What’s my role? A Closing Reflection by Yani Burgos


“Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose

the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution,

but more usually

we must do battle where we are standing.”

― Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

When my colleague Carly asked me to consider writing a reflection as I approached the end of my time with ECM, I enthusiastically agreed - and, within the hour, regretted that choice.

This regret came not because of overwhelm or misunderstanding the task. In fact, I eagerly blocked time in my calendar to write, to reflect, and to give time for her and others to review my thoughts before sharing it more broadly. But it quickly dawned on me - my time with this organization is coming to a close. And facing that, alongside all the gratitude and hopes I have for ECM and the communities that continue to work with this institution, was like realizing the pond water was colder than you expected.

In reflecting on some of the ways I’ve contributed to the work we’ve done together, I want to share with y’all an activity the ECM staff did to start 2019 together, and offer some of my self-reflection. Deepa Iyer, Author of We Too Sing America, offered a reflective tool to support individuals and organizations. Like many of us, she experienced 2018 as a “seesaw of outrage and numbness,” which I have experienced as unsustainable ways to work. She has since updated the questions for a midyear check in.

Answering these questions today, like in January, agitates me. I love to contribute to the work of justice what I think I am best at - which, in the diagram below, would be caregiver, and occasionally healer. But at ECM, I’ve learned the importance of noticing what roles I might need to play because, well, it’s needed. And making choices to, for example, be a bridge-builder when it is needed of me feels incredibly risky. What if I make a mistake? What if I do more harm than good? What if, what if, what if?

The words of Audre Lorde above, however, remind me that the “what if”’s my mind throws at me are important...but sometimes, we do battle where we stand. I’ve been blessed to support ECM in 3 years of experimenting with a new way of living out its mission. Walking with you all has required me to laugh, to love, to cry, to learn, and to respond to a complex Massachusetts. And though I came to ECM believing my role to be narrow and clear - the blessings came through realizing, grappling with, and ultimately accepting that my role is to adapt. And to adapt, to me, means to embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses as needed parts of the world we wish to see.

As I leave this team, I am excited to take on a new role as supporter and ally of ECM. As I reflect and adapt, I pray that you too will join me in asking - what is your role in the social change ecosystem? And how might we work together, supporting one another to reflect, honor our strengths, take risks, and try on new roles this second half of the year?