A dear friend of mine and I had a conversation recently about what it means to be seen. Truly seen. Not the type of seeing that means that you notice another’s presence, but the type of seeing that is actively engaged and intentional. For me, this type of being seen comes with a feeling of spaciousness, an opening that I can step into. Perhaps it’s something to do with the prolonged social distancing measures of current times, but even as I write this, I can feel the yearning of stepping into open arms and being embraced with warmth and gladness of my arrival. It’s the difference between opening the door for someone to step inside and waiting with the door open and rushing to greet them with pleasure.
This is an important distinction in the complexities of the current racial discourse. Because agreeing with the phrase Black Lives Matter is simply the bare minimum. Cultivating a space where black lives are welcomed, respected, encouraged, beloved, and cherished is what is really needed. But in a world where we are still arguing over whether black lives matter, this feels like a steep mountain to climb.
For those of you who want to be allies for racial justice, I want to encourage you to build an awareness of how and when you can do more than the minimum. What might you change to be more welcoming to black, indigenous, and people of color? What do you respect, encourage, cherish, and love? How might you be more intentional in how you engage with folks who feel marginalized because of the color of their skin? How might you advocate and promote their work? What are you doing to support yourself in these difficult conversations with others in the majority so that you can truly advocate for inclusion? How does this translate from an individual intentional practice to an organizational or community wide commitment? Whether you are joining book clubs to discuss Robin J. DiAngelo’s White Fragility, or reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an antiracist, or joining social activist groups, or donating to Black Lives Matter, or supporting black businesses, let’s bring these conversations into our industry. And if you’re not doing any of those things, what’s stopping you?
Within the field of equine facilitated work, what are we doing as leaders of training organizations, equine facilitated learning programs, therapeutic centers, and private practices to increase access to our offerings to black communities? The HERD Institute is committed to bringing more diversity into our field. Our sister organization Share in The HERD, is working on funding more programs and training opportunities. But that’s just the bare minimum. How can we build a culture of inclusion so that when those we want to welcome into this space actually feel like they belong and not out of place? I know how it feels to be the only person of color in the room. I also know how excited I get when I see others who look like me. And I’m aware of how seldom that happens.
In our conversation, I was moved to tears when my friend said, “I promise not only to see you, but to look for you”. This commitment to look for those who may be under-represented in any space resonated with my desire to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive community. So, I am actively looking. For those of you who identify as black, indigenous, people of color, I am looking for you. For those of you who are stepping up as allies, please help me actively look for black, indigenous, people of color who are working, training, or studying in the field of equine facilitated work. I have created a Facebook group called Diversifying the Herd for us to hang out together and network in a safe space. Please get in touch with me at [email protected] . I am eagerly awaiting your arrival and will meet you with open arms.