Healing Justice and Holistic Security Frameworks

Healing justice and holistic security are frameworks that have emerged and evolved in relationship to place-based organizing. They are concepts and practices that we, as funders, are seeing more and more in many different cultural communities and movement spaces.

Over the last two decades, there has been an increase in movements recognizing the impact of generations of trauma, systemic violence, oppression and war on their communities. Organizers are refusing to separate an awareness of the traumatic impact of state violence from their strategies to build collective power towards abolishing that violence. We have seen an increase in grant requests that name the need for more resources to address conflict within organizations and movement spaces, safety and security trainings, healing spaces and access to transformative health practitioners; to learn about healing traditions and birth work; and to understand the medicinal traditions of ancestral communities across the world. We are hearing organizations ask: What did we do to survive genocide, war, violence and natural disasters, and what can we do now?

Organizers and healers have long been present and providing care in movements, but did not necessarily name it as healing justice. In 2006, the Kindred Healing Justice Collective, a network of political healers, health practitioners and organizers in the U.S. Southeast, began using the term healing justice as a framework to identify how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence, lifting up individual and collective practices that can transform oppression in our collective bodies and lives, particular to the experience of living in the U.S. Southeast and the Global South. These Southern organizers—Black, Indigenous, women of color, LGBTQI and allies—connected the reality of generational trauma to the ongoing histories of slavery, genocide and economic disenfranchisement based on the slave labor economy and colonization. Stemming from these histories, the healing justice framework lifts up resiliency and survival practices that center the collective safety and emotional, physical, spiritual, environmental and mental wellbeing of communities. These practices address the impacts of violence and trauma, including interpersonal, systemic and generational violence, and they promote our collective safety, sustainability and wellbeing. When integrated into movement strategies, these practices support us, as organizers and communities, to prioritize our safety and to care for each other towards our long-term survival.

At approximately the same time, women’s human rights activists across the globe were taking up similar questions, talking with each other across borders and continents about safety and security. They developed the framework of holistic security, naming psychosocial, physical and digital wellbeing and diverse security strategies as fundamental components of movement work. In contrast to the traditionally individualistic approach to protection and security, feminist activists, many of whom were connected to the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, began to claim wellbeing as subversive and political, radically expanding individualistic concepts of security to center collective care and resilience. Just like healing justice, holistic security is context-specific and place-based, responsive to the particular needs and challenges of a community or movement, and defined by activists themselves. Holistic security is also distinguished by a strong focus on digital security, lifting up information and data management not only as a crucial component of overall safety but also as an act of political empowerment.

Collective protection emerges from a reflection and honoring of traditional (Indigenous and Afro) practices of care. This is different from how safety and security has been usually understood in the West, where most often it is concerned with individual protection alone. Thus, in this non-Western perspective, holistic safety is at its core both the protection of the individual through the collective and the protection of the community through the collective as well.”

Tatiana Cordero, Urgent Action Fund – Latin America

Both healing justice and holistic security respond to patterns of systemic abuse and oppression that reinforce the controlling of our bodies, wellness and cultures, and our capacities to transform our conditions. Both depend on an interplay between safety and wellness as integral to our political liberation and freedom.