While play is a core feature of her vision for this role, Marie is also determined to avoid the common error that siloes DEI work from the day-to-day grind of a mission-driven organization. To do this, she calls on her experience with generative somatic practice, whose mission is to “engage the body (emotions, sensations, physiology), in order to align our actions with values and vision, and heal from the impacts of trauma and oppression.”
Marie notes a significant improvement in her wellbeing and the quality of her work when she integrates creativity and generative somatics. She plans to lead TNC Washington to do the same. “I [did] the head-work with coaches and mentors and programs. But I had been missing the body work, the inner-sense work of all of this. I think that’s what grounds my sense of DEI. It will always be important to know good theory, good history, critical information. If you’re going to explain certain concepts to people, that’s necessary.” At the same time, she wants her colleagues to begin exploring questions like: “Where in your body do you hold race?”
“There is a rigor in knowing your body just as much as you know concepts and theories,” she says.
Tapping into the body’s wisdom allows Marie to direct conversations about concepts like dignity, safety, and belonging. As a Director of DEI, Marie knows when employees come to work, they are “often sacrificing one, if not more, to be there.” She goes on, noting, “in bodies that are racialized, we’re frequently sacrificing many of those things to be in the spaces that we are.”
While she is responsible for supporting organizational excellence for approximately all 80 staff members at TNC Washington, each staff member has unique safety needs, which can create a toxic and unnecessary competition for resources. “When we say we want safety for Black employees, folks read that as if everyone else is not entitled to safety, which is absolutely not the case.”
Safety is not a pie to be divided and distributed until it runs out. It’s more like a regenerative, abundant, and authentic ecosystem. One person’s health benefits the next.
When asked if she had any lingering points she would like included in this blog, Marie paused for a long while. Then, she responded with elegant honesty and vulnerable foresight.