It feels apparent—but it also reveals to me how accustomed we are in some ways to the suffering of poor and working class people, and the suffering of Black people in particular. So, sometimes these questions of how we heal and how we change can feel flimsy to me against that violence. And not to bring us down but to really ground us—we are in chaotic times generally: over one million deaths from COVID; the fascism that is gaining traction in our country making its intentions toward our bodies and our lives clearer and more realized each day; and climate change and war posing existential threats to all life. All of these, I believe, make it more and more critical that we deepen into and understand these questions.

I’ve been doing movement and social change work for two decades now. I started as a not very good organizer. But I was brought into abolitionist work and transformative justice models and frameworks, which pushed me toward imagining a world without prisons—which, if we take that a step further, had me think about and understand and feel into the question: If not a system that logically ends in prisons, what might we then build? If prisons and the carceral system became illogical to us, what institutions might we create? What might our communities look like? What might our relationships feel like? How might we be different with each other?

So, that’s how I began my work around healing. Those questions led me to explore healing as a necessary component of social change, and I have been doing this healing work inside of movements ever since. I became a therapist—I became a politicized somatics practitioner—and I have been supporting trauma- healing political formations to understand the role of trauma and how it can impede our best efforts toward social change. And I recently founded an organization called The Embodiment Institute, where we are practicing building more just, embodied, relational habits with one another.

So, why is this important for social change? Why is it important that we’re talking about this? In all of these spaces where we are attempting to cultivate and inspire social change, we still often find internal transformation reinstituting these capacities of safety, belonging, and dignity—of strengthening complex human relationships—mysterious. Mysterious, accidental, random—we don’t understand it. But I believe— and what I’ve seen through movement—is that where our wounds are unaddressed, where our own story is not understood, is exactly the same place where the fractures in our organizations occur and the fractures in our movement occur.

Read the full article about healing in social change work by Prentis Hemphill at Nonprofit Quarterly.