Pacifica, Calif.

For the students, presenters and staff who attended the A.S.C.E.N.D. Academy in Pacifica, Calif., this week was a time to look at oneself. Whether the discussion was about management styles, anti-oppression or financial stewardship, this week focused on deepening one’s awareness.
There were also opportunities for students to gain knowledge and skills that can benefit their agencies. Attendees left this training with more tools to use in their jobs, which will increase their value at their agencies and support their work in the field.

I’m new to this movement, so this was a huge learning experience for me. However, it occurred to me that because this work starts with the individual (the coordinator, the manager, the E.D.), this training is a learning experience for everyone — no matter how long you’ve been doing this work.
People who work in this movement must constantly ask the question: “What is the root of this problem?” And then: “How can I improve this?”
I realized that the answer for eliminating oppression — the root of sexual violence — is impossible if the focus starts on others. Sexual violence will continue … unless the leaders in the movement are willing to constantly look at oneself — What are my biases? Am I being an ally? Do I practice what I preach?
It takes an enormous amount of humbleness to be a lifelong learner. Examining one’s own judgments — racism, sexism, homophobia, classism — requires a willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self esteem. In order to create any kind of change in the world, let go of your own self-importance.
You can start this habit by asking yourself everyday: Am I a reflection of the community I want to live in?