Healing Circles

Traditionally, many Indigenous communities have used talking/healing circles as a means of creating and sustaining connectedness, as well as for the purposes of teaching, listening, learning, and unlearning. We honor those contributions as we consider how we come together as – students, staff and faculty throughout CHSS – to create spaces for reflections and connections around racial justice.

The creation of healing circles intentionally centers well-being and caring as a foundation for racial justice. Healing circles recognize the trauma and pain of racism and racial injustice and uphold the hope for healing and growth that comes from connections and community. While each individual will ultimately define the experience of racial healing for themselves, we envision these healing circles as spaces for:

  • Bearing witness to and naming the trauma, violence and pain of racism - present and past
  • Validating the complexity and intersectionality of people’s experience with race and racism
  • Affirming the restorative power of connecting to those with shared experiences
  • Honoring the safety and trust that is needed for people to be their authentic racial selves
  • Sustaining our commitment to advancing the social justice and educational mission of the college
  • Fostering our spiritual, emotional, interpersonal, and intellectual well-being as we engage in the practice of racial justice
  • Creating safe spaces that allow us to dream and reinvent a racially just institution

Healing Circles Information

Healing Circles will be launched in Spring 2021, approximately mid-late February. For more information about what Healing Circles, please refer to Frequently Asked Questions: Healing Circles.

To sign up for a Healing Circles, please go to the link below. Also, please be on the lookout for Healing Circle notices that will be distributed through the College listserv, as well as departmental and student listservs.

Healing Circles Toolkit

Frequently Asked Questions

Purpose and Goals

Traditionally, many Indigenous communities have used talking/healing circles as a means of creating and sustaining connectedness, as well as for the purposes of teaching, listening, learning, and unlearning. We honor those contributions as we consider how we come together as – students, staff and faculty throughout CHSS – to create spaces for reflections and connections around racial justice.
The creation of healing circles intentionally centers well-being and caring as a foundation for racial justice. Healing circles recognize the trauma and pain of racism and racial injustice and uphold the hope for healing and growth that comes from connections and community. While each individual will ultimately define the experience of racial healing for themselves, we envision these healing circles as spaces for:
  • Bearing witness to and naming the trauma, violence and pain of racism - present and past
  • Validating the complexity and intersectionality of people’s experience with race and racism
  • Affirming the restorative power of connecting to those with shared experiences
  • Honoring the safety and trust that is needed for people to be their authentic racial selves
  • Sustaining our commitment to advancing the social justice and educational mission of the college
  • Fostering our spiritual, emotional, interpersonal, and intellectual well-being as we engage in the practice of racial justice
  • Creating safe spaces that allow us to dream and reinvent a racially just institution

Logistics

All students, staff and faculty throughout CHSS are encouraged to join a Healing Circle although it is voluntary. Recognizing that people may be interested in different healing circles with different compositions (e.g., gender, race, faculty/staff/student representation), we will be distributing a sign-up survey for Healing Circles that asks for your preferences in composition across multiple dimensions. You will be asked for your first, second and third preferences for Healing Circle compositions to increase the probability of different types of groups being created. We believe that different group compositions all have the potential to provide a unique healing experience. Groups that reach an optimal enrollment of 5-6 individuals will be launched. In short the composition of each Healing Circle will be determined by enrollment demand.

Groups that do not have enough enrollment will not be launched at this time. However, we anticipate that we will be conducting periodic sign-up surveys for new Healing Circles that will serve as opportunities to create new groups. We would also encourage you to work with colleagues and friends in starting a group. Also, if you don’t see the formation of a group of a particular composition, please reach out to us and we will do our best to support you!

