Highlander Co-Executive Directors Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Allyn Maxfield-Steele join in another conversation as part of our As We Re/Gather project, reflecting on how grief shapes our work and is vital to hold and honor in this period of loss and extended uncertainties. 

How do we prepare ourselves for collective grief, and the ways that we act when we are not our best selves, because we’re in the multiple stages of it? How do we hold each other as grieving people, even now? Even in these virtual ways of being together, how do we hold each other with grace and accountability as we traverse, I imagine, several more years of very legitimate reasons to be grieving. Both because of the deaths of people that we love, or in our families, or in our movements, as we grieve the ways that the systems that benefit us will have to change and be uprooted.

I think it’s an opportunity for those of us that don’t network primarily, or don’t live in those identities primarily to really listen this time, in a way that impacts our vision of the future and our practice in the now. Because I think, yeah. If it ain’t COVID it’ll be something else.

– Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

“What is grief in the first place? My head starts going towards that it’s like, a totality of the physical, emotional and spiritual reactions to the recognition or experience of broken promises. So where do those promises come from? Did I create them in my head, in my heart, in my body? Did they create it for me? 

It’s about giving ourselves the time and space necessarily to evaluate and reflect on where do those promises come from? And how do we hold ourselves accountable and others accountable to not falsely constructing those things? And living in a different kind of orientation towards permanence or towards the question of what a promise is, or whether it’s possible. And recognizing that a pandemic isn’t the only thing that is a mass collision course with that set of promises. It’s a amplifying thing, but not the only thing.

– Allyn Maxfield-Steele