Iowans Thrive Blog
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Following Dr. Shawn Ginwright’s presentation on healing-centered engagement in May, Iowa ACEs 360 hosted a panel of Iowa leaders who shared what stood out to them about Dr. Ginwright’s principles and how those principles can be applied to work with youth.
Healing-centered engagement is a term Dr. Ginwright coined to describe an asset-based culturally rooted approach to collective healing and well-being for young people and their adult allies. These concepts are shaping the way we think about the work of responding to ACEs and promote well-being.
The panel was moderated by Kayla Powell, NYTD and Youth Development Coordinator with the Iowa Dept. of Human Rights and featured the following individuals:
Here are some of their comments made during the presentation:
What are your biggest takeaways from Dr. Ginwright’s presentation?
Powell: “Healing centered engagement builds from trauma informed care with more attention to advocacy, self-reflection, dismantling white supremacy, youth partnership and system change. It's about not simply just responding to trauma, but healing from it.
Muhammad: “Young people are more than their trauma. And those of us who are working with young people, providers, parents in whatever capacity that it is, we have to begin to create spaces of healing and restoration. But in creating those spaces, we have to first start with ourselves in our traumas, and then began to focus on the traumas and the healing of the young people and their families.”
Deason: “Especially with the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID, those are traumatic experiences for a lot of people, and so to actually see how healing is taking place is really interesting.”
BenÍtez: “Sometimes we have stop speaking and we have to listen to the youth, listen to their dreams, listen to who they are as individuals. … We have to acknowledge each other's dreams, because we can't just relive our own trauma; we have to also keep going forward and keep achieving our dreams.”
Her: “I'm a first generation American. My parents came as refugees in the late ‘70s. One of the things that always resonates with me is this burden of having to know it all and be okay. In healing-centered engagement, it's acknowledging, ‘Oh, I have shit I need to work on. I need healing too. And I don't have to know it all to be able to do the work well.’ I think that's a really humbling thing, because it allows us to be in the same space as young people and say, ‘Hey, I'm not better than you. I'm healing too.’”
What do you find empowering about healing-centered engagement?
Deason: “Healing-centered engagement is a way to re-center culture and identify as a central feature in well-being. … I spent a lot of time in primarily white households (in foster care). Even my family that I'm with now, I'm the only person of color. So having someone that looks like me, someone who you know has access to the types of foods that are a part of Black culture, having someone who knows how to handle Black hair, Black skin, Black issues, Black trauma, that's important. … I think moving forward, putting culture back into the work is going to be a big part of how healing is going to play out.”
Her: “If I ever came across healing-centered engagement, I think my relationship with my parents would look so different. Knowing that my mom and dad haven't healed from their trauma, and that their trauma is now my trauma—that it's the cycle of generational trauma—I can end that cycle now by starting this healing journey, so that my kids don't have to go through this process. … Healing-centered engagement is great as a practice for who you serve, but it's so much more than that. It can be empowering in your own life.”
Why do you think it's important to evolve to healing-centered engagement?
BenÍtez: “This is really important to continue to bring communities together, because at the end of the day, it takes a village to bring someone back into the community; it takes support to bring people back, so they can also help other people.”
Her: “You can't do better unless you're willing to change and transform and evolve. And sometimes the first step is acknowledging, ‘Wow, I have to transform. I have to change.’ And it's a good thing, because now I can connect with someone and say, ‘You're not just your trauma. You're so much more than your trauma—the way I'm so much more than my trauma. So why don't we go on this journey together? Because my healing is contingent of your healing. Your healing is contingent on my healing.’ And then we get to this community effort of saying, ‘Yep, we got each other's back.’ And that is rooted in equity. It's rooted in justice. It's rooted in inclusion and saying, ‘You belong here.’”
How does healing-centered engagement go beyond trauma-informed care?
Her: “I think what changed for us was as a staff team, as a family, we're like, how do we bring in what's true to ourselves, so that we can support each other, not just at ArtForce, but holistically in our real lives, because we're real people. And then that was a great way to trickle it down to this is how we serve our youth to where young people can have this safe space where they can create and where they can say things that they can't say somewhere else.”
Muhammad: “Dr. G talked about social toxicity. And so, when we talk about trauma we talk about ‘It's not what's wrong with them; it's what's happened.’ They’ve witnessed domestic violence, drug addiction, all those things. But no one wants to go a little bit further and look at other issues that create stressful environments for young people, such as poverty, white supremacy, ageism, homophobia. We have to address those issues. And we have to create spaces for young people and we have to change our relationships with them.”
Deason: “I had a biological mother who was very physically and mentally abusive. On top of that, I was caring for my two younger siblings, basically, from the time I could walk and talk. So one thing Dr. G talked about was, we need to have these spaces where people can heal outside. I went to school and I excelled. I did amazing in school. But then I went home, and I was back in this trauma situation where I was being beaten and I was being in a parent role when I was six. I think it's so important to have that space, like school, where they address my trauma. It allowed me to excel and be a better person.
“I had so many family members, and so many social workers and teachers that recognized that I was being abused, and just kind of went over it. And so, as part of my healing, I can't be angry with those people, but I have to recognize that I need these people to help me heal. It's so important for all of the community to come together to heal people … My mother was a young mother. … She already grew up in a toxic household and then she brought that into her parenting. She didn't have those people that surrounded her to be like, ‘This is how you should be a mother. This is how you grow to love your children.’ … When there's no community response to trauma, we're failing, because we're just continuing to let this happen over and over again.”
What does healing-centered engagement look like in practice?
Her: “It looks like people coming together and validating each other's experience and being vulnerable and understanding that you might not be there yet.”
Muhammad: “Healing-centered engagement is cultivating connections. It's restoring. It’s restoration. It's providing hope and action. And it's moving away from punitive and punishment and judgment. … We don't have to fix people. We just have to stand with them and align with them. And recognizing the value of belonging, because none of us are going anywhere. African Americans ain't going nowhere. Whites ain't going nowhere. So, we need to create environments in places that everyone feels safe and comfortable. And we all need to heal because everyone's story and journey is different. … I'm a mom. I lost a child. I have some trauma and I need to be healed. And when I go to work every day, I see my son, and every young male student in the high school that I work in, so I have a responsibility. I've already lost one; I refuse to lose any more, because they are my children.”
Deason: “I think back to when I protested (with the Black Lives Matter movement). Protesting with those people night after night after night was probably one of my proudest moments. … And not only was it allowing me as a young black woman to use my voice and to speak up and to have a platform, it was an opportunity for all community members to feel the trauma, feel of the pain of people of color, and what we experienced. … It's being able as a community to come together, so we're not doing this the same.”
BenÍtez: “I've also been protesting, especially last summer. I was out with my generation speaking our voice every single night, every single day. … I remember this one night, I got detained. … I was running in fear, because they were beating my friends and I was running, because I didn't know what else to do. And I remember there is this officer that stood right in front of me and pointing his gun on my head and I had my hands up and then I was being arrested and having asleep on the floor, detained. There's 17 people in the room. And I remember thinking that we need to take action. We need to continue the motivation of engaging young people and engaging in what are the problems and how can we better ourselves. Transformational relationships are the key to it. … We cannot repeat the process.”