How are you? This is a question I’ve asked and been asked more frequently in the last three months than I have experienced in my lifetime. I have felt profoundly loved and deeply overwhelmed. The next question a few will ask is, “How is PURPOSE Productions?” This is a question I can answer easily. PURPOSE Productions is thriving.
How is your business thriving in a moment like this?
PURPOSE Productions is not a business, job, nor workplace.
We are a collective. We listen and support each other. We focus our energy on opportunities that sustain our thriving (which took about five years to learn). When someone needs to rest, another team member has always been willing to carry their load for a period of time. When someone needs resources, team members have shared what they have and what they know. This is our embodiment of anti-capitalism. Perhaps this is the beginnings of a mothering economy.
In Unapologetic, Charlene A. Carruthers proposes that “adopting healing justice as a core organizing value and practice” is a collective commitment “our movements must take up to regenerate.” Healing justice, as named by Cara Page and Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective, “identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence, and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.” Respond. Intervene. Impact. Transform. Our whole selves in collective practice.
I would venture to say that healing justice is a collective commitment that must be taken up by every space we exist in – work, home, community – to cultivate our thriving. Because, in a world beyond capitalism, there will still be work to do. And if we are working with others, then there will still need to be space for the human experience to be heard, affirmed, and processed before any work can get done. Perhaps in a future without capitalism and every other oppressive force we presently encounter, that human space is at home. It’s more likely that the human space will be necessary in every role and relationship the human enters.
So how is that human space maintained, especially considering how unpredictable and inconsistent humans can be?
With responsiveness as a core value, we continuously listen deeply and remain prepared to shift.
The PURPOSE Productions team is ever ready. Our proverbial knees are always bent, positioning us for easy movement in any direction (imagine riding an NYC subway while not holding onto anything). Easy as in possible with some semblance of quickness; that ease is not the same as being comfortable. We practice this shifting physically during our team retreats: moving, falling, changing direction with our feet connected to the earth. This embodied knowledge reminds us, in any moment, that falling is never final and that if we listen deeply we can move to a new position of stability. Yes, PURPOSE is dancing.
Because if this practice, when a crisis does hit, we know this team is here to support each other. We have engaged in the physical and emotional repetitions and are ready for responsive movements. We also know everyone will be honest about the boundaries of their support. We know we can’t fulfill every need, and still we commit to listening and supporting in the ways that we can. And what happens when we can’t?
We are sustained by our belief in abundance and by asking for what we need.
Around October of 2019, we decided that PURPOSE would not take on any new projects until February of 2020. Our team was exhausted by life. Four folks had lost a grandparent in the past twelve months alongside many other familial deaths and life-altering transitions. As 2020 began, opportunities to activate new relationships were bubbling over. After months of resting, there was space for us to say “yes” to that which aligned to our values and excited our spirits (even as some team members continued to rest). As we said yes, we were also clear about how we needed to be compensated towards our continued rejuvenation. Now, those yes’s are the contracts and collaborations carrying us through this period that has been financially challenging for so many. Those of us who are rested have also shared our resources with team members who are still rejuvenating. And how, you ask, are we still gathering resources?
By focusing on care and vision, our work remains necessary and essential.
Folks often get confused about what work PURPOSE does. Our Leader Tara Daniels recently articulated that part of this confusion could be because our work, quite honestly, is caretaking. And caretaking is not work that has been deemed valuable, much less worthy of compensation, in the narrative of modern global capitalism, particularly not in the U.S.
Thankfully, our community of present and future sojourners are willing to challenge that narrative. They deeply value the ways that PURPOSE cares for them and invites them to vision. As adrienne maree brown, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis and so many others remind us, we are in a battle of imagination. “We must imagine the world and ourselves in new revolutionary ways. Our imaginations allow us to begin the struggle toward liberation. If revolution does not seem possible, it remains impossible.”* We are living the imaginings of so many before us, and now we too can vision beyond the structures and stories that oppress us.
Vision is the space where our thriving can live. Vision is the caretaking of our collective future. Vision is an opportunity to create the world that will sustain us, all of us. Vision is the work we do as a team and in our collaborations, and that is why we are still working in the midst of pandemic, uprising, and transformation. Amidst all of these, one questions seems to resound loudest: how do we hold anyone accountable?
By checking in regularly, we ground ourselves which allows for mutual accountability.
“The more grounded [a person is], the better their chances of following through on their accountability process. Toward that end, we create space for them to have a personal “check-in” at the beginning of each meeting. This is a moment for them to share anything they wish about their daily lives, emotional state, or logistical hurdles.”
Whether one-on-one or among the full team, PURPOSE meetings and gatherings always begin with a check-in. Formal or not, we hold space to find out how everyone is doing and what support, if any, they might need in their lives. We are people first, so we begin with ourselves.
This check-in is both the same and different from the more frequent asks of “How are you?” that have become common recently. We do ask that question, but often we search for another frame that calls forth the present and invites the whole self to enter. What do you need? What cycles are you observing, experiencing, opposing? What feelings are you feeling deeply and which are you avoiding? How have you been taking care of yourself? What has been your most recent joy? Checking in is a time to reflect, assess, and share how all facets of you are being. To explore your light and your shadows. To name who is with us today, right now.
Asking people over and over about the state of their whole self can have some magical effects. This repetition builds a deep trust that allows and invites honesty in our communication. And this continuous support invites a culture of reciprocity that keeps us accountable to each other if and when harm is caused. That harm may look like a harsher than necessary email, a missed deadline, an unfulfilled commitment. Whatever it is, knowing that we prioritize each other’s humanity translates into knowing that we will not be shamed or judged for our actions.
I realize that many, if not most, people are not willing to engage in the emotional labor of sitting with multiple people’s humanity in the way that I’ve chosen with everyone on the PURPOSE team. It has often been said that Organizer check-ins with me are “like therapy.” Similarly, fellow Leader Tara’s Healing & Rejuvenation emails to our team are deeply transformative and affirming messages. Talking and writing in this way takes a great deal of emotional and spiritual energy. I constantly define and refine the parameters, support structures, and boundaries that are necessary for me to continue to expend that energy.
Over the years of our collaborations, we have met very few other leaders of organizations, institutions, or businesses who have the interest in and willingness to continuously offer up that emotional energy of sitting with people and processing their humanity – what they need, how they’re feeling, what they’re questioning, etc – before discussing anything “work-related.” Capitalism prioritizes productivity and profit, which establishes a culture that cannot center much less hold any space for human complexity and contradiction. We who are socialized in capitalism therefore find it difficult to imagine doing the consistent emotional engagement that I have chosen as my primary work within PURPOSE Productions. That is what Creator. Emancipator. Oracle. means. My role is to crate space, invite emancipation, and see whole people and their futures past.
And that’s what PURPOSE Productions is – a future past.
At a time when time seems immaterial, days blend together and feel like forever while months speed by, I offer this living future that is PURPOSE. I invite you to vision your future and practice it now, today, tomorrow. That is what we are doing, and that is how PURPOSE continues to thrive.