemic. Trauma is a result of social inequality that we see in racial bias. It's a, it's a function of institutional inequalities in our schools or nonprofit organizations. And it's also, trauma is a result of the environment that we live in. Some neighborhoods have increased instances of violence, of very, the quality of housing. All of these issues have an impact on thinking about systemic causes of trauma.
And so, one way to think about trauma is understanding the context of trauma. And so when we look upstream, and we see that trauma happens, and occurs through these systems, it allows us to, to name how trauma occurs. I was trained to think about trauma from a term called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How many of you have heard of PTSD? Just raise your hand, I can see all 500 of you. Okay. All right. So PTSD is a term that came to describe the dysfunction of soldiers when they return home from war. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And so what I learned early on in my work with young people here in Oakland and San Francisco, in California, is that there was nothing 'post' about the trauma that they experience. And so if we're thinking about trauma, and if we're using Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a way to describe trauma, then we're already misdiagnosing what young people are bringing to our classrooms and afterschool programs.
I use the term with my graduate students, and in the training in, that we do, in healing-centered engagement. We use a different term called Persistent Traumatic Stress Environment. 'Persistent' because there's no, because trauma is ongoing in many of the environments that young people live in, and it is a stress environment, and that is because the disorder does not exist in the individual young person. It exists in the environment. It exists through racism, it exists through homophobia, it exists in bias, it exists in disinvestments. And so, if you can, if you treat the disorder and you put the young person back in the environment, guess what, they get re-traumatized again. And so the first thing we have to understand is that we have to look at the broader environment as the root cause of trauma that's happening for young people.
When we dig a little bit deeper into the research, James Garbarino, in a book called Raising Children in Socially Toxic Environment, gives us another tool to understand the ways in which the environment, such as, the ways in which racism, homophobia, the disinvestment in communities, harm families and young people. The term he uses he calls 'social toxicity.' Social toxicity, he says, works like physical toxins. If you think about asbestos and lead paint, if you think about, if you had asbestos and lead paint in your home, in your apartment, in your place of work, that if you breathe in asbestos and lead paint over time, it would eventually make you sick. And if you didn't go to the doctor, to get healed from your exposure to those physical toxins of lead paint and asbestos, you didn't go get heal from it, that exposure could eventually be lethal for you.
What Garbarino says is that social toxins work the same way as physical toxins. Well, what are social toxins? Well, social toxins are things like fear, anxiety, stress, disappointment, shame, uncertainty. All of these, all of these things are present in our environment and have a toxic impact on the wellbeing of young people and the adults that serve them, but oftentimes go undiagnosed. And they show up in our classrooms, they show up in our afterschool programs, they show up on our Zoom meetings now, they show up when we're working with young people. But oftentimes, when they show up, we only have one, or teachers usually only use one tool to respond to young people's exposure to social toxicity, and that tool usually is discipline. And if we use discipline, only discipline, as a way to respond to social toxicity, guess what? We reproduce exposure to harm.
I want to give you a quick model that I think allows us to understand the context in a way that presents a framework for us to respond in a healing-centered way. We call this a model to understand social toxicity. So this is Mia, right, and Mia is a youth worker, Mia is a teacher, Mia is a social worker, and Mia wants to transform the lives of young people that she works with. And she works with families. The thing is, is that Mia works in a socially toxic environment, like we all do. What is social toxicity? Social toxicity is fueled by heterosexism and racism and patriarchy and homophobia and white supremacy, and Othering and colorism. And these forms of social toxicity work like toxic rain clouds except this rain gets inside of us. And it gets inside of Mia. And Mia is sometimes, is not aware of how that social toxicity has an influence on her. And as a result, Mia walks around with exposure to these forms of social toxicity. She has ageism and racism and white supremacy and Othering and colorism and all of these things sit in Mia.
Now, what happens is, is that social toxicity has an impact on all of us at three levels. It has an impact on Mia on the individual level. It has an impact on Mia in her relationships at the interpersonal level - who she works with. But social toxicity doesn't stop there. It also has an impact on the institutions, the organizations, the schools, that young people work, live and play. And that social toxicity then has an influence on the values, the practices or the policies of that institution. And then the institution itself then produces its own form of social toxicity, and it goes back out into society and it reproduces itself. So, toxicity has an impact on us individually. It has an impact interpersonally, and it has an impact on our institutions.
So when we talk about the context of healing-centered strategies and healing-centered engagement, we have to first recognize that it is not just young people who have exposure to social toxicity and harm. Trauma and social toxicity also has an influence on us, as adults, as youth workers, as teachers, as social workers, as principals. And so we have to first understand how social toxicity, where it shows up in our work, where social toxicity shows up in the work, in our work with young people. I'm going to pause for a moment, and we're going to chat. And the question is, is where do you see social toxicity? How, if you can give an example, a brief example in chat of social toxicity you've seen in your own life, in your own work with young people and/or your work with young people. If you could take a second to just put that in the chat room and I'll take a look.
So we have child welfare, in schools and in high schools, in poor housing. The way we understand therapy in the health system. Someone said 'everywhere.' We see it with parenting and the police. Well, this is moving really fast. We see it with doctors. We see it in courts, we see it with police. We see it with poor housing. Now, I'm going to ask you a question. I want you to locate social toxicity, a form of social toxicity that you see in your life. We have a tendency to separate what we see with young people. Now I want you to locate it with you. Name a form of social toxicity you actually have experienced, that you have experienced. It could be in your relationships with your mother, it could be a sense of anxiety, it could be fear, whatever it is. You can name a form of social toxicity that you have experienced in your own work and life.
Internalized ableism, relationship with father, ableism, shame, colorism, so-called friends, Islamophobia, sexism, misogyny, good. Sexism. Ageism. Fear and anger towards self. Homophobia. Belief systems. Shaming. Misogyny. Good! Good, good, good. Queerphobia. All right, great. So, all of these forms of, and I'm glad you, and keep coming. Microaggressions, there's a lot, right? Why do I do that? The reason we do this is because in order to provide healing opportunities for young people, and we haven't dealt with, or have no process to identify and deal with our own exposure to social toxicity and trauma, then how are we actually providing that space for young people to heal? So we have to, one, recognize how these things locate themselves in our own work.