We want to underscore that different Healing Circles will be created on an ongoing basis. So, if your particular Circle preferences aren’t met at this point, no worries! We will be placing out regular calls for Healing Circles that will be an opportunity for your preferences to be realized. And again, if you and your colleagues and friends are interested in starting a group, that option will also be available to you! In the long term, it is our hope that the College will be offering a range of different types of Healing Circles and that these Circles will be continually evolving, depending upon the needs of our community.
If you and your colleagues and friends are interested in starting a group, you can certainly do so. And you are more than welcome to use the resources that the college is providing on its website.
Circles will start in Spring 2021 and we ask that group members make a commitment to maintain the circle at least through Spring. Circle members will decide among themselves about their meeting schedule after Spring 2021.
Circle members will decide among themselves about the duration and frequency of their individual meetings. However, we recommend that Circles meet in greater frequency in the beginning in order to establish the connections and trust that are the foundation of an effective Circle. To this end, we suggest that you meet at least for one-hour – preferably 90 minutes or more – and meet at least once a month, preferably every 2 weeks. We also suggest that in order to give the group the time to become cohesive, group members commit to the group for 1 semester. Of course, groups can also decide to continue meeting beyond a semester.
In general, once a Circle reaches 5-6 individuals, that Circle is closed to additional members – particularly during the initial meetings. The goal here is to create spaces that have a stable and consistent set of individuals that allows the group to develop the trust in one another that is essential for healing. However, as groups evolve and perhaps membership changes, a Circle may want to open itself up to new members.
Yes to an extent. For a healing circle to foster a sense of collective trust and safety, it is essential that all members respect and honor the confidentiality of each members’ contributions. However, while we will do our very best to support the confidentiality of the group, it is not guaranteed and the responsibility for maintaining the group’s privacy and confidentiality will rest with the group members.
From power differentials to simply wanting a more private space, this concern is entirely understandable and normal. Because a sense of safety is a critical foundation for any Healing Circle, we will be asking all interested participants to indicate if this is a concern for them when people sign up for a Circle and indicate their preferences. We will do our very best to insure that you are not in a group with someone from your department. If for any reason, you still have a concern about the members of your group, please do not hesitate to reach out to us and we will work towards reassigning you into another group.
Healing Circles are self-governing groups and as such, each individual will decide the degree to which they invest in their Circle. In addition, the group members may agree on some expectations of each other. However, being consistent in the group does contribute to greater cohesion and a richer experience.
Ultimately, the decision to stay or leave a Circle is yours to make. That being said, we would encourage you to give your group a chance for 2-3 meetings. A Healing Circle around racism and racial justice is a unique experience for many of us and it may take awhile for the group dynamics to find its rhythm and for the group to establish a shared sense of trust. Additionally, a Healing Circle on race may be challenging and at times uncomfortable or painful. We invite you to consider discomfort and pain as part of the healing process.
Yes and no. We believe that different groups (e.g., a group for people of color versus a multiracial group) offer different types of healing experiences for each individual. Consequently, it is possible that you may want to be in different types of groups. Over the long term, as different types of Healing Circles are created in CHSS, we invite you to join different groups in order to broaden your lens and perspectives on race. However, for any given semester, we ask that you limit yourself to a single Healing Circle. Our reasons for this are a) to encourage you to invest fully in that specific Circle at that moment in time and b) to provide access to these Circles to as broad a range of participants as possible in a semester.

Format

As a self-governing space, the overall activities of a Healing Circle are determined by its members. However, to support these groups, we have provided a set of resources that offer: a) an initial structure for the first set of meetings, b) ideas (activities, films, reflection questions, etc.) for future meetings, and c) guiding principles and tips for a Healing Circle. Ultimately, the nature of your specific Healing Circle is the collective responsibility of the group and these resources are designed to prime your group’s thinking about the range of possibilities.

We believe that people can benefit from and need different types of Healing Circles. Some would prefer and benefit from a Circle that is unstructured and allows people to bring up concerns and topics as they arise. Others would like a more structured Circle with specific topics, exercises, activities, etc. As you sign-up for your preferences for a Healing Circle, you will be asked whether or not you’d like to be in a structured or unstructured group and we will do our best to meet that need. Ultimately, the decision for the level of structure that your group will have will be a collective decision of your Circle.

 

For those groups who would like a more structured experience, we are recommending that the group utilize Dr. Anneliese Singh’s (2019) Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism and Engage in Collective Healing. Dr. Singh is a psychologist and Chief Diversity Officer at Tulane University. She is an expert on issues of race, privilege, and racism and her handbook is a thoughtful, accessible and candid guide towards the process of racial healing. As a structure for your Circle, we recommend that the group simply commit to reading and discussing 1-2 chapters of the handbook per meeting. Here is the publisher’s link to the handbook: https://www.newharbinger.com/racial-healing-handbook

As a self-governing space, the leadership of a Healing Circle is also decided by its members. Some groups may feel comfortable with choosing a specific guardian and host or perhaps it may be more comfortable rotating leadership or sharing different roles (guardian, host, scheduler, etc.) across different individuals. Again, the nature of your specific Healing Circle rests with the membership of a group. If you are interested in the roles of guardian and/or host, please let us know. A brief training will be provided for those interested in one or both of these roles

As with many new things, trust and confidence comes only after one tries something - not before. And when it comes to discussions about race and racism, this is even more true. We have all been socialized to regard race and racism as taboo topics - topics reserved only for our closest friends and family, if at all. And certainly, not a discussion to be had with colleagues and friends in the workplace. Indeed, one of the most insidious aspects of racism has been its power to silence us and to render itself invisible. So, if you are cautious about this, that is completely understandable and normal. Our guess is that you are not the only who is cautious in your Circle and that might be a perfectly appropriate place to start the conversation.

To be in a Healing Circle is both a risk and leap of faith towards our shared purpose. As a Collective, we believe that the work of racial justice (i.e., creating new policies, practices, procedures) can only come when we have both the connections and trust that Healing Circles can foster, as well as the shared understanding of our different experiences and histories that can come from Learning Circles (see below). So we encourage our community to take a leap of faith in the friends and colleagues that are all part of our college community.

