Community Engaged Healing
Community Engaged Healing
-Written by Equity Advisor Harvey Hinton III, Ph.D.
Community engaged healing starts with you.
Human beings are social creatures by design. This design requires interactions with other humans for survival. Through social interactions, notions of I/me/us/we and them/other are formed. Social systems are created to offer governance of social interactions. One of the earliest social systems, recognized in predynastic ancient Egypt (Kemet), placed value on truth, order and balance, harmony, morality, and justice in community living and was embodied in the practices of the Goddess Ma’at. “Do Ma’at and Live” was a way of life.
Over time, as the diversity of human interactions increases, understandings of I/me/us/we and them/others change. The diversity of mankind, culture and lived experience give meaning to the words coexist, communicate, collaborate, compromise and conquer. Within these meanings are social constructs, ways to name, distinguish, describe and categorize the diversity of I/me/us/we and them/other in terms of ways of being. Social constructs reflect norms and values of the people who create, influence and/or have the power to maintain social systems. The use of social constructs by the architects of social systems impacts the life chances and outcomes for all. This notion is extremely important in places where diversity is easily recognized and associated with privileges and rewards.
Social constructs, irrespective of intent, influence human thinking and behavior. These ideals are adaptable and change over time, in individuals and communities. Still, social constructs do more than create a backdrop for opportunity in understanding the diversity of humanity. Social constructs lend to the development of hostility across differences. Humans harbor social systems and social constructs that create hostility. Hostility can cause harm which can rob individuals and communities of humanity.
Racism and violence are constructs that serve as the root for much of the everyday stress, social inequities, and health disparities found within our communities. Race, although not a biological construct, alters the physical, spiritual, and mental well-being of people. Racism operates overtly, systemically, individually and internally. Similarly multifaceted, violence operates on individual, relational, community, and societal levels. Modern science has noted that the footprint of violence and trauma leaves a lingering impact on DNA structures and stifles brain development. Combined, racism and violence contribute to much human suffering, social isolation, cultural deprivation, incivility and interpersonal distrust. Racism and violence are notable public health issues that have devastating consequences for everyone.
Unraveling the intersection of community racism and violence requires commitments to address widespread harm over time. Harm is a byproduct of systemic oppression. This harm happens as a result of overexposure to social systems that exploit and subjugate. The pervasive nature of racism and violence means harm can happen unintentionally and even be perpetuated by members of communities that have been most victimized. Needed are social systems and constructs that lead each community member to engage in healing activities. Needed is community engaged healing, intentional experiences for self discovery, relationship building, and respite from the stressors of everyday living.
Community engaged healing is the intentional and shared process of buffering the pervasiveness of racism and violence interwoven within society. This is an assets-based non-clinical framework designed for connecting individuals to intentional time, space, and places to engage in respite activities that are restorative, informative, and fun. Community engaged healing recognizes the goodness of humans and human interactions in shaping cultural behavior and well-being.
Here are a few ways that each individual can participate in community engaged healing and start their own healing journey.
Be intentional about your healing.
Take time for healing.
Make space for healing.
Find places to heal.
Learn something new.
Participate in restorative activities.
Be Intentional About Healing
Because harm has happened and permeates our society, community engaged healing begins with an intentional commitment to healing as the intentional priority of each person. Although racism and violence are identified as public health issues, there are no universal measures to protect either from happening. There are no readily available resources for mending harm or offering respite when it has happened. Therefore, it becomes imperative that each person can commit to healing. Moreso, each person can be intentional about being responsible and participate in the reconciliation and atonement of any harm that they may have caused or witnessed. By being intentional, community engaged healing recognizes the goodness of each person and is committed to nurturing the goodness of social connections.
Time is limited, there are only 24 hours in a day. The demands and constraints of a modern stratified capitalistic society make time a luxury. Still, time is an essential component to the healing process, often with more severe harm requiring more time for healing. Given the many ways the historical and endemic nature of racism and violence operate from systemic to even subconscious levels, it is important that each day, people take intentional time for their healing. By making intentional time, one can begin to navigate their healing journey. How much time is needed? As much as it takes. Make time for 15 minutes of laughter, 15 minutes of meditation and 30 minutes of sunlight. Start by making time for yourself.
Our spaces, the ones we create, maintain, attend to, and define offer intentional boundaries during the healing process. Space is needed to provide isolation, immersion, stabilization, or protection. Spaces contain the objects and people that influence daily life. As social creatures, humans learn in spaces from interactions with others and the environment. Racism and violence rob our spaces of the goodness of humanity. When there is a lack of goodness in a space, too much toxicity can occur resulting in many forms of pollution, infection, and disease. Community engaged healing uses space to intentionally inspire nurturing environments and protect the goodness of our humanity. Be intentional about using space in your healing journey. Make space for you.
A place is a specific marker, a reminder or designation of an activity or event. Places contain sounds, smells, visual cues and patterns that impact mood as well as behavior. Places invoke memories and impact how we think about ourselves and others. In systems of normalized oppression and discrimination, places can be reminders of horror, tragedy, and pain. Community engaged healing places are intentional, sacred, purposeful and offer respite and rejuvenation. Community engaged healing places work to absorb trauma from historical marginalization and dehumanization. Places like parks, libraries, and memorial sites are great places to visit. Remember, whatever place you go, there you are.
Community engaged healing encourages restorative activities to find balance and order in our lives. The activity of repairing or repurpose fosters reflection and leads to healing. Restoration requires intentional discovery of goodness. Restorative activities require intentionally discarding pieces that are no longer of use. Healing is nature’s restoration, it’s the way the body resets. Engaging in restorative activities heals you.
Learning something new feels good. When humans engage in learning new things, dopamine, the chemical in the brain that controls reward-motivated behavior, is produced as our brains crave information. Participating in informative or learning activities is a form of healing that not only makes our brains healthier, information is also a tool to navigate social systems and constructs that include lies, misinformation and deceptions that have been used to manipulate the minds of people for ages. Community engaged healing encourages information sharing to enhance our collective consciousness and community knowledge base. By intentionally learning new information, stimulating the mind is the catalyst for healing the body. Learning new things feels good. Remember to be intentional about your self-discovery, begin with learning something new that interests you.
Being amused and enjoying it is having fun. Fun leads to laughs and laughs lead to joy and happiness. As babies, child-like play is a stimulant to human growth and development. Play builds imagination and creativity. Over exposure to violence and racism can lead to depression and trigger anxiety. Doing things that are fun refreshes the mind and body. Community engaged healing is anchored in shared joy, cooperation and individual happiness. Laughter is nature’s medicine. By engaging in fun activities, we are able to relieve stress and build bonds and relationships. Our brains don’t need a joke to laugh. All that is needed to laugh is intentional fun being had by you.
A community is a group of individuals who share a common identity. Each person is a member of the community and membership is not limited to one community. Some communities are formed by individuals with like minds or causes, others are formed by grouping of characteristics or other arbitrary identifiers. The dynamics in our community, the ways we act and feel have been negatively impacted by racism and violence. How do we address racism and violence as issues that impact us all, irrespective of our preferred communities? Humans have unique lived experiences that are all pathways to enlightenment and expanded notions of I/me/us/we and them/other. Each person can be intentional about their healing. Community engaged healing begins with you.