And so, we're gonna, I'm going to talk about a pathway or way that we can begin to create strategies for young people and ourselves that provide healing-centered engagement, that are that are wrapped around healing-centered engagement. And first thing is that healing-centered engagement builds upon trauma-informed care, right? We recognize that there are acute episodic forms of trauma, but that, but that trauma, healing-centered engagement takes trauma-informed care to the next level. It takes it to the next level because we're not focusing on episodic trauma, we're focused, we're focusing on responding to the holistic wellbeing of young people.
You may have read the article that, that I wrote on healing-centered engagement, and you may have remembered the story about Marcus and, and the healing circle that I was leading with this group of African American young men. These young men had had experienced all forms of trauma. These young men had experienced sexual abuse, they had experienced violence, they had lost friends. Three of them were homeless. And most of the time, when we met on Wednesday night, in the plastic chairs at the community college, we would talk about their stories of trauma. And as you read, Marcus said, "Dr. Ginwright, I'm tired of talking about the worst thing that happened to me. I am not just the worst thing that happened to me, I'm more than my trauma. I want to talk about the fact that I want to open up a radio, I want to open up a, I want to, I want to create a DJ business. I want to create a t-shirt company. I want to, I want to be able to install stereos and cars." And so as Marcus shared that, and at the time, I was a little pissed off, to be honest with you, because he disrupted my healing circle, or he had disrupted my trauma-informed care circle.
But all the young men, when Marcus said that, began to chime in about their own dreams. They said, "Yeah, I don't want to talk about that anymore, either." And they began to share their stories. They began to talk about what they aspire to be and do. And the entire trauma-informed care circle shifted, and the conversations changed, and at that point, I was not leading a trauma-informed care session anymore. They were talking about what they wanted for their lives. And as I left that evening, I began to think about, well, what is, what is it about trauma-informed care that's missing? And one of the things that I concluded that's missing was that it focused so much on the trauma that young people experienced, and didn't provide a holistic way of understanding their entire lives. So I went back to do research on trauma-informed care and began to think about where can we build from. And so healing centered-engagement is a response that allows us to take our knowledge about trauma-informed care to the next level.
Trauma, so what is healing-centered engagement? Really, what is it, right, so I know a lot of people have talked about healing-centered engagement and people are practicing these healing-centered strategies. I want to say that healing-centered engagement is three things. It's a perspective, which is how we see young people and the causes of harm. It's also an approach which is how we actually support them, but it's also a strategy that we use in our organizations, it is not only a therapeutic response because we're not using only a medical model to respond and understand trauma. The medical model, again, says that this young person had trauma, let me treat this person. Trauma-informed care, while important, doesn't always provide the more holistic way. And so it's a perspective, it's an approach, and it's a strategy that addresses harm and restores wellbeing. It supports the systems from shifting from a culture of harm and discipline and punishment, and confine it to restoration, hope and healing.
So, when we talk about healing-centered engagement, it's an, again, it's non-clinical, and it uses a strength-based approach, tries to ask the question, what's right with you? What are your dreams, what do you aspire to be? What are your assets? We try to focus on what young people's assets are, and build from there. And it provides a holistic view of healing and re-centers culture, race and identity as a central feature of our wellbeing. We know that, oftentimes, identity is one of the first things that are harmed in our society, whether we're gay, lesbian, or trans or queer, whether we're people of color, women, poor, our identities are oftentimes the first things that get harmed in our schools and our afterschool programs. And so, healing-centered engagement says, we have to center that. We have to restore a sense of ourselves, we have to restore a sense of possibility, of, we have to restore our identities of our young people, and by doing that, it means that we have to actually go through a process, so that our identities are holistic as well.
Healing-centered engagement acknowledges how trauma is experienced collectively, it's not just an individual experience. It also says that, as I mentioned before, that, it considers the root causes of trauma that exists in the environment, and not just the individual. And healing-centered engagement focuses on the restoration and healing rather than coping with symptoms, and if we know that when we talk about therapy and respond in therapeutic responses, it is oftentimes focused on the reduction of symptomology. Let me reduce symptoms of anxiety, let me reduce the symptoms of shame, let me reduce symptoms of anger, let me give you tools to do anger management. And while these tools are important, it doesn't always provide the type of restoration as a response to the harm that happens.
So, for example, if a young person is, young person's trauma, is a result of racial harm from the police, right, that we have to use strategies that allow for young people to understand that it is not the cause, that the trauma that they experienced happen, but that their racial and ethnic identities also should be restored. Lastly, healing-centered engagement is an asset-driven approach that looks at the symptoms that we want to foster and support rather than this, rather than symptoms we want to suppress. And then lastly, and very importantly, healing-centered engagement supports adult providers with their own healing. As I said before, how do adults, how can we expect adults who are in front of young people who also experienced trauma and have shame, to support the wellbeing of young people?
I remember working with an organization in California, where they were training, they were training young men of color, adults, these were teachers and lawyers and doctors, you know, men of color to work with young men of color. But the adults had shame for being black. They were, the adults had shame for being Latino. The adults had shame for where they came from. And that shame of their identities had not been heale, and as a result, that shame was then transferred to their, quote, mentoring of the young people. And so, if we are not taking seriously the ways in which adults need to heal and to restore their identities, again, if we're not centering that in a healing-centered process, then sometimes we reproduce the harm for young people.
