Flippin’ the PD Script: A Modest Juneteenth Proposal

As of last week, over 140 Black professionals who accepted the invitation to the Diasporic Soul Heritage and Healing Professional Development Experience on LinkedIn. Most, it seems, did not seem to notice that the experience is actually in Senegal 27 June -7 July.  I get it; we all scroll mindlessly and respond affirmatively while not really making a commitment to that event or program we virtually and randomly said yes too. We all do it.

On the other hand, others, I assume, perhaps, did not consider the fact that they could actually ask that their professional development funds and then some (EAP $, Wellness $, Retention $, Affinity or Employee Resource $ or DEI $) be invested in an healing and restoration experience.

This from a woman who got to Cuba using PD funds in the early 2000s simply by suggesting that a language and culture immersion experience would allow me to better understand the challenges my second-language learners had as they attended the community college where I served as a member of the English faculty. I did not go to come back and hablamos espanol fluently. Come on, it was four weeks, not four months. But, I did deepen my self-awareness and my capacity to be courageous and brave. And, to see myself in more affirming ways. And, yes, to meet my students with more grace, patience and love. Oh, yeah, and, to learn how to dance salsa (but that is another story).

No, really.  I imagine that most of those 140 Black professionals did not ask, propose or insist like I did back in the day. I imagine that they assumed a no in lieu of a yes or maybe. I imagine that most did not call the aforementioned sister in HR , you know the one, to see what she thought about pursuing the matter. Because she, like your Aunt Hattie Mae, is either gonna tell you to go sit your crazy ass down or tell you that the idea might actually fly and with whom because she has been working there for 20 years and she knows where the bodies are buried. And, who has discretionary dollars to spend at the fiscal year’s end. All she expects from you is a gift from the Motherland when you get back. A six-meter swatch of bright colorful fabric, a hand woven basket, art by a local artist or some bouye or bissap jelly to spread on her morning toast.

Besides, so much like your Aunt Hattie Mae, she just knows that you need this trip, this experience, this chance to slow down and connect with your ancestral homeland, your roots. Do not ever sleep on your Aunt Hattie Mae. Or the prescient liberatory impulses kept close to the chest of the sister in HR or the Budget Office. She has everyone fooled, even you because you been too busy to notice the way she puts everyone in check without saying a damn word. Just like your Aunt Hattie Mae.

Besides, so much like your Aunt Hattie Mae, she just knows that you need this trip, this experience, this chance to slow down and connect with your ancestral homeland, your roots. Do not ever sleep on your Aunt Hattie Mae. Or the prescient liberatory impulses kept close to the chest of the sister in HR or the Budget Office. She has everyone fooled, even you because you been too busy to notice the way she puts everyone in check without saying a damn word. Just like your Aunt Hattie Mae.

So, maybe you cannot imagine sitting down with the sister in HR or the person who has to sign off on the purchase authorization or travel requisition and letting them know that your are tired of high-effort coping and all the other ish that goes along with being Black in America.

But, you should ask yourself, why not? Cincinnati’s Design Impact told Caitlin Jee Hae Behle yes, according to her recent LinkedIn post

In fact, Design Impact agreed to funding a PD experience for her that honored all of her, the part of her that seems have needed be restored. A restoration that included reconnecting to her roots, to her people, to a culture she has ties to, ties that were broken or at least frayed by contested histories, places and moments in time.  They agreed to support the part of her that was seeking, dreaming and needing to feed herself creatively and culturally.  They agreed to give her space and room to know in new affirming, transformative and heart-centered ways.

How frickin’ dope that is, really!!! No really. What she asked for and what she got was truly innovative and Dope AF.

Consider that.  Consider expecting your employer to say yes, enthusiastically. To invest in you, the you who needs more than another conference, certification or course towards your next degree. To do so without asking a million and one (you know they be asking a million and one questions about every thang) To do so without spreadsheets and ROI outlined to the infinite degree. That they recognize that you, like lots of Black folks, continue to show up to ensure, in many cases, the well-being of others in ways that over time cause us dis-ease and compromise our well-being. Not to mention all that has been unfolding around us that we are supposed to, oft times, cope with in silence. Steadfast, forging ahead, head down, focused on the bottom line . . . 

Maybe they say yes like those who said yes to the Black folks who will spend nine days here experiencing the ways integrating SOUL (culture) and contemplative practice can deepen their capacity for healing and restoration resilience and yes, resistance.

Why not ask, your employer to invest in racial healing that centers Blackness and that gives you the resources to feed your SOUL. After, of course, you check with the sister in HR that reminds you of your Aunt Hattie Mae.

Unconventional, yes. Unsettling, indeed, for some. But, this my friends, is the proposition.  Sit with it.  Surrender.  Ask spirit, the ancestors, yours and ours, the Divine one, to guide and support you. Then, when you have gotten the blessing from them and the sister in HR (or the budget office) tap into your heart and spirit and make the ask.  For next time, for 2023.


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