Some of the most rewarding work I do is with my dear friends and colleagues Roberto Chene and Nadine Tafoya. Together we are a multicultural team ready to spring into action to rescue poor White organizations struggling with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Imagine superheroes, at a moment’s notice, tackling the deepest historical trauma, the most entrenched implicit bias, cross-cultural miscommunication of epic proportions, all in a single workshop! A ridiculous image, but on a good day it can feel like that.
An Hispano and a native New Mexican, Roberto is a consultant and trainer specializing in helping non-profits, agencies, and others who are struggling to create and sustain intercultural workplaces. He is a genius at delivering difficult messages about systemic racism, internalized oppression, and all the other loaded themes at the core of so much conflict and angst today. Nadine is a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in southern New Mexico and lives at Santa Clara Pueblo, her husband’s pueblo north of Santa Fe. She is a health consultant working with federal and state agencies, universities, and local groups to improve behavioral health service delivery to Native communities. This means constant attention to the dynamics between the powerful and those in need. She walks this tightrope with skill, diplomacy and fearless honesty.
I am so proud to partner with these two superheroes to consult and offer workshops on building successful intercultural workplaces. I can offer a White perspective, often an uncomfortable place for me to be. Each of us brings history to the team – personal and cultural – and each of us must be honest with ourselves and others about these histories and how they impact us. Nadine, Roberto and I have worked together for decades and have helped each other build skills and gain insights that make us able – even eager — to do this work that might seem like torture for many. For us, our mutual appreciation and respect, as well as the deep affection we hold for each other, carries us through.
This month saw several updates I want to share with you. You will see links to the previous posts, which hopefully you can click on. (I am cautiously proud of my ability to imbed links…holding my breath.)
Mentoring: Picture a convention of mediators. It is a very accommodating crowd, to the point of absurdity at times. A group of us stand in the lobby of the hotel, ready to go to dinner. Where shall we go? Oh, how many vegetarians do we have? Is pork a problem? What about lactose intolerant? We could do seafood, but perhaps someone is from Seattle and would like something else? Tacos are good, and can be gluten free? At some point I want to scream, “I’m going for pizza, dammit! Who’s with me?” But it is all worth it. These are my people, my fellow seekers of peace, my tribe, and I treasure each and every one. And among them this year were two young women whom I am mentoring: Jasmin Munoz and Raven Pinto. I was the proudest of mentors as I watched them each present their recent work. (more…)
I had a birthday recently, a reminder (as if I needed it) that the ranks of those younger than me are growing, and the numbers ahead of me are dwindling. And perusing the paper on that special day, I read that composting human bodies is now legal in Washington state, the ultimate in recycling. It made me think about life and how to make the most of every stage, every year, even the end. I am not ready for composting, nor do I think I will ever be ready to join the teeming activity of a compost heap if it looks anything like mine.
All this makes me think about my responsibility to those aspiring facilitators and mediators, who are behind me in line, wanting a career like mine. I am still working as a facilitator and mediator because I can still do it and I love it, but in so doing I am taking work away from some younger aspiring mediator. We hear about a crisis in some universities where long-lived professors refuse to give up teaching, and lower level associates, ready to move upward, are stuck waiting in line for the opening that never comes. I do not want to be that old fogey unwilling to step aside, but I want to practice at least a little as long as I can. Here is my solution: I mentor. (more…)