The Dimensions-Auburn Partnership
Dimensions Educational Consulting is a women and Jewish People of Color led nonprofit that provides training and consultancy in diversity, equity and inclusion. Members of our team have 5-20 years of experience facilitating collective learning spaces, specifically on issues of racism and anti-Semitism. Having worked within dozens of Jewish and broader community organizations, we bring a strong knowledge of the Jewish community’s strengths and challenges in understanding racism and working for racial justice. We also bring a wealth of Jewish knowledge: textual, ritual, spiritual, and historical. We are individually and collectively passionate about supporting the Jewish community to be ever-stronger in fighting for racial equity and eliminating White supremacy in our country. As a women and Jewish People of Color led agency, we are specifically interested in supporting this project to elevate and expand the transformational power of Jewish women of color as national leaders.
The Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle was launched in 2013 as a yearlong fellowship experience for 11 black women. This inaugural cohort was comprised of diverse women of faith, leading from many ages, religious perspectives, class backgrounds, abilities, educational levels and gender identities. Graduates of the inaugural Sojourner Truth Fellowship included women of color who were and are currently shaping the future of social justice leadership in the arts, international relations, faith-based activism, and the fight to end sexual violence. Dimensions CEO, Yavilah McCoy was an inaugural cohort fellow.
Since 2013, Auburn has launched three additional circles. In 2016 it launched a national cohort for “Black Transgender Women Leaders of Faith and Moral Courage.” In 2017 it launched “Resilient Leaders Across a Fractured Country,” a circle for communities of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, rural and working class social justice leaders working in “Red” states post the election, and its most recent circle- a cohort for Sikh social justice faith leaders.
Auburn’s current partnership with Dimensions to elevate the JWOC Resilience Circle emerges directly from its first-hand knowledge of the power and purpose that women leaders of color bring to any activist space they occupy. It also emerges from its experience of the “urgency of now.” Auburn believes that the urgency of these times are demanding a bold new vision, not only of how we will make change today, but how we will equip individuals and communities with the resources they need to engage in social transformation over the long haul. Auburn believes that the urgency of this time demands leaders and communities who are resilient in a new register and a new key that has the capacity to invite, inspire and build a deep sense of the preciousness of long dishonored bodies, minds and spirits. Through our rippling “Circles” Auburn aims to integrate this “preciousness” into the fabric of our movement building. Auburn’s support of the JWOC Resilience Circle and many others is meant to inspire a more grounded, shared and sustainable plan of action for the social justice movement.
JWOC Resilience Circle Goals
JWOC leaders, like Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and Women’s March leader Tabitha St. Bernard, have championed the need for women of color to engage in regular healing and self-care practice alongside efforts to bring healing activism to the world.
As movement building toward greater equity and justice continues to grow, Jewish Women of Color are daring greatly to live full and meaningful lives as activist leaders. Many are working together and with partners to support diverse movements for change that are rooted in activism and that address the intersectionality of Women of Color’s experiences across heightened prospects for erasure, tokenization, racism and anti-Semitism that have emerged for many Jews of Color within recent movement work.
As JWOC activists continue to develop their capacity to lead change, the JWOC Resilience Circle will:
- offer community, skill building and an integrated practice for self-care that will support and replenish JWOC energy and alleviate pressures that serve to undermine and debilitate their ongoing leadership efforts.
- connect Jewish women of color with a transformational self-care practice that culls the historical wisdom of Jews, people of color and their allies over generations.
- connect Jewish women of color to a broad spectrum of community leaders who are living a nexus of personal ecology, spirituality and rooted activism within their leadership of contemporary social justice movements.
- create space for Jewish Women of Color to honor, care for and re-prioritize themselves while giving voice to their experience and vision for the future.
- center the leadership and resilience of Jewish Women of Color as valuable within an intersectional social justice movement and create personal and organizational resources for growing and sustaining the power of this leadership community.
Appendix A: JWOC Circle Educational Approach & Coordinator and Faculty Bios
Our approach to supporting Jewish Women of Color in social justice and equity leadership will create an activist space for Women of Color to gather with Jewish Women of Color to address and acknowledge that when Black and Brown bodies BOTH survive AND thrive in the context of social justice leadership that this too is an act of resistance.
