Welcome to the first episode of Flourish Agenda's podcast! We want to start with setting a strong and grounded foundation in work that revolves around Healing Centered Engagement. What better way to do that than interviewing our Founder and CEO, Dr. Shawn Ginwright!
Chris Nguon 0:00
Peace and blessings community. Welcome to the premiere episode of the CARMA Chronicles podcast where we speak with the nation and world's leading Healing Centered practitioners. Today we talk with Dr. Shawn Ginwright, the creator and pioneer of Healing Centered Engagement. Our conversation next.
Chris Nguon 0:32
Welcome back, everyone. My name is Chris Nguon, your host, I'm here with Dr. Ginwright. Dr. G, how you doing?
Dr. Ginwright 0:39
What's up, what’s up Chris?!
Chris Nguon 0:40
It's great to see you. It's great to see you. These last 12 months have been a whirlwind, we've gone from doing our work in person to doing it virtual, you've gone from getting on planes and traveling all over the country to really working straight out of your office. Have you adjusted to these last 12 months?
Dr. Ginwright 0:59
Yeah, man, it's been, it's been crazy, you know, we we as a society right now sit directly between trauma and transformation. And what that's meant for me is not getting on planes and, you know, not having to travel I've had to be present, I've had to really just slow down, take stock of what is good. And just really kind of just sit with myself, I've spent more time in this house and in my office and in my you know, in my neighborhood than I have ever done. And it's been really meaningful to, you know, to really kind of get to know my wife a little differently, a little deeper, the good, the bad, and the ugly, right. But it's really been good for us that we've really been able to kind of just slow down I didn't realize, man, how much traveling, how much being on an airplane, how much being in conferences, and even though I love spreading the message, and I love speaking around the world and the country. It's a passion of mine, I didn't realize how much it costs me in terms of my ability to be present with my family and with myself. But I think more than anything else I've been it's forced to really slow down.
Chris Nguon 2:27
That's real. And what you're really talking about is relationships. Yeah, you're talking about building those bonds with family with community and that's what really stands the test of time.
Dr. Ginwright 2:37
Chris Nguon 2:39
Now, as I read through your bio, we can be here all day, but you are an author. You're a professor in Africana Studies Department at San Francisco State and a senior researcher. You're also the one of the leading pioneers of Healing Centered, the leading pioneer healing centered engagement work and work with young people. You also are the chairman of the board of the California Endowment on and on and on.
Dr. Ginwright 3:05
You know, man, I mean that. Yeah, I've done a you know, some stuff, man. But what was really important for me, actually, I was just having a conversation with my partner and wife, Nedra. Last night, and what's really important to me is that it's years of being in the front line, man is, is working with young people.
It’s years of being with young people. It's years of working with young people, years of working with families, and really seeing what not only what young people need, not only what families need, but also being able to provide them a space for them to not just survive a dream, right, for them to actually force to be able to support with aspects of their lives that they don't get in school, that they don't get from therapists that they don't get from church sometimes, right. And so what was important for me is not all the titles as much as the rich experience that I've had and the blessing that I've had to really take the lessons from working with young people and their families, and then being able to kind of share it to the world about what I think matters.
Chris Nguon 4:16
Now you touched upon dreams, and this is something that we're gonna circle back about because dreams plays a pivotal part in your newest book that will speak on and the healing centered engagement certification that will also speak on but as we talk about dreams, you also were visioneer you and your wife, 30 years years ago as a college student at San Diego State, working with young people over all the decades, and I don't mean to age time, right?
Dr. Ginwright 4:41
Come on man, I’m old, I got all this platinum in my hair, it ain’t gray,
Chris Nguon 4:50
I see that’s a great perspective to have. How have young people and work with young people changed over the years that you've noticed? And how has it stayed the same?
Dr. Ginwright 4:58
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, and I'm gonna date myself, man, I like when I started working with young people back in San Diego, the primary way that you can go anywhere in this country, it was focused on addressing problems of young people trying to prevent young people from, you know, doing substance abuse or something like that are really seeing young people as some problem or pathology, right, I call it PPP, right prevention, pathology or problem. And in order to get funding, and in order to work with you, you had to do one of those three things. And so when I started working with youth, in San Diego, it wasn't just, you know, like, for example, when I went when I was in San Diego, working at a middle school, my job was to actually take the students that got kicked out of class, right, it was to deal with their problems.