It can. But it is not guaranteed. Quite honestly, some groups will work, some groups will not. Some will bond easily and others will bond through struggle. To predict all this beforehand, is impossible to say.

However, creating racial justice is an ongoing practice. Practice means we keep trying and we have an openness to learning and struggling, especially when it doesn’t work out. This is exactly what we ask of our students and it is a lesson for us all. Wrestling with race and racism and talking about it at work with one’s colleagues, is not something that most of us have much practice at. So, it is our hope that we invest ourselves in the practice of racial healing and seeking a group that fits. After all, it’s vital for all of us to find a Healing Circle that does provide us with that sense of connecting and healing.

As with any group of individuals, the potential for disagreement and conflict is a natural part of group dynamics, particularly when the discussion involves race and racism. The resources that we provide highlight the importance of setting group norms – including the potential for conflict – as the group begins so that all group members have a shared understanding of how the group hopes to respond to such situations. Particularly in a culture that places a taboo on talking about race and racism, we believe that a certain amount of discomfort will be a natural part of all Healing Circles. However, we also hope that one of the skills we all develop in these Healing Circles is the ability to discuss, navigate and work through this discomfort as a group. So, our initial hope is for a group to undertake a good faith effort to work through such situations as a collective.

That being said, there may be situations in which the level of conflict or disagreement is elevated, it feels unsafe for the circle to address the issues, and/or the well-being of the group or its members is compromised. In such situations, we would invite you to reach out to the members of the RACE Collective for a confidential consultation and we would be happy to provide you with the support you need. We hope to support you in these situations by exploring a range of strategies for both you as an individual and the group as a whole. We invite you to actively provide feedback on how we can make this experience safer for groups and individuals.

As a self-governing space, the outcomes and benefits of a particular Healing Circle are determined by its members. Healing Circles are not committees or working groups that need to produce a product or specific outcome for the college or the university. This is a strictly voluntary space for all members of the CHSS community in an attempt to support the emotional, intellectual and communal labor of advancing racial justice.
While the focus of these Healing Circles is on healing, connections, and support, they could also be wonderful incubators for ideas. As your Circle works together, it is possible that ideas or concerns about racial and social justice may emerge from your discussions. We would invite any and all members of the CHSS community - in a Healing Circle or not - to share their ideas and concerns with us. At the moment, the primary way to do so will be through emailing the members of the Collective directly. But as the RACE Initiative and our Healing Circles evolve, we will be creating other opportunities (e.g., surveys, town halls, focus groups) for all of CHSS to share its ideas on how to advance racial justice

Distinctions

No. These are informal spaces that bring together members of one community to set aside a time and place to talk and share about the experience of race and racism – a space and a gift that few of us have experienced or been given. Unlike therapy which is facilitated by a mental health professional, Healing Circles are spaces where individuals come together as equals – each with a valuable and distinct experience of race – in the hopes of supporting the ongoing work of fostering and embedding racial justice in the college.

That being said, talking about race and racism can be an emotionally evocative experience as well as challenging and liberating in equal measure. We believe that this is a normative part of the healing experience. For those who would like additional and professional support, we will be compiling a list of resources that participants can access to complement the work of their Healing Circle.

No. We believe that a healing space is distinct from a training or learning space. Although one can certainly learn from the experiences, wisdom and insights of others within a Healing Circle, this type of space focuses on the healing that comes from self-disclosure, the exchange of experiences, and the emotional connections and support that comes from a sense of trust and community. However, for those groups that do decide on a more structured experience - such as the Racial Healing Handbook by Dr. Singh (see above) - this type of Circle may be more of blend of healing and structured learning.

 

That being said, learning about race and racism – from the history of racism to the impact of racism to its systemic institutionalization - is a vital part of advancing racial justice in CHSS. Without a shared understanding of the problem, CHSS as a community cannot advance its racial justice mission. To this end, we are anticipating the creation of Learning Circles around race and racism that are designed to complement these Healing Circles.

No. We believe that a healing circle is distinct from a space that focuses on developing and revising policies and procedures related to the work that we do. Although advancing racial justice in CHSS will require us to redesign our policies and procedures in order to institutionalize racial justice into our community, that type of work is more appropriate for Working Circles or committees rather than Healing Circles. In effect, Working Circles will be a complement to both Healing Circles and Learning Circles and ultimately, Working Circles are designed to foster and embed racial justice in all aspects of the CHSS community. As the college identifies key areas and policies (course design, tenure and promotion processes, hiring and evaluation, etc.) that require a re-examination through a racial justice lens, we anticipate creating Working Circles on these specific topics that would welcome the input of all college members.
You can sign up for a Healing Circles at the following link:


When you sign-up, you will be asked for your preferences about group composition.