As I near the end of February, though it’s the shortest month of the year, I appreciate that it’s been crammed full of opportunities to learn about, acknowledge and celebrate justice seekers. It’s the month when we’re encouraged to learn about the richness of the African American experience; of those who chose to risk, who were resilient in the face of danger and death. Although it’s impossible to imagine one month containing the richness of our various cultures and identities, February feels special because it allows me to appreciate the gift of ‘love for social justice’ that’s in our DNA.
It’s inspired me to create my Top 5 Gifts of Social Justice that, unlike chocolates, don’t have expiration dates and can be used now and through the months ahead:
1) I give the gift of understanding and appreciation for the significant commitments we make daily, even when we’re weary and don’t see significant progress toward our goal. After decades in the pursuit of social justice, I’m reminded that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all of our work is valuable, necessary, and must continue if we’re going to build and sustain grassroots leadership that challenges and changes systems for the benefit all in our state.
2) I give the gift of giving: You may say, ‘well of course I’m saying that since that’s my job.’ But I’m talking about paying it forward, knowing that even my small gift, when joined with others, builds a much larger pot. I used to think that my donations couldn’t possibly make a difference; that I only had my time and talent to offer. Now realize that every gift, every donation to the cause of social justice is another dollar toward achieving it. And, I it feels so good I feel when I realize that I’m a social justice investor, a philanthropist; that I’m contributing to achieving real justice for all.
3) I give the gift of integrity: Although I know it may feel risky, when I refuse to allow others to demonize any one of us because of our age, abilities, skin color, sexual orientation, finances, zipcode, country of origin, or religious expression, I’ve taught a new, powerful lesson about human dignity. And, like an innoculation against the flu, it takes awhile for justice serum to be effective.
4) I give the gift of patience: It’s often a fleeting, sometimes hard to harness quality for me. I’m talking about the type of patience that helps me see that the results we seek may not be packaged in a tidy business model, may not be easily charted like returns on investment and must, of necessity include qualitative and quantitative data, since the movement toward justice tracks differently than nuts and bolts, pluses and minuses. I believe, too, that the payoff – in human dignity, equity and inclusion – is the real gift, the triple bottom line.
4) I give the gift of humility: I realize that though I strive to be progressive and just, I often find that my aspirations cause me to be impatient and incosiderate in trying to ‘get it done.’ I know that it can cause even the best of us socially-just practitioners to run roughshod over those we deem less progressive, less in sync with “the people,” and we can be intolerant of those we feel don’t get us, don’t speak our language, don’t have our sense of urgency.
5) I give the gift of celebration: of those who are willing to stay the course, to do the heavy lifting to move institutions, governments and individuals to examine their policies and procedures, to name ‘racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism and ableism’ for the barriers they are to real inclusion and opportunity; to to do more than spout the rhetoric, to work to really do something to eliminate it. I celebrate the work to achieve justice and those who are justice seekers.
It’s February, I encourage you to continue to get out there, to make your own list and keep on giving gifts of social jusitce.