The role of healing in civic processes

Cartoon man smiling in front of posterJah’shams Abdul-Mu’min, director of Success A New Beginning in South Central Los Angeles, discusses the role of healing in civic processes and the innovative ways the organization is working with grassroots groups to help people make a difference in their community.

I’m speaking with Jah Shams Abdul-Mumin, director of Success, A New Beginning, based in South Central Los Angeles. We’ll be talking about the innovative ways the organization engages the grassroots to help people make a difference in their community. Jah Shams, can you tell me about the challenges facing South Central L.A., and particularly the people you work with?

We are trying to cope with the fact that for the past 35 years we’ve dealt with a great level of violence in our community and that level of violence has created extreme levels of trauma for children, their families, and other individuals in our communities. And we have not had the resources or the attention directed at treating that trauma. Many folks are lingering with a great deal of stress and burden around community violence, family violence. And it’s really the lynchpin  that has slowed down many people’s involvement in the civic process.

Why is it important to work from people’s assets and common values when doing the work?

When we are not looking at people’s assets it’s very difficult to generate that kind of enthusiasm to get the work done. So for us we find that people are really excited when people acknowledge the fact that they’re healing, that they’re growing into something new, because there’s a great deal of energy and life in poor and underserved communities that most people think that it’s a horrible horrible place. Yes there is tragedy, but the life that’s there is so vibrant that we have to really be clear about tapping into the assets of the people who are struggling. Because itIt’s not by choice that they’re struggling. It’s by circumstance, culture, and environment.

What role does healing play in the civic process?

When I hear people say that poor people are apathetic, uneducated people are apathetic; I think they’re missing an important aspect of the cycles of trauma people have experienced.. The fact is that people have been traumatized, and once people understand that they have this innate power and that collectively it gets stronger, then they support each other. It never fails. If we go and look at the tsunami, if we look at 911, if we look at any tragedy, people pull themselves together and they support each other. And iIt’s not around the tragedy per say, it’s around the fact that we all want to heal. It’s something that we yearn for, especially when we’re feeling pain, and we're feeling depressed. We want to be in a state of healing. And when we become conscious about it, that inspires other people to see that they have that same capacity, join in, and do something that supports the healing process.

Thank you so much for speaking to us today. We really appreciate it.

It’s been my pleasure. I really enjoy the work that Everyday Democracy is doing. It’s been an inspiration for me since the mid 90’s when I first learned about Study Circles, so to see this evolution is quite inspiring and to stay connected to you guys is something that I always do.

October 28, 2009

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