So how do we do it? I need to make sure I'm not over time, y'all. I'm having fun here because y'all feel like family. So I'm, if I go over time, somebody will just, everybody just go like this, but I'm having fun because y'all feel like family, so I'm gonna keep going. So how do we do it? How do we do it? So, the first way, the first thing we do is we recognize that healing-centered engagement happens on three levels. Okay? It is not just the new therapeutic tool that you use to treat young people that are exposed to trauma. It is a response at the individual level, meaning we have to think about our own healing and the healing of young people. There are practices that we need to engage in as providers, we need to deal with our trauma and have processes, and we work with, at the individual level, with our own trauma and the trauma of young people. Right?Storytelling, for example. What is your story? What is your trauma story and what is your healing story? What is your aspiration? These are tools we use to address healing at the individual level.
Second is at the interpersonal level. We know that trauma doesn't just happen to individuals, right? We're living right now in a traumatic environment because of COVID, because of racial unrest, because of all these things, so our relationships experience trauma. Your teams, the people you work with, the people young people work with. So the second level is to restore the, to heal our relationships, and how do we actually create bonds of relationships, transformative relationships, that actually matter.
And third, is the institutions. Healing has to happen institutionally, which means that we have to have practices, we have to have values, and we have to have policies in the institution that foster wellbeing. And so if we have policies that say you can't take a day off, if we have policies that don't, that are not about, that don't give people mental health days, if we have policies that cause harm, then again, we're missing the mark on creating a healing-centered environment.
So, we use, and when we train on healing-centered engagement, there are principles that we use, and there are five principles that we use for healing-centered engagement, and we call these five principles CARMA, spelled with a 'C,' because it's cool instead of a 'K,' y'all get that? Okay. Just kidding. So, CARMA stands for Culture, Agency, Relationships, Meaning and Aspirations. These are the, these principles are oftentimes the principles that are sacrificed or harmed with our exposure to trauma. So, it makes sense that these principles need to be central in our restoration of healing. These five principles are also supported by bodies and bodies of research that says that when we aim focus on these five principles, we actually rest, we actually create restoration and healing for young people.
So the first, I want to walk through these relatively fast, and then I'm going to make sure we have some time for questions. So the first is culture. Now, culture really stands for culture, race, and identity. And it means that youth and adults are engaged in learning and discovering their respective identities. It means that we're having conversations about race. It means that we're having conversations about what does it mean to be white, and working in a community of color. It means that we engage young people and their stories about their identities. When we, when we focus on the principle of culture, that means that we are creating opportunities for young people and the adults to restore and have a healthy sense of their racial, ethnic, and gender identity. So there are six, again, an effective practice is engaging conversations about identity, sharing experiences when we've been harmed as an aspect of identity. And there is a series of practices that it's important that we use in our discussion of culture, race and identity with young people.
The second principle is agency, and we know that from the research, and from my own experience in working with young people who experienced trauma, that agency, this notion that I cannot act, this sense of helplessness and hopelessness is another part, another significant impact as a result of trauma. So, agency says we have to restore a sense of power and agency. Young, agency is when youth and adults are identifying the root causes of issues and responding to them. The research says that when young people are engaged in addressing issues that affect or have harmed them, that when they engage in that, that gives them a sense of power and control over issues in their lives. Think for a moment that what happened with George Floyd, think for a moment when we saw March for Our Lives, when young people took over Washington, D.C. These are really poignant examples of a traumatic event that happened and a collective response to that traumatic event. That collective response provides a sense of agency for young people to respond to the policies, the practices that actually create the harm. So the second principle around agency is significant, important, and again, it expands our notion of thinking about responding to trauma as only treatment.
Third is relationships. And relationships are about really restoring or creating the capacity to grow healthy connections with others. There are two kinds of relationships: there's transactional relationships, and there's transformative relationships. And those transactional relationships are those kinds of relationships that are a function of our titles. You know, I'm the principal, you are the teacher. I'm the teacher, you are the student. And it means that we have efficiency in our relationships, but we don't actually, we actually haven't created a humane connection. Transformative relationships, on the other hand, are relationships that are cultivated when we share pieces of our humanity, when we're vulnerable, when we share our stories, and so transformative relationships are the kinds of relationships we want to use in our engagement with young people, because they're healing. When young people build trust, when you build vulnerability, when you share something with someone. And everyone, you know, everyone on this, this Zoom has transformative relationships. You know what it feels like when you tell someone something, or when you, when you're vulnerable with someone, or you're vulnerable with a young person, or a young person is vulnerable with you, that that vulnerability gives permission to actually have a closer, more trusting relationship.
The next is meaning, and meaning is about the discovery, the discovery of who we are, where we're going, and what purpose we were born. And meaning is, sometimes when we're engaged in youth work, we oftentimes get into the grind of the day, the grind of the paperwork, the grind of the billing, the grind of the meeting, and we forget why we're in this work in the first place. For young people, this means that we have to cultivate the ability for them to actually have a sense of purpose in their lives. So it's not just going to school, but they're going to school, so that they can actually be a contributor to the world. And when we talk about meaning-making or meaning, we want to identify young people's assets. One of the activities we do when we talk about meaning is we ask them, "What are you really good at?" We have them actually talk about what their assets are, and then we scaffold those activities and assets and focus on things that they're really good at, and things that they want to improve upon. But meaning is a space for us to really engage in building the assets and the strengths that young people bring to our programs and our classrooms.
And then the last is aspirations, and aspirations is the exploration of possibilities. I like to call aspirations our ability to dream. I always say for, to my graduate students, that the most lethal part, or the most lethal consequence of oppression, is not just blocked opportunities, but the most lethal part of oppression is the death of our ability to dream beyond it. What oppression does is that oftentimes it tells us that we can't dream beyond the issue that we, that we're facing. We can't dream beyond racism. Sometimes, for example, when we, for example, while we all need to be engaged in anti-racist behavior, right, the fact that we're naming something, and the opposite of what we want to, what we want to change, still means that we're connected to the phenomenon. It's just like saying that the absence of violence constitutes peace. The absence of help doesn't constitute wellness, the absence of violence doesn't constitute peace. The absence of racism doesn't constitute belonging. And so we have to really think seriously, this notion of aspirations means that we begin to think about our work, we begin to think about the issues, we begin to dream about the society we want to create and the role that young people have in it, in that dream. It means that we create spaces for young people to imagine their lives. The research says that when young people develop a sense of future goal orientation, a sense of hope, a sense of pathways to move their lives forward, that those, that ability to see and engage and move toward the future through their aspirations is, in fact, an important healing element in their healing journey.