Chris Nguon 6:03
Dr. Ginwright 6:04
Yeah, it was like that, you know, like, these are the badass kids do something with him. And so I realized that early on that, you know, these young people, what they were dealing with at school, you know, they they were they were considered, you know, problems at school. But the real issue wasn't at school, the real issue was they just got into a fight with their Mama, the real issue was, is that they were angry at their daddy for leaving, the real issue was that they were afraid to walk home because crack cocaine had just taken over chocolate cities of America.
And there was gun violence, right? They were dealing with problems that didn't show up on the radar of schools. And so my early work with them was trying to really kind of get underneath that. And so what shifted is mostly is for some for the most part, you know, there was a shift when people started seeing young people as assets and trying to, you know, the positive youth development and the youth development work. But the most, I think, significant shift, that I've seen is that we really understand now, that developing and supporting young people, is not just about, it's not just about “give me the right curriculum, give me the right tools”.
It's not just that, you have to transform the lives of the adults who's working with those young people, young adults have to be healthy. How can I actually expect to be to have a powerful impact on young people if I'm dealing with my own stuff, right. And so anyway, I think that's a significant shift in the field. I see a lot of providers and therapists and social workers and teachers and counselors, really taking up this notion of healing and the significance that healing has in the healthy development of our young people. The significance that healing and well being have in facilitating learning in schools, and really the significance of healing and creating healthy learning environments for our young people. Yeah, and we didn't have that. You know, when I started back in, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, years.
Chris Nguon 8:18
There you go, right. And now it's, you know, doing this work up here in Oakland, California, but really doing this work transcendently not only across the nation, but now the world healing centered engagement, which is what you pioneered, really touches upon work with families beyond just the young person work with adults, like you just talked about. One of the things that you also mentioned is with this work, it goes beyond identifying symptoms of young people with what was beyond that, but in everyday language, how does one go about if I’m a young practitioner right now, listening? How does one go on about extending myself beyond the symptoms and looking more of that holistic healing work?
Dr. Ginwright 9:00
Yeah, I mean, I think I think a lot of for, you know, for folks who are just getting kind of into youth development work or trying to support young people. You're going to get youth development training and you know, your your organization is giving you some tools and curriculum to kind of use activities and, you know, so forth to actually support young people, but I think more what's really important in terms of trying to really provide a holistic way to support young people is first we got to understand, you know, what are the challenges that young people are bringing into your after school program? What are the challenges that young people are bringing into your classroom? Right? The way that you're training, and I'm gonna tell you, you know, for teachers, the first thing we're going to train is that you know, that there are students who are disciplined problems, right, there are students who are, you know, bad or misbehaving or whatever, right. And if we succumb to that way of thinking that some students are bad, or some people, some students are just discipline problems, then we're not using a healing centered practice.
And so one of the really important steps and doing human centered work is to understand the broader context, what's happening in a young person's life? Where does that young person live? What's the relationship that young person has with his mama is daddy? How's that young person dealing with his or her or their sexual identity? Has a young person had a chance to eat? What does that young person dream about? There's so many factors that develop, that there are so many factors that have an impact on young people that if we're not have at least some awareness of that, then we just kind of have a myopic way of thinking, focused way of thinking that this young person's life exists in my after school program, or in my classroom. And that's not the truth. The truth is, they're with you for two hours a day. But the rest of the day, they're elsewhere, experiencing life that shows up in your classroom. So the question is, is how do you take in consideration all that other stuff in those two hours that you have?
Chris Nguon 11:02
Right? And you know, Dr. Ginwright, what I've noticed just in our conversation right now is that as you speak on your experience, clearly this work has resonated with you as well personally, with all these years. Healing Center and engagement and how we implement it, you know, you're not just talking to talk, you've done the work. You've been in classrooms. You've been in summer camps with young people. You've worked in a juvenile justice department system, what are some of the stories that really essentially, we gonna keep it real? What are some of the stories that prove to you that this worked?
Dr. Ginwright 11:38
Yeah, I mean, that's a good question, Chris. Well, I'm gonna give you a couple of stories, right? So, and I'm gonna date myself, I don't care. So the first story when we had our first, me and my boy, his name is Dr. Daniel Walker now, but it was we should call him Dan, Daniel Walker, we were in college in San Diego, and we wanted to we wanted to have a summer camp for black kids in San Diego, and we had no money. We didn’t have nothing, right. And we decided, we talked to the people at the university, they gave us some housing, we raised some money. And we wanted to have a camp, a five day camp, where we didn't just focus on like, the problems and the prevention kind of stuff, man, we wanted the kids to have some fun. We wanted the kids to learn about themselves and learn about their identity. Right? And so we weren't sure what the hell we was gonna do. But what we found out that happened in 1987, okay, there it goes. Everybody gasp. There you go. I ain’t mad at you.