The Transformational Activism lens offered by this project will offer JWOC an opportunity to learn, share and build community with movement leaders whose lived experiences have taught them how to:
- Navigate Trauma and Healing
- Build a Transformational Narrative
- Hold and Account for Intent and Impact in Leadership & Change-making Strategies
- Develop and Sustain Empowering Relationships
- Cultivate Adaptive Responses and Interventions; &
- Embrace the Nuance and Wholeness of Care for Self & Others
Our approach to transformational spirituality will support Jewish Women of Color in finding new language to allow their Jewish identities to be expressed and valued outside of an exclusive paradigm of Europeanness and Whiteness. This project will support Jewish Women of Color in experiencing themselves as other than “other” as Jews. In many spiritual communities and in Jewish communities specifically, Jewish Women of Color have yet to experience what it means to be central, clearly spoken and equally relevant in the derivation of Jewish ritual and practice. This project will use our transformational approach to support JWOC empowerment and to create a consciousness of JWOC thinking, JWOC love, JWOC spirit and JWOC power in the world. Our gatherings will support Jewish Women of Color in developing a spiritual practice for themselves outside of the vestiges of White supremacy. We will do this work with love and compassion and will engage participants in supportive opportunities for ongoing reflection and re-evaluation.
Our approach to transformational spirituality will present Jewish and broader areas of spirituality as the soul/energy source, emotions, beliefs, mindset, and connection to the infinite that JWOC are invited to integrate within their social justice activism. Just as physical health can grow stronger or weaker based on the ability/inability to center one’s actions toward care for the body, our approach to Jewish spirituality offers that a person’s soul/energy source for activism can grow stronger or weaker based on exposure to stress/trauma and the ability/inability to center one’s actions toward care for our inner dimensions.
Through this lens leaders will be invited to:
- Utilize spiritual resources from Torah, Eastern, and African religious practices to welcome opportunities for healing inside and out.
- Utilize the power of song and drum to connect to deeper elements of emotional literacy.
- Utilize rituals and activities that reclaim connections to the elements: earth, air, water, and fire, as a means of healing disconnection and answering the ancient call and response of our ancestors to war, mourning, joy, celebration and remembrance.
Transformational Personal Ecology
“A peculiar thing about doing leadership work to uplift others is that the world often forgets that the worker also needs uplifting, that the work can become heavy, and that, frequently, the work is being performed to soothe one’s own soul.”
Josie Pickens, ”The Black Superwoman Syndrome”, Jet Magazine, April 2014
Black and Brown women leaders resist, create, maneuver, code-switch and perpetually craft meaning from their circumstances. The oppression of Black women, in particular, can sometimes come in the form of praise for the valiant Black woman that does it all, endures with resilience, cares for others, is the matriarch of the family, is a leader and a change-maker, without ever asking whether this same woman has saved anything for herself. Reverend Kanyere Eaton, “Lives of Commitment”, Auburn Theological Seminary, 2012
“…In this here place we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances in bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it…You got to love it, you!” Toni Morrison, Beloved
Our Circle’s approach to Transformational Personal Ecology engages the prospect that JWOC can lead and operate meaningful activist lives outside of a paradigm for work that supports our own oppression. Our approach will offer Jewish Women of Color a chance to connect to their humanness and thus their frailty. Our approach will provide a community for JWOC to share and appreciate the value of their intersectional stories and experiences in marginalized bodies. Our approach will provide resources for JWOC leaders to develop the emotional literacy and confidence to admit when they are hurting or struggling, without succumbing to fear that they will be seen as weak. Our approach will address the challenge that when a woman leader of color lives even a small portion of her life publicly, that public too often expects perfection and, by virtue of being a leader, that she has already conquered the challenges she advocates against. Our approach to Transformational Personal Ecology will provide Jewish Women of Color with opportunities to take off their capes and masks and contemplate the impact of stress, diet and exercise on their long-term health. It will provide JWOC with time to experiment with and engage the benefits of spa time, girl time, therapy, meditative practice, music and art as part of regularly scheduled meetings with “self” for transformational care. Our approach will lift up the benefits of leveraging our own Resilience Circle and other communities of care to share JWOC burdens while seeking and offering help.
The JWOC Resilience Circle approach to Transformational Personal Ecology will offer participants a chance to experience their own and others activist leadership from a place of balance. Balance meaning that a JWOC leader will be encouraged through our program to know both her strengths and her limitations. Our approach will provide tools that will enable JWOC to work at a pace that challenges them but does not harm or break them. Our approach will encourage JWOC leaders to embrace the mantra that they will not have not arrived in the journey to integrated self-care by participating in our program, but they will certainly have agreed to be working on their practice of self-care for a lifetime. Our approach will support Jewish Women of Color activist-leaders in avoiding self-sacrifice as an inevitable means for creating change and will encourage personal ecology and self-care as a means for remaining in social justice work -for as long as possible- in ways that bring joy and sustainable change to their lives and the lives of those around them.
