The team above just completed a four-day Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute Immersion (ESII) in Washington, DC led by adrienne maree brown. The gathering was comprised by design of 65 mostly local, mostly Black Femme movement engaged practitioners of Emergent Strategy.
One of many patterns that emerged again and again for the seven facilitated small groups that stayed together throughout the Immersion was the challenge of keeping the focus on Black Femme wisdom. My understanding is that this was experienced by most of the groups to some degree, but I am only reflecting the learning from the perspective of an ESII facilitator for the group with more white people than any other. Almost half of our small group were white women (socially identified, although two of us identified with ‘they’ pronouns). We were among the nine or ten movement engaged white people chosen by the local hosting team to join the DC ISII. Even so, none of this conscious gate keeping or individual practice could entirely keep out our original immersion in whiteness. Instead, we unconsciously reinforced each other’s whiteness-training even while consciously trying to do everything we had been taught about undoing it.
Our white-performance was quickly named during the first day when a Black Femme identified member of our small group said something like “as usual, the people of color are holding the emotion and the white people are anxiously trying to get things done.” White supremacy urgency, fixing, solving and planning was our response to the privilege to practice in this gorgeous, emergent, liberation space. We had metabolized the ‘you are the chosen white people’ as pressure to show off why were worthy of it. This clear and strong reflection of our pattern shifted us, slowed us a bit. We were then able to drop some of the urgency, experience discomfort and be open to what could emerge.
Over the four-days, our group was able to whole heartedly fulfill the quest that we were given to co-create and co-host a 45-minute activity that embodied the Emergent Strategy principle non-linear and iterative change for all 65 participants. Our activity began by a Black Femme group member inviting all to release grief into joy through dancing to an African song with cathartic singing and drums. We then asked “who do you need to heal with?” and invited folx to volunteer to host conversations in response. A white person in our group invited white people to heal with each other. We gathered, struggled to get started and deepened this conversation a bit. (Notably, we did not wrap the 30-minute conversation by making a commitment to continuing to heal with each other or to stay in touch in any way.)
A huge lesson from this four-day Emergent Strategy Immersion was new clarity of the privilege of being invited into a consensual practice space. What if white people entered Black-led (and all mixed spaces) with excitement in our bodies for the gift of practice space? What if white people who have the privilege of being in spaces led by BIPOC accepted that we are practicing for everyone, rather than to be one of few who get it right? What if we approached it like an opportunity to practice, learn and grow rather than focusing on showing up fully baked? In fact, emergence requires us to show up as part of the magical ingredients, not as the activator.
is about getting unstuck and trying something new with you.