And so, these five principles - culture, agency, relationships, meaning and aspirations -are the principles we use in our healing-centered work. I'm gonna give you a couple of quick examples, and then we'll open it up for some questions. I have three examples, but I'm gonna only probably give you one because of time if that's okay. Is that cool, y'all? Everybody go like that if that's cool. Okay, all right, cool. All right.
So, this example is an example of a school in Stockton, California, that they were, their challenge was that probably 50 to 60 per cent of their students came to school with some form of trauma. They had, many of the students were from immigrant families and had significant fear of deportation because of the policies that our state and the national, and our federal government had placed about reporting. They didn't want their, the children were afraid that their parents might be deported, and they came to school with a number of issues, and so the school district only provided one therapist for that school every two weeks to deal with this enormous amount of stress, anxiety and trauma young people were bringing to the school. So, the teachers, the principal came to me and asked what they could do, and the first principle is just start where you are.
And so with it, so what this principal did is, she found a classroom that was abandoned and they were using it as storage, and what she wanted to do is create a sanctuary space for people - not just for the students, but for the teachers as well - a sanctuary space for healing and wellbeing to happen in their school. So they chipped in and got some money and went to Home Depot, they bought these beanbags, and what I call, what I like to call it is, they kind of created a spa in the school. And it's a room where there's diffusers and smell-good stuff, the lights are dimmed, there's soft music playing, and the only rules that they have about this space is that young people, when the students come in, they have to be silent. When the adults come in, they have to be silent.
Now this is just a little act. But what happens is, when they created this space, it gave permission for people to disrupt from the frenzy of a school day. And now what happens is the teachers are able, when their energy gets too high in this classroom, they're able to say, let's all pretend like we're in the spa. When they're in the spa, they're given lessons on how to breathe, how to bring their anxiety down. But it also provides a space for that entire school that sets the tone for the school climate. Now, there are other practices that I, this is an example of something small that can happen in a school that reverberates, that says that creating these healing-centered environments are significant and important in the wellbeing of young people. I'm going to skip past the other couple of examples. I want to skip past, I want to, I want to go to this one. Is that okay, y'all?
So, part of what I've learned over my 30 years of working with young people, is that young people, oftentimes, we are, we provide them with the right curriculum or with the right tools, but we haven't given them the right experience in our afterschool programs. One of the things that we learn to do in my work with young people is provide the power of embrace. The research says is that when we embrace, when we, when we actually, when we actually create the ability for people to hug and embrace and touch, that it actually lowers our cortisol levels. Right? This chemical, it releases a chemical called oxytocin, and oxytocin, if you, for those of you who are science teachers and chemists and so forth, you know, that they call oxytocin the bonding chemical. Oxytocin is the chemical that actually makes it possible for us to connect with other people. And so, in my work with young people, what I've, what we've learned is an embrace allows us to create those kinds of transformative relationships.
This is an image of a summer camp that we used to put on, we still put on, called Camp Akili, young people in our camp are embracing. These are young men and what we learned is that these young men never had the permission to be close to one another. So this is an image of two young men embracing each other. What we found is that once they're able to create that kind of a bond, that when they see each other out on the street or they see each other outside of the context of camp, that bond is still there. And so this notion of embrace, this notion of touch, this notion of being able to really be close is another sort of example of healing-centered strategies. Now, the challenge is, sometimes our policies don't allow for that.
I was talking, I was sharing this slide with a couple of teachers and they said, a teacher shared a story that one, the principal stands in front of the school and welcomes the students into the class, into the school, and she noticed that a couple of the kids were crying, and she wanted to give the children a hug. But the policies of the school in the school district said that she couldn't do that. Now, we understand why that's important. It's important because of, we don't want to re-traumatize or harm kids from embracing them. But we also recognize that when a child needs a hug, or a young person needs a hug, we have to create the space to give them that kind of, that kind of support. So these are just some quick examples of what, of ways that people are using healing-centered strategies.
So what do you do next, and what does it actually look like? What kinds of tools can you actually take from this talk, and begin to think about healing-centered strategies in your work? So we think about healing-centered engagement in these six steps. We're going to start at the first step, which is the bottom level, on individual. And that is to establish a cohort of practitioners. That could be people that you work with, people that, it could be at your school, it could be at your, you know, your afterschool program, it could be in your social work department. But establish a cohort of practitioners who are interested and curious about deepening their healing-centered engagement practices. We don't want to engage in healing-centered engagement isolated. Again, because we have to think about healing-centered engagement in a holistic way. So we form a healing-centered engagement team.
The second is that we began to examine our own mental models. What are our assumptions that we have about young people? What are the stories that I have about my own upbringing? What are the things that I need to deal with? And those cohorts of practitioners have discussions about trauma that they've experienced.
Third, once that cohort is actually having those, is engaged in those processes, then we begin to build relationships with young people. We bring young people in to share their stories, and the adults share their stories. And then we begin to create a community, a healing-centered engagement community, where the wellbeing is practiced by both the adults and the young people in that community.
Fourth, is we have to begin to take an inventory of the policies and practices in our organization, y'all. How do we have a healing-centered cohort, and we're using healing-centered engagement strategies, but the policies are focused on punishment, discipline and coercion. And so we have to take an inventory of the policies and practices that are actually harming young people.