Coordinator and Faculty Bios
Yavilah McCoy, is the CEO of the Diversity consulting group DIMENSIONS Inc. Over twenty years, Yavilah has worked with a broad base of leaders and organizations to provide transformational resources for diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. Yavilah is a pioneer of the Jewish diversity and equity movement and has been an activist and mentor for the empowerment of Jews of Color for most of her life. She brings a wealth of wisdom and experience in DEI consulting, non-profit management, philanthropy and engagement to her work and has partnered with numerous agencies to build strong, healthy organizations with measurable commitments to racial justice, equity and anti-oppression in practice. Yavilah was voted one of “16 Faith Leaders to Watch” by the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC. She is a certified coach for the Auburn Theological Seminary’s Pastoral Coach Training Program and a fellow for their Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle. Yavilah is a certified trainer for the” A World of Difference Institute,” the National Coalition Building Institute, and the National Center for Community and Justice. As a career Jewish professional, Yavilah directed the launch of the “Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project” for Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the Ruderman Family Foundation. Yavilah was also the Boston Director for Bronfman Philanthropy’s Curriculum Initiative (TCI), a non-profit educational consultancy that serviced 600 prep schools across the nation with resources for Jewish identity and culture. Yavilah was one of the inaugural recipients of the Joshua Venture Fellowship, and the founding director of Ayecha, one of the first nonprofit Jewish organizations to provide education and advocacy for Jews of Color in the United States. Yavilah is a renowned national speaker, educator, and diversity practitioner and in celebration of the musical traditions passed down to her from three generations of her African-American Jewish family, is also the writer, producer and performer for the Jewish Gospel theatrical production “The Colors of Water.”
Lisa Anderson is Vice President of Embodied Justice Leadership at Auburn Theological Seminary, an initiative dedicated to equipping bold and resilient women faith leaders with the tools they need for a lifetime of prophetic social justice activism. Anderson is the founding director of the newest signature program of that initiative, The Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle, which aligns the creation of vibrant and sustainable models of activist leadership with an emphasis on self and community care as a defining and galvanizing mandate for social justice in the 21st century. In addition, Anderson works with Auburn’s education team on issues of intersectional organizing, bridging the divide between theology and activism, and on deepening the spiritually grounding of leaders in a multifaith movement for justice via the creation and curation of worship and liturgical resources.
Before coming to Auburn, Anderson designed seminars on national and international affairs at the Church Center of the United Nations for the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. There she helped lay leaders connect their professions of Christian faith to concrete and spiritually grounded activism for social change and transformation. Anderson was also a leader and facilitator at Marble Collegiate Church, working specifically on behalf of the Women’s Ministry, Young Adult Ministry and the Senior Fellowship. Anderson has worked on issues of food justice and as an advocate for poor women and children through the United Way-sponsored Dutchess Outreach in Upstate New York where she supervised a volunteer staff of over one hundred.
Anderson is a graduate of Vassar College where she majored in religion and philosophy. A trained theologian, Anderson holds a Master of Divinity and Master of Philosophy degree from Union Theological Seminary. Currently she is a Union Ph.D. candidate in systematic theology specializing in Christian doctrines and liberation theologies. Her dissertation, “On Love, Liberation and Original Sin: A Black Queer Meditation,” is a critically constructive examination of how Christian sin-talk reimagined through the lens of black LGBTQ experience can be engaged as a positive and empowering narrative for Christians committed to a liberation discourse and practice more broadly.
Anderson has taught courses in black, womanist, feminist and LGBTQ theologies, Christian ethics and liturgy. She is a contributor to the recent book, “Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership” (Skylight Press, 2010) and blogs regularly on issues of embodiment, wellness and prophetic leadership for The Huffington Post.
Transformational Activism Faculty:
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
Farah Tanis is Lead Faculty for the Institute for Gender and Cultural Competence. Tanis is co-founder, Executive Director of Black Women’s Blueprint working at the grassroots and institutional levels to address the spectrum of gender violence against women and girls in Black/African American and other communities of color. Tanis’ work includes the development of curricula, policy development, technical assistance and training focused on an intersection of social justice issues facing women and LGBTQ communities of color on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as mainstream campuses and communities. Tanis is founder and is lead curator at the Museum of Women’s Resistance (MoWRe), which in 2013 became internationally recognized as a Site of Conscience. Tanis created Mother Tongue Monologues, a theatrical and multimedia art vehicle for teaching Black and Queer sexual politics in communities across the nation. Tanis is a 2012 U.S. Human Rights Institute Fellow (USHRN) and is a member of the Task Force on the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Tanis is a 2014 Feminist Majority Foundation “Ms. Wonder” Honoree for her work to address gender-violence on the nation’s college campuses. Tanis is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Business, Institute for Executive Management, possesses a B.A. in Science from NYU, an M.A. in Social Work from Fordham University.
Walidah Imarisha is a writer, organizer, educator and performance poet. She is one half of the poetic duo Good Sista/Bad Sista. She has shared the stage with Angela Davis, Cornel West, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Kenny Muhammad of the Roots, Chuck D, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Umar bin Hassan from The Last Poets, Boots Riley, Saul Williams, Ani DiFranco, John Irving, dead prez and Kochiyama. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications, including the hip hop anthology Total Chaos. Walidah has facilitated poetry and journalism workshops third grade to twelfth, in schools, community centers, youth detention facilities, and women’s prisons.
