Healing Justice Is How We Can Sustain Black Lives

We are literally – not figuratively – in a fight for our lives.

02/07/2017 10:54 am ET

Right now, those of us most vulnerable and least protected are under attack and whole communities―Black, Muslim, disabled, queer, trans, and women-identified folks are being targeted in the streets and in legislative halls. The threats are real and calculated. And the attempts to shore up the institutional correlation between the right to live and able-bodied, white, monied maleness is dangerous and deadly for the rest of us. We can’t overstate the impact that the outright plunder of hard-won rights has on our lives and the lives of those around us.

As this new political and material reality is unfolding, many of us are struggling with our own well being and witnessing the same struggles with wellness in our communities and in our organizations.  It’s trauma, both historical and present, that grips us and impacts our ability to be present, grounded, connected in this moment, when it’s so crucial. We may then understand implicitly why healing our individual and collective trauma is necessary in order to face what is coming. We are literally – not figuratively – in a fight for our lives, and we need all of ourselves for that fight. Yet healing in the midst of ongoing trauma to ourselves and our communities is no small task.   

For all these reasons, we have a multi-front battle ahead of us. We are challenged with growing and building Black movements that can push back the onslaught. How we protect and care for each other along the way, how we come through connected and stronger on the other end, are possibly the most critical and meaningful questions we face.

Healing justice offers some guidance here. Healing justice is the how of our movements – it’s the texture, the experience and the vision that guides us. It’s our effort towards transforming ourselves, our ways of building relationship and our institutions to support and sustain Black aliveness that has carried us forward.

Healing justice is active intervention in which we transform the lived experience of Blackness in our world.

Cara Page and Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective cleared a path and told us that “healing justice...identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence, and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.”

A broad and intersectional vision of liberation work requires that we continue to recall this vision of healing and healing justice into the center of our organizing. We have been inundated with public images of Black death and the flagrant violence of oppressive systems that obstruct justice. Our current systems promise complex, compounded and nearly constant trauma for Black people and ensure that we have little resources, space, time or energy to heal and little agency to protect ourselves and our loved ones from facing the same.  

Healing justice is active intervention in which we transform the lived experience of Blackness in our world. And in order to actively intervene and transform the experience of Black life, on every level, our movements and our organizations have to understand and value the wisdom of healing justice.

  • Healing justice means that we make central to our work listening to those who are imagining transformative justice responses to harm, responses essentially that seek to meet harm in ways other than feeding Black incarceration.

  • Healing justice means that we develop and honor practitioners of many different disciplines and modalities with capacities and skills to be with trauma, who know themselves well enough to navigate the complex terrain of emotion and guide others towards change.

  • Healing justice means that we identify the institutions that interrupt and undermine our individual and collective abilities to heal. And in those places we organize towards change and interrupt our dependence, be it against the apparatus of the medical industrial complex or against harmful and life-depleting food systems.

  • Healing justice means that we begin to value care, emotional labor and resilience, not as add-ons but as central components of sustainability that restore us to life.

  • Healing justice means that we realize that care and accountability are at the root of healing justice practice and are some of the most difficult and direct actions we can take. Care and accountability require us to reveal, to center and more than anything, to change.

  • Healing justice means that these interventions, and so many more not yet imagined, can no longer be pushed to the margins of our work, but must be central and given our attention and time.

We heal so that we can act and organize.

Healing is being reclaimed from the mouths of those who use it without interest in true transformation, from those who mimic our ancestral practices to accumulate wealth. We are re-infusing the art and practice of healing with our souls, listening to our bodies and to our ancestors, and remembering that we don’t heal only for the sake of feeling good. We heal so that we can act and organize. We heal so that we can use the lessons gained through the wounds of our trauma to make necessary change in our world.

There are risks ahead in our resistance and in our organizing, but the more we risk in our practice of healing justice, the stronger our ground becomes and the more defined our vision. And from that place we carry on. We carry on to transform, not just ourselves, but our world.  

This post is part of the Black Futures Month blog series brought to you by The Huffington Post and the Black Lives Matter Network. Each day in February, look for a new post exploring cultural and political issues affecting the Black community and examining the impact it will have going forward. For more Black History Month content, check out Black Voices’ ‘We, Too, Are America’ coverage.

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