And then, fourth and fifth, we take steps that actually pilot, test healing-centered policies and practices. We have examples of that in our training. And then lastly, we have to evaluate our progress towards healing. What constitutes healing, and how do we actually measure healing? And so, these are some steps that I think are important in our thinking about healing-centered strategies. For those folks that are interested in learning more about the healing-centered engagement, we've created a healing-centered engagement certification, and it's an opportunity for you to do a really deep dive in healing-centered engagement. It's a seven module, self-paced. It's really cool, it's animation. That's supposed to be a picture of me, you know. I think they probably made me look good. You see that, that's supposed to be me going like that in front of the cartoons, right? So, I think it looks cool, I think they doctored up, they made my muscles a little bit bigger on the cartoon than they really are, so.
But that's supposed to be... Each of the modules are led by one of these animated facilitators, and then we have live engagement with our trainers, and sometimes I come and do a part of the training. But the certification is seven modules. It's about 20 to 25 hours. For those who are interested in three units of, continuing education units, you can get units from San Francisco State University, and it comes with an entire workbook and lessons on actually how you take these principles that I've just shared with you and begin to implement them into your work. If you hold up your phone, you'll get more information about if you want to do it as an individual or as a cohort. You can hold your phone up and you'll be able to go to the website and get more information about how to actually begin to take these practices and move them into your work. I want to say thank you for this opportunity to share healing-centered engagement with you. I'm going to pause now because I know folks probably have a lot of questions. Is that cool?
Thank you so much, so, so, so much. I think it would be great if we took maybe a five minute break, just for people to kind of freshen up a little bit. But I do want to say before we go on break that, you know, thank you so much for the teachings that you shared. In the comments, we are hearing, like things are just lighting up, we're buzzing, we're hearing 'big facts,' 'so true,' 'preach,' '100%.' They called it 'eye-opening.' We saw it is deeply resonating, and we're so appreciative of your time and the insight that you shared. I really love in your article, as well, when you said that we should be "saturating young people with opportunities for healing and wellbeing." These powerful words of disruption is going to interrupt us from that discipline focus to making space for dreaming. Beautiful.
Let's take some time. Let's take five minutes just to go and take care of yourself in this five minutes. If you want to just sit in silence, if you want to stretch, if you need to get up and do a little bit of walking, moonwalking, whatever you got to do. Do what you got to do. Five minutes, we'll be back. We'll start with a wonderful performance to bring us back in and then we're going to go right into question and answer period before our community session. So we'll see you in five.
Hi, everyone. Welcome back. We hope that you were all able to take a few minutes for yourselves to reflect on Dr. Ginwright's presentation. Welcome back to sort of the second half of our, of our time together. We are going to sort of kick off this portion of our afternoon with a performance. I'm so, so excited to be able to introduce you all to Kim Ninkuru, who is a multimedia artist from Bujumbura in Burundi, currently residing in Toronto. She uses performance art, installation, video, spoken word and movement to create pieces that give her the chance to explore and express rage, love, desire, beauty or pain in relation to her own body and mind. Her work heavily questions our preconceived notions of gender, race, sexuality and class. It is grounded in the firm belief that blackness is past, present, and future at any given moment. Please join me in welcoming Kim.
Hi everybody, thank you so much for having me. I feel very privileged to be part of this lineup of really great, amazing speakers and to see all these faces in the chat feels really amazing. I'm feeling a little nervous, but I'm feeling really happy to be here. I haven't been officially in the presence of so many people in a long time, so... Or if ever, really. So, yeah. I'm going to read a little poem that I wrote a while ago, and it's something that I wrote, kind of like, to talk about, just how much black women, black young black girls, can be like, erased in a lot of like movements, whether that be black movements or movements for women. And this is a, this is, this is something that I wrote kind of like talking about the digital, kind of like, impact on that because my work is very much like, based on the internet and very much like, works with like, digital expression. So this is kind of like, something to talk about that, and thank you so much for all the comments in the, in the chat box. Bless y'all, bless y'all. Thank you. So here we go. So this is called Black Digital Angels.
A-N-G-E-L, looks like we only live URL. A-N-G-E-L, she also has a story IRL. Am I only allowed to exist when there's a screen between me and you? How many filters must my humanity go through for it to have value? Because it seems like as long as I'm logged in, I am somebody, I am your muse, your goddess, your voice of reason. Somehow my face on your screen causes reflection while my body in the street faces eradication. You scroll through my timelines looking for redemption, liking every pic of mine as if that's how support function. If you gotta lie, please stay out of my mentions. This isn't real life, it's just an application. Question. How does a girl like me live her best life, and I mean her real life, like in real life life. She doesn't. Does she? She does it. In a world like this, the girl like me doesn't get to live her life in IRL. Instead, I only get to give it life and you tell me, you give me life, making it clear that my very existence is for you to consume and you will write, I've been conditioned to perform to be allowed in any room. That's one thing you definitely can't tell me I don't know how to do. It's been my livelihood, girl. Giving you life is literally my livelihood, girl. I literally give you life for living, girl, because if I don't, I'm one more Gone Girl. I post on IG, you digitally frame me as this divine entity that soon becomes a distant memory, wants you out of battery. Inquiry. Do you canonize me online to eat the pain of my potential depth offline? Just asking. Because from the way you proclaim 'Black girl magic,' it looks like you're trying to convince yourself more than me, as if you're trying to hold on to a truth too big, a choice you would rather not see. So you smile in my face to ease the pain you feel, why you killing me? And I'm here, giving you life. IRL a girl like me doesn't know love. Love that comes armed and ready to fight for you. Love that knows what it's doing, love with no questions asked. The type of love I get shows up unprepared as if it's the first time it's coming to class when my lesson was 100 years ago. My love, the love that is mine always comes only with questions. It is weak and doesn't know how to fight for me. Maybe that's why girls like me prefer anger because she's always ready. No questions asked. URL TBH LOL WTF. Like digital angels open up their wings and deeper inside the web fly high high high, screaming on top of their heads. How are you going to show me love without wifi? How are you going to show me love without wifi? What's a girl supposed to do with one more like if more than anything she just wants love in real life? How will you show me love without wifi? URL IRL GIRL. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. This was very fun.