Walida directed and co-produced the Katrina documentary Finding Common Ground in New Orleans. She has taught in the Portland State University’s Black Studies Department, Oregon State University’s Women’s Studies Department and Southern New Hampshire University’s English Department.
Transformational Spirituality Faculty:
Shoshana Brown, LMSW is a bold, energetic, passionate, healer, dancer, social justice warrior. She works as a Dean/Social Worker in a 6-12th grade school in the South Bronx. She is also an adjunct professor at Silberman School of Social Work, teaching the class she once advocated and organized to create: Practice Lab on Anti-oppressive Practice. Shoshana serves as the Board President for Equality for Flatbush, an anti-gentrification and anti-police brutality grassroots organization in Brooklyn. She has facilitated and planned conferences and convenings for more than 200 prison activists, smaller workshops on the Paulo Freire methodology, social work engagement, trauma, and group work. She is an Infinite Possibilities trainer and supports individuals working on taking action in their life and creating their dreams. Shoshana has completed the Urban Atabex training and is a healer trained in earth based spirituality exploring the intersection of earth-based spirituality and Judaism. She has taken on exploring this intersection formally in the Kohenet Institute for Hebrew Priestesses and looks forward to ordination in 2018. Shoshana is a fierce, loving, and energetic organizer and healer. She is a mixed race-Black Jewish womyn who hails from the Bronx and has made her home in Washington Heights while still working in Hunt’s Point.
Rev. Jennifer Bailey
Named one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress, Rev. Jennifer Bailey is an ordained minister, public theologian, and emerging national leader in multi-faith movement for justice. She is the Founding Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a new interfaith community equipping faith leaders to challenge structural inequality in their communities. Jennifer comes to this work with nearly a decade of experience at nonprofits combatting intergenerational poverty.
An Ashoka Fellow, Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, and Truman Scholar, Jennifer earned degrees from Tufts University and Vanderbilt University Divinity School where she was awarded the Wilbur F. Tillett Prize for accomplishments in the study of theology. She writes regularly for a number of publications including Sojourners and the Huffington Post. Her first book, tentatively titled Confessions of a #Millennial #Minister is currently under contract with Chalice Press. Rev. Bailey is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Transformational Personal Ecology Faculty:
Terna Hamida Jahnjeh Tilley-Gyado
Evolutionary Hands is Terna (say Tayna) Tilley-Gyado. A citizen of the world and passionate advocate for progress, equality, positivity, and LOVE. Terna is a Life Coach and Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner located in Western Massachusetts. The underlying unifier of each of those roles is Facilitator Healer. Terna’s goal as a healer is to support individuals in answering the question, “who am I at the next level of my personal evolution?” Together, she explores their answers by recovering and discovering truths, potential, and authenticity using the modality that best allows people to access and be in conversation with their heart and spirit.
Terna has served her community as a Clinical Trauma Responder working with young people impacted by community violence; as a NYC public school teacher; at the United Nations; through a national anti-bullying non-profit; and as a co-writer and performer for the show Coming Out Muslim: Radical Acts of Love . Terna holds Masters degrees in Counseling & Global Mental Health; International Conflict Analysis and; Adolescent Education. She has lived on three continents, making a life for herself in six different countries, learning about the vast and beautiful diversity in cultures and the nature of the human spirit every step of the way.
Terna’s life of travel, education, and advocacy has lead her to a deep awareness of health, healing, and overall wellness in herself and others. She is interested in the inner (r)evolutions we all experience and how they show up in relationships between our inner dichotomies (ex. fierce and tender, hard and soft, seen and unseen).
Terna’s practice, Evolutionary Hands, serves as an avenue for her to use her skills and intuitive abilities to facilitate healing through the modalities of Life Coaching (through a spiritual lens) and Jin Shin Jyutsu (a form of energy work). Her practice supports folks in exploring themselves with the aim of cultivating a deeper connection to their truths so that they may better feed and nourish themselves, their relationships, and their sense of purpose. By providing an honest, fun, and liberating experience, individuals emerge from work with Terna feeling whole, happy, and free to realize the next level of their own personal (r)evolution.
Aba Taylor, is the Executive Director of the Winchester Multicultural Network in Boston. Aba has been involved in social justice work for over 15 years supporting immigrants, people affected by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQI advocacy, women’s rights, and racial and economic justice movements. Having worked for the United Nations, African Services Committee, Lambda Legal, Liberty Hill Foundation, ACT-UP and a host of other civil rights, social justice and cultural organizations committed to uplifting myriad communities, she has promoted anti-violence and anti-bias strategies and education, facilitated numerous cultural competency and civil rights trainings, used media and cultural work to shift public perceptions, and created and managed programs to create greater opportunities for some of society’s most marginalized people.