Shifting Our Movement Stance: Exploring “Movement Pivots” in LA

Written by Jeremy Lahoud

September 15, 2014

How do we embody––physically, mentally, and spiritually––the transformation we want to see in our movements and society?

How can we pivot to new ways of being that will strengthen and deepen our movement work?

Those were just two of the questions that brought together more than 30 social justice organizers and activists to Los Angeles from cities across California––including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, and Oakland––for the first-ever two-day Movement Stance session last week.

Like many other social justice organizers, I yearn for the time and space to practice a more holistic approach to movement-building––an approach that integrates mind, body, and spirit.

LA Movement Stance

After twenty years of practice in the field of youth organizing and nearly ten years of practice in the African-Brazilian art of capoeira, I consider myself fortunate to have been part of this initial Movement Stance session in my own backyard in South Los Angeles.

Facilitators from Movement Strategy Center partnered with Norma Wong, renowned Zen master and movement strategist from the Institute of Zen Studies–Applied Zen, to engage participants in physical movement, mindful practice, discussion, and “image theater” to explore those and other questions.

I came to Movement Strategy Center in 2013 out of the “trenches” of nonprofit youth organizing.  Being at MSC has allowed me to practice movement work in a way that balances who I am as an organizer, parent, capoeirista, and human being. But I don’t believe our movements and society can afford to hold holistic practices as a “luxury” for folks working with intermediaries. We can’t expect organizers to keep running for decades before taking a breath to sustain ourselves and communities.

That was the beauty of last week’s session. We were more than two dozen movement leaders from different sectors––including youth organizing, immigrant and environmental justice movements, movements to end violence and exploitation––from different ages and at different points in our careers and life trajectories. Everyone came into the session with openness to personal and social transformation and willingness to engage in physical practices that strengthen our ability to move from our core strengths.

Our dynamic group activities allowed us to examine the “movement pivots” MSC and others have observed ––the shifts in practices and orientation toward new ways of being that our movements need in order to initiate deep personal and social transformation. Among the pivots we played with were the need to shift from isolation to interdependence, from competition to strategic direction, and from control to creativity. For example,

  • How often have I allowed competitiveness over grant resources to stifle my ability to move in the same direction with organizational partners who embody different approaches and beliefs?
  • When have I tightened my control over a project, campaign, or organization, only to find that I have constricted creativity and relied on old approaches that deliver the same limited outcomes?

Through physical movement and group discussions, Movement Stance provided us all with the opportunity to unpack the ways that our “habits”––unconscious repetitive actions––limit our humanness, our joy, and our effectiveness. We took time to embody new practices that interrupt those habits. Participants who came together from the same organizations or families had space to brainstorm potential practices to take home that would foster greater personal and organizational alignment, allow us to step from the margins of their own organizations into leadership for the whole of society, and help us relinquish control and open up more creativity within their own families.

How can we continue to do more transformative practices in our own lives, work, and organizations?

How can this session begin a community of practice among movement leaders in Southern California?

These and other questions from Movement Stance filled me with hope for building movements grounded in mind, body, and spirit, and seeking truly new ways of being.

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