Reflections on Beloved Community

Recently, Jill participated in the Transforming Communities: Technical Assistance, Training and Resource Center discussion on “Beloved Community.” Participants talked about what Beloved Community is and how to build it among domestic violence service providers, advocates and survivors. Below is the article Jill wrote after this discussion:

ImageI was so honored to be asked to take part in a conversation about ‘Beloved Community’. I
didn’t know what to expect, but was excited to take part all the same. Right away I was
impressed by the group, and being surrounded by the supportive energy of anti-violence
workers, hearing their stories, learning from the breadth of experience in the room made
for a rejuvenating day.

As our time together progressed, I embraced my vulnerability which helped me define the
term ‘beloved community’. To me, beloved community is all about feeling safe to create
space where we can feel supported, be transparent, and focus on innovation in the anti-
domestic violence field. I also connected with the complexities that come with community.
Regardless of whether or not we have shared goals, when we take time to communicate we will
find that we have different ideas on how to achieve those goals. To me, this is an exciting
aspect of anti-violence work, and a pivotal component in social change. Being a part of
beloved community, however, makes it safe for us to embody these complexities as we respect
the uniquely beautiful aspects of human relationships, regardless of the context that
brought you together and the role(s) you play in an agency (Executive Director,
participant, advocate, survivor, sustainer, etc.). Strong human relationships enable us to
assume the best of intentions and actively listen, even when we don’t initially take
comfort in what’s being said.

A recent event W.O.M.A.N., Inc. organized, our Doggie Walk, helped me realize that we are
engaged in building and sustaining beloved community. Advocates, survivors, community
members came together with their dogs for a meetup in Dolores Park. What made this event
fun was connecting with people outside of our typical roles and building human
relationships. The fact that dogs were there helped break the ice, and we didn’t go
straight into talking about work for a change. It is the first time I can remember having
conversations with people I’ve known, in some cases for years, about something other than
anti-violence work. We spoke about our households, families, interests outside of work,
amongst other things. It became clear that building beloved community is nothing but
positive. It strengthens our work when we can come together, and it makes us happier as
people. We also got to connect with survivors of domestic violence on a different level. We
weren’t talking about trauma, we were happy together, walking our dogs, laughing, eating
lunch, building beloved community.

W.O.M.A.N., Inc. plans on having more of these events in the future. It gave us the
opportunity to spread the word about the correlation between pet abuse and domestic
violence and offer sample pet safety plans via handouts, which is important to an office
full of animal lovers! However, its no accident that it was one of our most well attended,
positive events ever. It was positive and fun, and our human relationships were stronger
than ever. With this sense of beloved community, anything is possible.

~ Jill Zawisza, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Executive Director

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