Oh my gosh, Kim, thank you so much. There's so many comments in the chat box, and there's so many emojis flying across people's sceens, thank you.
Thank you, thank you, I really appreciate all the warm, all the warm. Even if I wasn't reading it, I really felt all the love. And yeah, you can follow me on my Instagram. My Instagram is listed somewhere here, @sista_betina, and I am also selling these beautiful, really nice tote bags that say 'Black People's Business' on it, so get you one. The link is in my bio on my Instagram, and you can get one for yourself if you're a black person. If you're not a black person, buy it for a black person in your life, and yeah, they're very practical for your things, and thank you so much for having me here.
Thank you so much, Kim. And yeah, we'll just make sure to share the website and also your Instagram in the chat box.
We are going to now transition into our question and answer with Shawn. Shawn is back, and Cyril and I are on hand, and I know folks have been sharing questions, and we've got, we've got questions coming in through the chat box, so please continue to do that and we will do our best to share. I know that we probably won't be able to cover all of your questions, but we will do our best and to continue the conversation with you all.
And I just say to Kim, that was dope. Digital angels spread their wings. I mean that, that was amazing.
So we have-
So, are you reading the questions, Cyril, or do you want me to-
We have so many questions, in fact, questions that are coming in on the chat box, and we also have people that have sent questions to us in advance.
So we have so much to go through, we'll get started right away. I do want to say though, for people, that we have our virtual community of practice, which means if some of the questions aren't answered here, we can still talk about this topic there, the cafe, but let's get started with a question right now off the bat. One of the questions that we have is specific to looking at some sectors within the, within the Ontario sector and beyond. So, how can we better support youth that are in conflict with the law using healing-centered approaches? Now, this was a question that was sent to us, but we also have some questions that are kind of nested and connected. We have questions about specific supports for youth in care as well. When you're thinking about different sectors, what are some things that are maybe common, and maybe there are some ways that you can speak to specificity of using a healing-centered approach within certain sectors.
Are you talking about adjudicated youth, youth that are incarcerated? Are you talking about young people that have been in, you said conflict with the law, so I just want to make sure I respond appropriately.
This person is, specifically, there's a sub-question asking about supporting young people that have been incarcerated.
But I think, as well, people that have not yet been adjudicated could also-
Sure. Yeah. Yeah. So, and you know, so some of this will be specific, sector-specific, and some of it, you know, will be more general. So let me respond to the question about how do we provide supports to young people who have been incarcerated, or have been in conflict with the law. So, many, first of all, many young people that are, that have engagement with the law, particularly young people in high school, middle school, is a result of something happening at school, right, that is unresolved. I know that in the US, this might be in Ontario as well, in that region, that young people oftentimes come to school with some issues that require the school to either respond or sometimes kick them out of school, right, and then as a result of that, they are hanging out on the street or that they're getting into trouble.
And so, I think it's important, first, for, I think that schools have to be one of the first stops to health and healing. Schools, you know, schools, I know are places for learning, but they also have to be a first stop, like, first stop for healing and wellbeing. And what do I mean by that? It means that when young people get in trouble at school, that oftentimes they lead to greater issues with law enforcement, that it means that we have to not only see, view, understand young people's behavior as needing more discipline. That is, that is the predominant response to young people in schools, they just need to be more disciplined, more coercion. So a healing-centered approach would be, would do a couple of things. One, just like a doctor, if you go to a doctor's office, if you take our children, your children, if you go to the doctor, and you have a disease, or you have symptoms, the doctor is not going to discipline you because you sneezed on him or her. The doctors gonna get curious. Hmm, you sneeze, you're itching, you have a rash here, hmm. I'm gonna, let's try to understand what's causing it, right?
So the first thing I think, what schools need to do, teachers, youth workers, is to get curious about what's causing the symptom that we usually see as troubled behavior or bad behavior. That's the first thing. What is, get curious about what's causing the behavior. Second, is once we have some understanding of that, we have to create the spaces for young people to feel safe to share. Now, sometimes it's challenging to happen in the middle of a school day because there's just so much happening, there's frenzy. There's all this stuff happening. And so, you may want to consider creating that space after school, you might want to create that space even sometimes off of the school campus, if you are an afterschool program. How do you create those spaces - and I mean, physical and emotional spaces, I'm saying both - for young people to talk about what's going on. And then thirdly, of course, and we have to provide them with those consistent supports. So it's one thing for young, for you to be there for a young person, but if you're not there consistently, week in and week out, even when young people are not behaving the way we think they should, the consistency over time will ultimately create a healing-centered strategy.
Thank you, Dr. Ginwright. We have a lot of folks who are asking about the current context that we all find ourselves in, working in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what healing-centered engagement looks like in these circumstances, in these conditions, in these contexts?
This is a great question. That's a really good question. You know, I've been talking to school leaders and educational leaders around the country about how to respond to what's happening right now. And, sometimes I think educators are focused too much on, I don't want to say the wrong things, but not all the right things. So what my experience has been is that many school leaders are focused so much on the learning that needs to occur, and so teachers are feeling frustrated because they have, they're behind on their lesson and they have to cover these topics, and they have to go through the curriculum. Students are feeling frustrated because their computers don't work or their Internet's out, or they, it's boring to be on Zoom, and there's all of this frustration that's coming with learning. But there's nowhere to process the frustration and trauma from learning. In other words, where do teachers go to actually support their mental health and wellbeing in this particular environment? If you're a principal or a school leader, do you have support groups where your teachers can talk about what the hell's going on? About what it feels like to actually teach a class and have your 3-year-old throw Cheerios at you? Right?
