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Diversity & Decolonisation Circle: Our Transformation

After three intense and generative years of weekly meetings, the small group of Deep Adaptation Volunteers who convened the DAF Diversity and Decolonising Circle have shifted to new roles in Deep Adaptation and wider global projects around decolonising, antiracism and diversity. These volunteers have decided to dissolve the small container initially created for these conversations: the D&D Circle. You can read their full statement here.

In this blog post, former members of this circle have decided to share some of the important insights and learnings that have occurred for them as a result of their involvement in these activities. This text might be updated with more contributions as time goes by.

“What being part of this Circle since 2020 has meant to me”

Sasha

“How did we get so far into this predicament?” That was the question on my mind when I began my journey with Deep Adaptation. I found answers that made sense to me through conversations in the Deep Adaptation Facebook group. In several lively threads, the belief was put forward that the numbness that allows us to be complicit in unchecked Ecocide, is the same numbness that allows us to be complicit in racism and other systemic oppressions. Thus, doing anti-racism work can be one of the most effective ways of “embodying and enabling loving responses to our predicament.”

For that reason, I decided to help found the Diversity & Decolonising Circle in Deep Adaptation. There was strong support for anti-racism work in the leadership group, and through the Circle we offered anti-racism training to every volunteer. In all 32 people took training led by Nontokozo Sabic.

That training changed my life for the better. It also made me aware of the profound work it takes to impact the deep-seated patterns of systemic oppression. As Nontokozo would say to us when we felt discouraged, “this is generational work.” She also says, “racism is learned, and it can be unlearned.”

The work is at times deeply uncomfortable, but what remains is a greater sense of freedom, compassion, and ability to connect. It can feel threatening to look at our own complicity in some of the worst situations playing out in the world today, but one of the strengths of Deep Adaptation is our commitment to look difficult realities in the face.

Dorian

This circle has been instrumental to my (un)learning, on many topics. Our regular weekly calls, our monthly learning circles, as well as the workshops and trainings that we organised, have very much deepened my awareness and understanding of the intricacies of the systemic harm and historical injustice that are interwoven into the fabric of our lives. These are extremely complex and painful themes, so I felt very grateful to be able to count on the support of a circle of friends to explore them, which helped prevent me from feeling overwhelmed and unable to keep going. I now feel much better equipped to face this unrelenting reality and history of trauma, within and outside of myself, and to do what I can to reduce and repair the harm it has caused (and keeps causing).

The circle has also helped me to better understand the transformative power and the challenges that come from the energy of conflict. I experienced myself becoming more willing to lean into this energy when it occurs, “sit in the fire,” and seek ways of unearthing insights and deeper sources of trust from interpersonal tensions. It is by no means an easy thing to do, and I still have much to (un)learn.

In both of these areas, I found that there is much that a leaderless/leaderfull, self-organised group like the D&D Circle can do in order to set conditions that will enable everyone to stay with their discomfort and maintain relational integrity, even when tensions arise. For instance, introducing “hot spots” rounds, which enable people to express their misgivings or frustration, can be liberating, foster empathy, and help prevent tensions from escalating. But I also witnessed the importance of occasionally bringing in external, experienced facilitators – be it in exploring triggering topics like anti-oppression work, or on conflict transformation – to hold containers for difficult conversations.

Wendy

I joined the Deep Adaptation Forum around the same time as the #BlackLivesMatter movement was really active globally, especially after the murder of George Floyd in the USA. Collapse of social structure, and breakdown of community supports are very visible in Black and communities of colour, globally, and it felt important then as it does now, that as a white woman with a lot of privileges, my journey to collapse acceptance wasn’t just about my own trauma, and comfort, but about living into the practise of the “Love in Deep Adaptation”.

Sasha and I initially connected at a meeting hosted by the DAF Core team – “Strategy Options dialogue” – sharing concerns about BIPoC (Black, Indigenous and People of colour) access to, and comfort participating in, Deep Adaptation forum spaces. We formed the Circle specifically to work on making the DA spaces and platforms more welcoming and open to a larger diversity of people, a theme offered by Katie Carr early in the project : “Making DA spaces safer for BIPoC”.

The last 3 years I have been deepening my understanding of the complexity of my own role in, and global impacts of, racism, lack of diversity, social injustices, colonisation,  and silenced stories historically and now. The Circle members participated in regular weekly meetings (almost without a gap for 3 years) as well as a monthly community meeting on these topics, I also attended antiracism trainings with Nontokozo, Calling In/Calling Out education through Loretta Ross’ organisation, online training with Vanessa Machado de Oliveira (previously in the DAF  Holding Group) on Hospicing Modernity, conferences with specialists like Yin Paradies, an aboriginal scholar, and so much more – Circle members constantly shared learning resources, links, book names, blogs and people to follow.

I have much to unpack in my own prejudices and “inner” colonisation, it feels like I am only on a first step of this journey,  as we formally dissolve the small Circle in order to continue this work in a much wider sense throughout the Forum. Even though I know I still have a lot to learn, I found huge value in participating in a “community of practise” – our group of “learning citizens”, curious about a topic and prepared to meet regularly, and really listen, and support each other (which sometimes requires calling them in, or even out) to change and grow.

In our regular Monday meetings we tested and developed really useful tools for this kind of deep work some of which have been replicated elsewhere in the forum – always “grounding” ourselves in our bodies and in space, before starting, always checking in and out to keep a focus on personal relationship, always alternating “host” and “timer” and “notetaker” and other roles, between us, introducing “Hotspots” as a safe space in meetings, to identify and speak about anything that jarred or was difficult during the meeting so issues didn’t get buried, or carried across meetings, attending regularly, excusing ourselves if we couldn’t, and staying the full 90 minutes in respect for each other.

We were hugely supported through those many meetings, by Nontokozo’s presence as Ubuntu consultant, and her advice and feedback. 

The deep connection we formed didn’t exclude deep complex personal disagreements between us, and staying present in the Circle created an opportunity for some of us to do conflict transformation work – which has been life changing for me, and resulted in a deep friendship I probably would not have without that initial conflict. 

I also gained a friend in Martin Abumba, a very special young man who runs a community project in a refugee camp in Kenya, through the Solidarity project which was initiated through the Circle, a life affirming teacher of how to show Love in collapse.  The Solidarity project continues as a monthly community meeting. 

Authors: DORIAN CAVÉ, SASHA DAUCUS, WENDY FREEMAN

Photo: Cat Jenkins, The Pillars Are Collapsing

Collaboration, diversity and decolonising, grief, group processes, racism, white supremacy

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