Reflections on a Sacred Gathering: Racial Trauma and Healing Conference
In Raleigh, NC, from March 31 to April 1, 2023, we had the privilege of hosting our first Racial Trauma and Healing Conference.
This event brought together folks from racially marginalized communities, spanning different age groups, including both the younger generation and those who would be deemed elders in our communities. It’s fair to say that some, if not most, entered the weekend with curiosity and suspicion. They were intrigued to hear what we had to say about racial trauma and healing, yet understandably suspicious about how we would enter such a tender conversation. Some relaxed into their seats, trusting that what they were about to hear would be rich and relevant to their lives. Others leaned forward with bright, watchful eyes, as we gradually built a foundation of trust and sparked their interest.
Creating a Sacred Space:
As a teaching team, consisting of Wendell, Sam, and myself, we shared our unique stories and focused on what the Allender Center terms the Shalom Story Arc: Shalom, Shalom Shattered, Shalom Sought, and Shalom Restored. Before we talked about trauma, especially racial trauma, we believed it was crucial to set our point of orientation by establishing that we were made for Shalom. With each claim we made about Shalom, participants began to soften their gaze and relax their bodies. Our collective longing for Shalom to be true in our lives resonated deeply, despite the many experiences that challenge that longing.
Weaving Personal and Collective Stories:
We are a shalom shattered people, both personally and collectively. Together, we embarked on a journey where personal stories intertwined with larger collective narratives. As we wove our personal stories with larger collective stories, we read in the participants’ face and body that they were not only interested in what we had to say but, they were also thinking about their own stories. Our embodied telling of stories prompted a felt experience of us. As we shared how we felt Shalom or how Shalom was shattered in our bodies, or the actions we took to seek Shalom when it was lost or stolen, we implicitly invited the group to bring their minds and bodies on this transformative journey. We wanted them to know that they could bring all the parts of themselves to another person’s story and that we, as a team, were bringing ourselves, integrated and whole, in the ministry of storytelling.
The Power of Particularity:
We moved them deeper into the process by sharing with more particularity. By grounding our narratives in particular details, participants witnessed our shift from a bird’s eye view to a ground-level experience. They had to choose what they would do with our vulnerability: to draw closer, embracing tenderness, or to retreat, maintaining a distance and rigidity. Based on their focused attention, nods, affirmations, conversations in small groups, and the precious tears shed, it was evident that they chose closeness and tenderness—for us, for each other, and for themselves. Many participants posed thoughtful and sincere questions, and we engaged their questions with as much thoughtfulness and sincerity in return.
Inviting Shalom Restored:
We offered participants a glimpse of Shalom Restored in our own lives. It was not a promise that their path to restoration would mirror ours precisely, but rather an invitation to trust that there is more for them. Our intention was to pique their interest in their own stories and cultivate a desire to explore the Allender methodology of story engagement, knowing that their personal healing would extend beyond themselves to impact their communities.
A Joyous Conclusion:
To conclude our time together, we joined in song and dance, much to the chagrin of some. Dancing to an uplifting worship song, “I Will Sing” by Ada Ehi, we aimed to bring our entire beings—mind, body, and spirit—to our stories. This act of celebration and joy exemplified the sacredness of story work, as we embraced all the fragmented and banished parts of ourselves, welcoming them back into the fold.
For many of us, our first Racial Trauma and Healing Conference truly was a sacred gathering.
Pictured, left to right: Allender Center Lead Instructors Sam Lee, Linda Royster, Wendell Moss, and conference host Dr. James White
You can hear more from Linda, Sam, and Wendell in the free Racial Trauma & Healing Video Series. This series is for those living within racially-traumatized communities. Through this free video series, you’ll learn about the impacts of trauma, how trauma affects not only the individual but the collective, and how you can move toward healing to step into who God has called you to be.
Please note: This video series is an offering created specifically for, and led by, members of the BIPOC community. If you are not BIPOC, we respectfully ask that you please recognize and honor that these offerings are not for you. If you would like to help further this work, please join us by spreading the word about these offerings to those who would benefit from participating.