Do you have, do you have spaces for the teachers to have some social emotional supports? Second, for teachers who are working with students, the pressure, I know, to go through the curriculum and teach in this environment is, it's unimaginable. And we have to use some of the time to actually hear from what young people are dealing with. Even if you're teaching history, if you're teaching mathematics or science, yeah, we have to go through the curriculum, but just create 10, 15 minutes for the young people to do a social emotional check-in. That social emotional check-in, over time, creates the kind of environment where young people feel safe. Now, I know you have to go through the curriculum, but just creating a space, creating some time in your day or during the class, when you're on Zoom, to just have young people talk about how they're feeling, what's going on in their life. It creates an opportunity for young people to feel safe with talking about and dealing with the stress that's happening. If we only focus on the academics right now, we're really missing the mark around dealing with the kind of stress, anxiety, uncertainty that both teachers and young people and their families are dealing with.
Thank you so much. I think there's so much space that can be made around that question of how can we have more strategic ways to support practitioners and their own healing, and we probably want to get back to that, but I want to ask a question around measures and evaluation, since it's YouthREX. What measures can we use to evaluate whether healing is happening? And should we engage youth in developing these questions?
Great question, great question. You know, I kind of laugh because I was doing a research, doing some research a few years ago, and it was a similar question, which is, what are the dimensions of wellbeing? And we're working with young people to help develop these metrics, and one of the young people say, you know what, I can measure, I know, if we can measure how many hugs I got in a day at school. And I thought that was really interesting. And maybe it is hugs, but I think what that person is saying is, how can I actually, how can I actually feel, how can I actually measure transformative relationships? How many people do I trust in my school? How many? How close do I feel with young people, with with my teachers? How close do I feel to my peers, right? So wellbeing is not a one metric fit all.
I think it's important to do grounded research on this question. What do young people say matters that makes them feel holistic, supported again? What are those dimensions? There's some common dimensions like safety, like vulnerability, like transformative relationships, these are kind of conventional, conventional dimensions of wellbeing. But they're, young people might talk about the ability to be creative, to create a space, you know, how often do they have the spaces for creativity. So there, I think it's important to think about, not only sort of pulling from, you know, the, we have tons of research about psychosocial wellbeing, social emotional learning, and I think that's an important starting place. But I also think it's important to actually create a process, a grounded process where young people are coming up with their own dimensions of wellbeing, and then together create the dimensions that matter for that particular setting.
And I want to, I want to just jump back to the question that Cyril mentioned a little earlier, around, you know, best practices that can support facilitators and practitioners who are working on their own healing.
The question is, what are some of the best practices?
Yeah, yeah, great question. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna answer that two ways. One, just from my own experience, in the work that I've done with practitioners, in working with young people, just, I didn't say this earlier, but I, for years, ran my own youth-serving organization, so. And in our training, a lot of this comes from that training. So I'll talk a little bit about that. And then I'll also talk about, kind of, the research, how the research responds to best practices. So, the first, I think, important thing is that, is to recognize that adults need healing, too. Right? So the youth development paradigm and youth development practice presumes that adulthood is a final product, that is, if you've reached adolescence and adolescence, you go to adulthood, yay, you've reached it, and now everything's great. That is not always true. That is not the best model and paradigm to think about youth development because it presumes that once you reach adulthood, that that's somehow the ultimate, you know, prize. And it says that our growth, development, healing and wellbeing stops.
And so, the first thing is to recognize that adults have experienced trauma, that they brought trauma into their work, they brought trauma into their, into their work with young people. Second is, as I said before, in this first step, is to, a best practice is to create a cohort of willing - like you can't do this, it has to happen collectively, wellbeing as a collective experience. And I know that those of you who are therapists, those of you who are psychologists that are on this call, that's great! But we can also think about collective ways of restoring our wellbeing. So, for the adults that I've worked with, when they are talking about issues of trauma that they came up with, about their, about their racial identities, shame that they have because they have, because English might be their third language or second language and they have an accent, and they have shame around that. Or they have features - thick lips and kinky hair - and they have shame, internalized racism for that. The group setting becomes a way to tell your story, and when you are vulnerable and tell that story, it gives others, it gives others permission to do the same.
And when you're creating that space, now, we're not talking about our jobs, we're not only talking about what we do, but we're creating a space to talk about the things that are affecting our lives, and have an ultimate impact on our work. When we create those kinds of spaces - those are healing-centered spaces - when we create spaces where we're vulnerable, create spaces where we can be, treat each other with safety, create opportunities for us to tell and share our stories. These are the spaces that ultimately over time, our healing centered spaces, those spaces can translate to greater power and greater work with young people.
I know that one of the things that we've done for years, for years in our work with African American providers in California, our very first training, very first training, is we have a whole process that drills down on this activity called "Who Are You?" And the ultimate process of that question, "Who are you? Who are you?" asked over and over again in this activity, it's to get to "I don't know." It's to get to "I don't know" because oftentimes, if I ask you, "Who are you?" You say, "I'm Shawn." "Who are you?" "I'm a professor." "Who are you?" "I'm a social worker, I'm a brother, I'm a this, I'm a that." These are labels that we use to describe who we are. But when we only define ourselves by what we do, or our relationships to others, it doesn't give us permission to actually go deeper. I'm a person that's afraid. I'm a person that's uncertain. I'm a person that is, that's insecure. I'm a person, whatever that is, right? But when we get to that, now, we can actually begin to have real conversations, right? So anyway, am I talking too much, Kathe? I'm sorry. So these are kind of the practices and activities that we use to get people to create those spaces, those kinds of spaces can happen for practitioners, and they can happen for young people.
Awesome. We have some really interesting questions about other approaches that might relate to a healing-centered engagement. What would you say about incorporation of an Indigenous framework, holistic healing? Is there space for incorporating something like a hip-hop education program? How does, how does healing-centered engagement differ or compliment other frameworks?
