I have been home for about two weeks since attending the Social Justice Training Institute (SJTI)_ in Springfield, Mass. Now, if you are not familiar with SJTI it is simply impossible for me to explain and for you to truly grasp the impact of the institute. For those of you who have experience SJTI, then most of what I am writing will make since. As described on the website, SJTI " provides a forum for the professional and personal development of social justice educators and practitioners to enhance and refine their skills and competencies to create greater inclusion for all members of the campus community." This description by no means prepared me for what I would call a TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. To summarize a small group of professionals (most in higher education) get in a room and talk about race, our racialized experience, how we have been socialized, the messages our families, churches, media taught us, how that impacts our relationship with others, how that impacts our work as professionals, how it informs how we "show up" in spaces, but for me I was truly able to explore how much pain people were in, that I was in, and acknowledge that so completely it became quite difficult to "reenter" the world.
Imagine this, that big old elephant in the room that no one sees... well you see it, and it follows you everywhere, and sometimes it sits on neck and sometimes it just stares at you. Now imagine that elephant is race, or class, gender, sexuality and you walk in through the world knowing that at any moment it can sit on you neck or just stare you in the face, but as always... no one wants to talk about the elephant in the room.
SJTI gave me the opportunity to explore the elephant I have been ignoring for so long, maybe even forgot was there. My mixed-race self, my blackness, latin@ness, even at times my womanhood (though the conversation was focused on race). I wont delve into all of that because it really isn't the point of this post.
I want to honor the individuals I had the great privilege of meeting, laughing with, crying with, hugging and loving during SJTI. I saw a post, or wrote a post- can't remember...but it said something like "God has to take some things you think you want out of your life to make room for the things you need." Now, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of the universe and I truly understand that the purpose of me going to SJTI subsequently getting my heart broken was so that I could be in this amazing space around people who would allow me to heal all of my wounds and explore all of my pain. I was able to focus my energy on redeveloping my HEART around people who were on this journey with me, not only SJTI but in life.
Do you ever think that you have people out their whose lives, mission, purpose, commitments, are directly in line with your own and you just haven't met yet? Well, they are out there, they are family, members of my tribe and while I did not yet know their names previous to attending SJTI, I knew the existed. It is so amazing when you find them and how they each take a piece of you with them on their journey... I feel my own spirit is moving across the world through them and I hope they feel the same.
My SJTI family: I draw my strength from your stories, I draw my courage from your vulnerability, I see your faces in my sleep, and hear your voices throughout my day. I love you all. You changed my life. You helped me heal. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
(and now I'm crying in my office)