How Thrive Got Started
"Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America." - John Lewis
John Lewis made this statement on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, commemorating the tragic events of Bloody Sunday. We like to think it is this good and necessary trouble that inspired the creation of Thrive.
I am a White Woman. I graduated with a BA in Psychology... Got a Master's and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology... Completed a fellowship at Harvard Medical School... Provided services and developed, delivered, and evaluated programs and interventions in many settings including hospitals, schools/ after-schools, juvenile detention centers, and community mental health agencies...The perfect resume for a White Women, socialized in America to “help people” to “help Black people”. This resume included little education on the racial history of this country and less education on the impact of systemic racism on communities (but all the degrees to work in them). I began my career in an infamous public housing community- Cabrini Green- and worked there as a therapist for 10+ years. What I missed in formal education, Cabrini residents taught me- racism is real and ugly, gentrification is profoundly damaging, good intentions don’t always equate to good outcomes, loyalty is everything, people are strong, and the narratives taught are false. I also learned I would never impact large scale change if I did not support people’s access to power instead of programs alone.
I am a bi-racial Black Woman. I don’t normally identify myself as bi-racial (I know that disappoints my white mother), but I say it here to make clear that I have internalized and been socialized around advantages as a “light-skinned” Black woman. Beginning in traditional systems instituted for redevelopment, my career started in an organized Black community in Delray Beach, best known today as The Set. This community taught me about its historical resistance to institutionalized racist policies by way of urban renewal (“or Black-folk removal” - thanks Chuck Ridley). It is here that I came to understand my role as a gatekeeper- a gatekeeper of information, of resources, and of power within systems. My job description included organizing and advocating in this community but when I questioned the intentions and rationale of the agency, my loyalty to the institution was questioned. I am grateful for the educational investments of both the community and institution- the most important lesson being that systems responsible for the problems faced by Black communities, aren’t likely to effectively or justly solve them (and they might not really want to).
We are Thrive. We met each other while serving on the steering committee for Healthier Delray Beach - a collective impact, place-based behavioral health initiative. It is through this work we were exposed to The Racial Equity Institute. In a two-day workshop our professional experiences/ frustrations were validated and we left with new shades (bi-metaphorically) neither of us could ever remove. We quit our jobs shortly after. Frankly, we are pains-in-the-ass. We are strong-willed women with undeniable work ethic. We are pushy and questioning. We have high expectations and hold ourselves and others accountable. It is our pain-in-the-ass-ness that brought us together (that and our unwavering belief in the power of community) and if troublemakers before, we’ve only become bigger ones. Over the years, Sara has learned she must understand the White experience before she can empathize with the Black one; that she must organize and save White communities because it’s not her place to save Black ones; and that her role in anti-racism work is much different than initially envisioned. Kristyn has learned to use her advantages to get a seat at the table and to bring with her the strength of Black hope and experiences; to make people smile but also acknowledge the role they play in this racist construct and their responsibility to do something about it. Together we are organizers and asset developers. We introduce White advantage and Black power. We are committed to this work for the long haul... learning and unlearning, celebrating small gains, making constant adjustments to the strategies, and responding to the course corrections… all things anti racist work necessitates.
“Speak up, speak out, get in the way,” said Lewis