Yeah, great question. First of all, healing-centered engagement is rooted in Indigeneity and African practices. Like, these are not new. And here's why I say that. It's not new because in West Africa, for example, or in Indigenous cultures, we know that healing and wellbeing is a communal, collective process. It's communal and collective. It means that if I am harmed, my, one of my friends said, it took me a chapter to say this, but he said it like, in two sentences, right? He said, "If I'm sick, we sick. If I'm well, we well." This, so these are principles and practices that are rooted in African ancestry and Indigeneity, right? So these are, that's the first thing. So that's, the concept of healing-centered engagement is not trying to invent something new as much as it is, is to use what what we've already, what we've always had in our ancestry, right? It's to bring that to the forefront.
Second, hip-hop pedagogy is definitely a healing-centered practice because hip-hop pedagogy, if done correctly, is about me telling my story. It's about me telling my story, it's about me telling my story in a way that's honest, that's forthright. And so, if, I said if done correctly, because we know there are some forms of hip-hop pedagogy that can be distorted. But hip-hop as a medium can be a pathway for young people to tell their stories the same way that spoken word can be healing-centered. When a young person can tell their story about being homeless, and what that felt like, and how nobody was there for them, and then that, just by the ability to say that in a poem is a healing-centered practice. So there's a number of things that already exist that can come underneath that category, when healing-centered engagement is trying to make it much more intentional, right? And it also suggests that it's not just, again, I said this probably 15 times now, well, spoken word or hip-hop is important for young people, the adults themselves also should be doing and engaging in those same practices.
Thinking about, you know, you mentioned the individual, the interpersonal, the institutional, someone asked about mentoring programs and how you see, sort of, healing-centered approaches become foundational or being integrated into mentoring practices.
Yeah, I mean, I gave an example earlier about a mentoring program that I worked with that, you know, mentoring is important, again, and I am an advocate of this process called transformative mentoring, and people have different names for it. But the idea is that my relationship with a young person is bilateral, meaning that it is explicit that my benefit and my wellbeing is because you're in my life now, and it is not just the other way around, that I am some, that the adult is some savior to come save the young person from their miserable existence. That is a conventional Eurocentric, very restrictive way of thinking about mentoring.
Transformative mentoring really suggests that, hey, there's a bilateral relationship here, that my, that now that we're in relationship to one another, that I actually benefit, that I actually am a better person because I'm in this relationship with you. And so, but that takes work on the part of the adult. Most of the, most of what I see missing in mentoring programs is the component of adult healing before they get in front of young people, again, because we've been sort of, we've been conditioned to believe that adulthood is this sort of perfect final product, and now that I'm an adult, I'm done developing, and now I can go work with a young person. That's not necessarily so. So what healing-centered engagement suggests is that that relationship is important, but that the adult has to do the work. It's not just upon that young person.
Thank you. We have a few minutes left there. How are you doing for time, Professor? 2:30, I believe, we're going to be ending.
Was that to me, Cyril?
Yeah, it looks like we got a couple more minutes.
Okay, so just the last few minutes. We have so many questions. I'm actually going to throw something out that's been kind of on my heart. Like, I know that we have a bit of contradiction between sometimes, you know, our duty and our responsibility as youth workers, as practitioners in terms of going by the book. You mentioned policy is a really big area, we need to make some shifts and we have that conflict. It's like a battleground, an area of tension where youth workers are also burning out, feeling that can lead to trauma as well. What can you say to people that are, you know, working with young people, but they feel the pressure is actually coming at them from the systems that they're actually working for, that are supposed to be a part of the solution. What are we, I mean, going for policy, you know, is great, but in the everyday, if you get what I'm saying, like, what can we look towards in terms of-
Yeah, thanks, Cyril. You know, I'm gonna, you know, I'm gonna use that metaphor that everyone probably on this Zoom session has heard. When you get on an airplane, you know, the flight attendant says, "In the case of an emergency, the mask will drop and place the mask over your face first and then provide assistance to the child or who, or whoever you're with." Right? I'm sure you've heard that metaphor before. And I think, I think it is apropos for what your question is, and that is, we have to find ways to take care of ourselves. They could be small, small, micro acts of healing and wellbeing on a daily basis. If we do not find those micro spaces, we will then be, we will be burned out and stressed and not good for young people.
So, what does that mean? Whatever you do to rupture the phrasing of the day. I can talk so much more, I'm writing a book now called Pivot, but one of the pivots is a pivot, a shift from an addiction to frenzy and hustle to flow. And it means that we make intentional decisions on a daily basis about our own wellbeing. And I don't like the term self-care because self care presumes that it's a self-indulgent act, and not a right to be well. And it is our right to be well, and we have to claim that right. I believe that our wellbeing is perhaps one of the most courageous acts of justice we can engage in. And so, when we take a walk, and so, when we read, when we read a book, when we light that candle, when we take a nap, when we take a nap, that act can be an incredibly courageous act of justice because it suggests that this, the domination of a capitalist culture has limits here, and that you claim your own wellbeing as a right as opposed to a self-indulgent act.
So there are a lot of ways, you know, that we can practice and not feel guilty about it. Take a nap, take a walk, light a candle, read a book, it can be just 5 to 10 minutes a day, nut it's critically important that we find that space and we find it individually, and we find that collectively with those that we work with. Over time, we need to be, it will create a tipping point in our culture and in our work. So those individual acts have the ability to spread and become much more common in the work with young people. I believe that if we all do that, begin these acts of care, collective care, that over time, it will be part and parcel at a normal process in our work with young people in the world.
Thank you so much, Professor. Thank you so much for the insight. We have people saying, "Where can I get that book?" Like, people need it today. Where's the pre-order, so-
The book is called Pivot. It is not out yet because I am still writing it, I'm writing the last chapter. The book won't be out until the end of this year. But it's about these pivots we all need to make in our lives and work that have an ability to transform our society. So, hopefully when it's out, I will make sure that everybody in your network has the opportunity to go purchase it.
Thank you so much. That brings us to the conclusion of the teaching. Professor Ginwright, we are so grateful for your words of wisdom.
Thanks so much, Cyril. I really appreciate the opportunity.