2.9.24 New Moon
Last year, a brilliant and beloved movement leader passed, far younger than any of us ever imagined.
For many of his friends, scattered far and wide across the country, we only learned of his illness when he was gone.
Without needing to think about who, I reached out to a few old friends I had worked with for years, the team I’d been with when we’d known our now gone friend.
Let’s make some time to talk together, we said. And we did. On the day our friend’s public memorial would be streamed live, we gathered together on zoom.
It felt good to be home with this team. We’d seen each other at our worst and our best. We’d accomplished so much together, and also made big shared mistakes. Inside our group, we’d been through painful interpersonal conflict that had at times felt irreprable.
We were together as a team for about six years. All of us have evolved on to other work now, some of us to other geographies.
In our meandering, born-of-grief conversation that day, we talked about our time together years ago. What we reflected on together was not the hard stuff, nor even the accomplishments.
What we reflected on was how deeply powerful our purpose together as a team had been. In our work with people across many movements we had elevated a shared question: How do we transition from a world of domination, extraction, and violence to a world of interdependence, regeneration, and resilience? Embedded in this question was an understanding that systems transformation must be deeply rooted in cultural transformation, in our ways of being, thinking, and moving, in whatever issue or institution we are individually and collectively part of.
Gathering together again after many years, we reflected on how our purpose and time together had been even more precious than we’d known.
After our conversation I returned to Maurice Mitchel's honest and insightful article, Building Resilient Organizations, One of Mitchell's points (please read the whole piece!) is about how we often hope that our movement organizations can create cultures that do not replicate the toxicity and harm of the dominant culture. Mitchell invites us to ask, “How do we behave on the journey?” in “the organization’s expectations of its people and people’s expectations of the organization in matters of emotional, physical, and spiritual care and well-being.”
Just as importantly, Mitchell writes of our tendency to seek perfection in our movement organizations. A “fixation with small utopianism can be both frustrating and unfulfilling,” Mitchell writes. Instead he offers that “doing the work” of growing healthy organizational culture “should be viewed as ongoing day-to-day practice.”
In December I began working with a new team. While this is work I’ve been part of for a long time, I’m taking on a larger role, with a larger group of people that came together quickly after years of doing a lot with a very small group. It’s amazing now, to witness the talent on our team, and breathtaking to imagine what we can do together.
In the midst of this growth and excitement, a surprise gift arrived to my home last week, mailed across the ocean, from one of those teammates I’d gathered with in June. There was no occasion for the gift – a beautiful moon phase poster – other than her knowing how much the moon means to me.
But the co-incidence wasn’t lost on me. Here was a gift reminding me that the relationships of my old team were still vibrant. Reminding me that we are all now working in our own ways on some version of our original shared question. Reminding me that our organizational form had given us an opportunity for shared practice, shared purpose, and shared bonds. Reminding me that our shared practice, purpose, and bonds outlived our organizational form. Reminding me that we had been far from utopic.
Remember what you’ve learned about teams, I’m saying out loud. Remember the good parts and the hard parts. Remember how I want to behave on this journey.
Remember what mattered.
Remember what lasted.