We call that seasoning OG baby, there you go better recognize. All right. So in 19, so 1987, we had this camp. And I remember at this camp, it was almost like there's this movie called Field of Dreams. And there's this scene where this guy's building this baseball field in a field of corn. And, and magically, these, these baseball, you know, legends come and play on this field. And there's a theme that says if you build it, they will come. And so it was almost like when we built this camp. It was like the Field of Dreams because the young people came to the camp with this need to heal. Now, we didn't call it that at the time. But when the young people came and felt safe enough to talk about their own sexual abuse, and they felt safe enough to talk about the shame that some that the shame that they had of the thick lips and kinky hair, or the shame that they had because they Mama was substance abusing.
They had what we created was more than a camp, right? It was a sanctuary for tender growth, right? And we didn't know at the time what we were doing. And so we knew that it was important to bring people together in community to deal with the kind of issues that weren't being dealt with, so that was kind of like one story. Now, that's kind of a broader story.
Another story happened that summer camp years later, where we were working with, we do a lot of work around gender and gender violence. And we were trying to, we've had some gender separate meetings, where they were their young women were talking about their issues with gender violence. And young young men were talking about their issues. We brought them out after like two or three hours of them sharing their stories separately, we brought them together on a bright sunny day in Santa Cruz on this land on this lawn. And as the women came on to the lawn, they were all crying like, everyone was in tears. And the young men were watching it. And, you know, as an adult there, I'm supposed to, like, you know, figure out what, what's what I'm supposed to do. The tears turned from crying to wailing. Like they begin to wail and it was almost as if it was a ritual, it was almost as if the deeper they cried, the better they felt. And, and, you know, I was like, Oh, you know, I'm just my, safety logic. Mine was like, oh, we got to finish wrap this up and get to lunch and go to the next workshop, and the next speaker is here. And the power of their wailing, stopped me in my tracks, right. And I just listened to them wail and cry, and cry, and wail.
And then the young men who had been separated for him, and those came together, and they all started embracing each other, and all the young men, and all the young women were just crying together. And it was almost as if they're crying, they were getting out the stuff that had harmed them in their own way. And you know, US adults just watched it happen, right? We watched it happen. And every year at the camp, for those folks who've ever been to Camp Akili realize that there is a magic that happens that you can't explain it until you be in it. And so that is what kind of taught me that there's something else that's missing in our humanity work with young people, right? It's not just about giving them some curriculum, it's not just about, you know, you know, being the right polished mentor, right. It's really creating that sanctuary space. That sense of emotional, spiritual safety, where young people can feel safe enough to do to get that stuff out. Right.
Chris Nguon 17:05
I appreciate the context. And I appreciate you sharing. I think one of the things that really stood out to me about that antidote is Agency. Right? You said the adults sat back and watched the young man go over to the young woman. And together, they got together. And that's what's really led to Healing Centered Engagement work, where now 20, 30 years later. And this is what Flourish Agenda really focuses on to my understanding and what we do. One of the bridges of that is what we're calling Healing Centered Engagement Certification. That happens that will launch and is live now but will launch in the near future. For the everyday talk for the person, for the practitioner, for the youth serving organization listening to this right now, what is Healing Centered Engagement Certification?
Dr. Ginwright 17:55
Well, let me first answer what is Healing Centered Engagement. And then we'll talk about the certification. Healing Centered Engagement is a process for you to restore your own healing and well being so that you can heal others. And as a youth worker, you can't really have a profound impact on young people, if you’re still dealing with your stuff. And I got hella of stories, Chris. I don't want to take too much time man about adults who are messed up, who think because they got a degree because I got a legal degree because I got a job that they can actually be the mentor of young people, right. Just because they're adults.
Adulthood is not a final product surprise, right? We all have ongoing work to do. So Healing Centered Engagement is about that journey, right? It's about that journey about who we need to become that, to be powerfully impact or have a powerful impact on young people.
So Healing Centered Engagement, Certification. For years, I've been talking about the power of healing and well being and what we need to do and how the youth development field and education field needs to think about healing and well being. These ideas that are rooted in indigeneity, these ideas that are rooted in African ancestry. These are not all new ideas, but we need to bring them to the forefront. I've been talking all over the country and all over the world about it. But people usually say at the end of the talk, they say, Okay, how do I do it? What I do, Dr. G, that was that was inspiring, what do I do?
