Courage and conviction

[Image description: A tree with green leaves, standing by itself in a calm body of water, touching the water with a branch. It is surrounded by a snow-capped range of mountains in the background. Image by Robert Koorenny on Unsplash]

Hi everyone, this will be the last post for a while, as I’ll be taking July and August off from blogging and social media to focus on spending time with my family and possibly beginning writing a new book. I’ll be back on September 2nd with a new post. Funders, donors, boards, and others with positional power, please keep shenanigans to a minimum while I’m away.

Meanwhile, this week on Thursday June 27th at 10am Pacific Time, please join me and Common Future’s Co-CEO Jennifer Njuguna in a conversation where we discuss our sector’s propensity for fear and risk-aversion, especially in light of the pushback against DEI. It’s free, and auto-captions will be enabled. Register here.

As I enter this break, I just want to acknowledge that I am exhausted. I’ve never felt so tired and beaten down in my career. I know many of you can relate. We did not sign up for this work—the work of making the world better—thinking it would be easy. Many of us have been doing this for decades, and we’ve seen some horrendous things. But I don’t recall a time when things were this bad, when morale was this low, when the whole world is in crisis, and our efforts to stop the chaos and inequity and injustice feeling so futile.

But I don’t want to dwell too much on everything that has been awful. In these past few months, as the world seems to have gotten so much worse, I find comfort and strength in seeing the courage and conviction that so many people display, in our sector as well as in the world in general. The protests happening across the globe against g3nocide. The student encampments spreading across universities. People are putting their livelihoods, reputations, safety, and even their lives on the line to fight injustice and to create an equitable world.

Our sector, for all its weaknesses and frustrating inefficiencies, is filled with remarkable people who continue to do incredible things despite, or perhaps because of, everything being on fire. This year I’ve been privileged enough to travel around the country and world and have met so many colleagues who are engaged in creative and vital efforts to make our world better. The organizations providing housing and employment opportunities for women experiencing abuse and trauma. Artists using their crafts to call attention to the prison industrial complex, police violence, and other injustices. Organizers rallying people around voting and other vital issues. Intermediaries working in the background to support various causes.

Behind the constant weariness tinged with occasional despair people are feeling, there is often a strong, steely resolve. I’ve met colleagues who have lost funding for standing up for PaIestine. And they aren’t backing down. I have colleagues whose organizations are in the cross hairs of those who aim to make our world less just and inclusive; they’re facing lawsuits and public attacks for trying to advancing DEI. And they aren’t backing down.

I know it takes a lot of mental and physical energy to keep going, to continue fighting against overwhelming odds, to face injustices that only seem to be getting stronger. And yet so many of you are still going at it. Seeing you in the trenches, seeing your determination to continue forward in making the world better despite the countervailing current gives me strength and allows me to keep going too.

I hope you will take time also to rest and to recharge; we all need to be in this for the long run. The surges in violence and cruelty we’re seeing are signs that white supremacy, patriarchy, and other forces of injustice are crumbling. They won’t go without a fight. It’s going to take everything we’ve got. But in the end, equity and inclusiveness will win.

Because we will make sure it does. As I try to remind myself, the arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it does not bend itself; it is people like us who bend it. As MLK said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Thank you for all you do, and for all you are. For all your sacrifice, suffering, struggle, doubt, and sleepless nights. For your tireless exertions and passionate concern. For your relentless determination and unwavering conviction that a better world is possible.

Please take care of yourself until the next time we meet.