Astraea’s blog, Collective Care Blog: Building the Power & Resilience of LBTQI Movements Now & for the Long Haul, is Astraea’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a feminist LBTQI funder, we believe it is our responsibility to shed light on the ways our communities are particularly impacted by the crisis, share insights around the criticality of healing justice and collective care, as well as the ways in which we’re digging deep to keep shifting power to the grassroots in meaningful and sustainable ways.
In July, the Astraea staff took a bold step: we shut our (metaphorical) doors for two weeks, and we took an extremely necessary break.
Like many other social justice organizations and foundations, we had been moving and working at breakneck speed for far too long, barely pausing to take a breath. When the pandemic hit earlier this year, we took some initial steps to support the health and wellbeing of our staff – reducing staff work hours, providing unlimited sick leave for anyone diagnosed with or caring for a loved one with COVID-19, ensuring that staff had access to the equipment they needed to work from home as comfortably as possible. These steps helped us to slow down a little bit, but stopping altogether felt like it was out of the question.
Until we just did it. We took the decision to go on an organization-wide “pause” from July 1-15, ensuring beforehand that all staff members would be able to step away from their work fully and take the opportunity to rest and reflect – both personally and on their role and place in Astraea’s ecosystem. We recognized the pause as not just a vacation, but as a radical, political, subversive act: one that rejects dominant capitalist and white supremacist definitions of productivity as tied to success, and instead disrupts by embracing rest, care, and joy as critical to the health of our people and therefore the health of Astraea.
As an organization in the midst of a leadership transition, the pause was also an opportunity to reflect on the kind of organization we want to build and to be, in order to continue serving our grantee partners and sustain powerful global LBTQI movements in the best way possible. We know that our movements have been hit especially hard by the impacts of COVID-19, and continue to be deeply and disproportionately impacted by the ongoing pandemics that are white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, sexism, and transphobia. Reverend angel Kyodo williams, Black writer, activist, and Zen priest who led our staff in sessions on both ends of the pause, reminded us that there is a wholeness to movements, and we have the ability to shape our contribution to that whole, based on the choices we make. Our choice to make rest and reflection a priority is one critical step in becoming the Astraea we know is possible – one that is truly anti-racist, intersectional, feminist, queer, and global.
As we emerged from our pause on July 15, having each had distinct experiences, Reverend angel brought us together to share snippets from our time away, and most importantly to listen and be present with one another. A reminder that just as our movements are whole, we too as Astraea are a whole, each person making up an essential piece of the organization. We shared reflections, experiences, and thoughts small and big. Some of us went on hikes, others caught up on sleep, and many of us continued to care for loved ones. Some of us experienced joy and relief, and others grappled with grief and sadness. Whatever our individual experiences, in listening to one another and making space for each person, we were reminded that we had collectively taken the decision to pause, to collectively prioritize care for ourselves and our Astraea community. And that is powerful.
We wanted to share a few reflections from our staff members on the pause, in hopes that you and your organizations might also be inspired to do the same:
- The pause was remarkable for me – it allowed me to dedicate endless unstructured time to reground myself in my body, from which I had become a bit disconnected. Fully rested, I found myself open to engaging in shadow work that was unlikely to be explored if not for this pause. I took this time to take to the streets in solidarity with my city against police violence, which was a truly powerful experience that I will carry with me for my entire life. – Hanna Israel, Development Associate, Institutional Partnerships
- The pause gave me an opportunity to disrupt the capitalist routines of overwork I often find myself caught up in. It gave me a moment to breathe and to reflect on how I can bring practices that promote wellness and sustainability to my work at Astraea. – Kim Kaletsky, Senior Communications Manager
- Our organizational pause was an act that I have come to understand even more deeply was both risky and revolutionary. I hope each of the Astraea staff members were able to find something, some way of creating time and space to nurture themselves that they will now commit to continuing. And as we continue to buckle down more deeply on our work as a social justice funder and partner, it is our self-care that can re-fuel our anger and outrage into something more powerful. – Sandy Nathan, Interim Executive Director
More reading on the power of the pause:
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