The Healing Center Engagement Certification is a set of guidelines. It's a step by step process. It's not a step by step recipe, let me not say that it's not a recipe, cookie cutter recipe that tells you what to do. But it is a roadmap that allows you to understand how to provide the context for healing in your organization. It's not just a series of activities that are disconnected. It's not just as there are activities. But the certification says basically, if you understand these concepts, culture, race and identity, agency, transformative relationships, meaning, aspirations, hopes, and dreaming. If you want to really understand that, CARMA, you understand CARMA, that you can then implement these principles inn your own work setting. We have activities that allows for the learner to practice those, but you can flip it man, you can develop your own CARMA playlist, right. But this the certification says when you're done, it said that you're able to actually, with some fidelity, practice a Healing Centered process in your work.
You have the option of getting three units of continuing education units from San Francisco State University, you successfully completed you get a certification, it's roughly about 25 to 30 hours of instruction, you can you could do it as a group within it with one of our amazing trainers, you can do it individually. You know, we give you different ways to do it. Right. But the thing is to do it because you come out a much more profound youth development worker or teacher or anyone that's working with young people.
Chris Nguon 21:09
Thank you so much for that context. And to find more information about Healing Centered Engagement Certification, where can our practitioners go?
Dr. Ginwright 21:18
You can go to flourishagenda.com. If you go our website, you'll see tags and go scroll down to the bottom, you'll see sign up for a Healing Centered Engagement, you can also go to our website and sign up and receive more information about our Healing Center and engagement certification.
Chris Nguon 21:36
Thank you so much Dr. Ginwright. As we wrap up, as you mentioned, for this agenda, and flourishagenda.com, let's wrap up talking about Flourish Agenda. This is your baby. This is your wife's baby, the co-creators, co-leaders of Florida Agenda, Shawn and Nedra Ginwright. In 2021, what is Flourish up to and what is the impact that Flourish is aiming to have in 2021 and move forward as we really lean on this possibility thinking?
Dr. Ginwright 22:03
So Flourish Agenda is about taking the experience and knowledge about what's what people are dealing with in their schools, or neighborhoods and communities. And coming up with solutions to those problems, both at the institutional level, also, in our relationships with each other, and then also what individual folks need to do. And so Flourish Agenda is, as an organization that's always at the vanguard of creating a new paradigm for how we work with young people, particularly young people of color. And we are unapologetic about it. Because we know what works. And so, in 2021, we're launching our Healing Centered Engagement Certification and I'm launching a new book. This new book is really the next phase of our thinking around healing work. The book right now is called “Pivot”. And it's and it's based on these four shifts that we need to make in our, in our own work for justice and our own work for supporting young people. And I'm not going to go through all the shifts, but they're but they're about our ability to do deep reflection about who we are. It's our ability to create spaces of belonging and care and vulnerability. It's about our ability to have and see beyond the problems that we're facing.
You know, one of the things I say is “The greatest casualty of oppression is the destruction of our ability to dream beyond it”. In other words, oppression tells us that we can't see beyond oppression and part of our disease so to speak, part of what we need to heal from is the thinking that is to heal from... I forgot the name of this book, but she calls it “Problem Loving”. This notion that all we can do is see and love the problem and think we and try to solve the problem. Now we need to solve problems. But we also have to create and cultivate our ability to see beyond it, right? To have an aspiration, aspirational thinking and this is why dreaming is important. Dreaming and imagination is rooted man, in a deep in indigenous and deep African spirituality, and our ability to use and dream and imagine a world that is not predicated on just ending suffering, right? We need to dream a world and systems that actually create the kind of well being that we want to create in our society. And then this last one just is around how we need to shift from this hustle to flow right, and really trying to understand the consequences of capitalist culture on our own well being. And so the book that's a lot of blog probably gave you too much, Chris right now, for the folks out there. But you know, I'm just trying to, you know, just trying to create a little playlist for y'all, but the book will be coming out in the end of 2021. So I hope everybody goes out and buys it.
Chris Nguon 25:07
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the CARMA Chronicles. Dr. Ginwright, the initial, the premier CARMA Chronicles. So for the next episode, we'll dig into the CARMA Chronicles a little bit more as we continue to talk to Dr. Shawn Ginwright. And also the nation's other leading Healing Practitioners. Dr. G. Appreciate you.
Peace and Love, one love, peace, y'all.