Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reclaiming Self and Community Care

I was invited to give a presentation on December 11 on the topic of "Reclaiming Self and Community Care: Principles & Practices for Social Change in the Direction of Social Justice." Below are the starting points and principles that I used to introduce and frame some example reflective practices. 

Starting Points: 

1. In a healthy, functioning society, self and community care is integrated into everyday habits, relationships, organizations, and culture. Special actions would not be required except in cases of crisis, trauma, disaster, etc.

2. Folks experiencing unhealthy and unsustainable circumstances are being asked to do extra work, at their own expense of time, money, and energy, in order to accommodate those who profit from providing or tolerating inhumane and oppressive conditions at work or in society.

3. Further, these unhealthy, unsustainable, and unjust work and life conditions serve to perpetuate oppressive systems and cultures by leaving those most impacted with the least access to time, resources, safety, and energy to devote to survival, let alone movement building.

4. We are also seeing an increased commodification of self-care, creating a further gulf between those who can afford to spend time, money, and energy on products and experiences that are not equally accessible, and those who cannot. As such, self-care as consumption reinforces oppressive systems, especially along economic and race/ethnicity lines.

5. In contrast, self and community care have been and can be radical expressions of resistance, of our insistence to survive, persist, and organize in the face of direct, structural, and cultural violence.

6. Reclaiming self and community care can in itself be a radical act, building social capital, cultivating community, redistributing resources, modeling partnership (against domination), and making organizing more resilient, sustainable, and just.


1. Both activism and non-activism by folks in marginalized communities can be expressions of care and strategies for survival. Similarly, we don't have to condemn ourselves for using coping mechanisms that we understand are not sustainable for the long-term. We can become intentional about replacing strategies that are helpful in the short term but maladpative over time.

2. Self-care should flow out of and embody our values and aspirations. Though sometimes characterized as selfish or self-absorbed, radical self and community care connect us to our deepest understandings of love and justice. Identifying those needs and aspirations can bring clarity and be empowering.

3. Because an unjust society profits from our lack of self-care, making us more vulnerable to exploitation, we need to build in both accountability and support for decisions related to our well-being.

4. Self-care strategies should be flexible and will change over time as our circumstances and needs change. This means that reflective practices are essential skills for effective care.

5. Expanding our attention also bridges self-care to community care. We are building communities and movements that embody and cultivate the type of society where self and community care are available for all.