A Letter from Nyla
Updated: Feb 12, 2021
A different Path
Beyond the dizzying speed of action and hopeful possibility when this collection of humans was founded, I am realizing that somewhere along the way I found a different and more steady path in my identity of being a member, leader, and co-founder of DxH. I realized that I haven’t really talked about this path to many people and I wanted to share some of what it means for me and invite each of you to join me on it. How can you know if I don’t share it with you?
Here it is:
At the start of this whole snow-ball of an idea now named DESIGNxHUMANITY, I feel the responsibility with the name and the promise of each of us owning our humanity as part of the solution instead of the reason behind our brokenness. As a Black and BIPOC- centering vision emerged on how the power would be held and distributed within DxH, I felt my feet solidly planted and my heart committed to building a rhythm with a amalgam of people who would be called to this name and vision from all over the world. What would it look like for an organization to embody anti-racist and white-decentering values from the very beginning? How would such an organization empower and center the participating BIPOC to be more prepared in their careers and become the leaders of the rebirthing multicultural and diverse voice of humanity? The answers just keep coming, and if you are reading this, you are one of them!
In my process of being here, I have had to dig at my own internalized oppression roots and realize how uncomfortable it is at times to take up space and to give up space, and to make space for the human process of organizing, creating, and responding to emerging needs without labeling, cajoling, and shaming myself or anyone else. I’ve replaced the heaviness of hearing all the ways we are not doing enough, quick enough with celebrating the miracle we at DxH all keep embodying every time we try again and show up for another meeting.
Sometimes I felt like I had fallen on the different path I mentioned above. The first path was awe, and dreams, and excitement of what we were already as DxH and what we could be soon. The second path was less exciting, more exhausting, and sometimes seemed like no path at all with too many voices around us telling us how much they need and how many deadlines we were missing.
Well, it turns out that when I’ve had my moments of existential crisis (who am I? What am I doing here? Is this really worth it?), the different path has led me to understand a deeper truth that I always knew somewhere inside. We are… I am… and so are you doing our best, and this pacing and path just looks very different than most of us expect! I understand that the lack of communication has been jarring and disconcerting, but I promise you it’s only been an attempt to do some deep soul searching as an organization.
My fellow DxH leadership and I yelled PAUSE in December because we needed to regroup in the interest of sustainability. But we haven't hit STOP and still remain committed to this mission and each of you.
I believe that the meaning we make out of the suffering and struggle we experience in these teams, projects, and creative conflict we are experiencing matters. What we are doing matters. Sometimes it is because the products we are making are good, I mean really good, and seem mind-blowing for many people inside and outside of DxH who get sneak peeks at our work. And mostly, in my heart of hearts, this new and less sparkly path is worth continuing for me because I believe that the anti-racism process we are engaging in together in-between all the “doing” projects matters as equally as the products we are making.
For example, the conversations we have had in DxH admin team about how we hold, embody, and distribute power has been transformative for many of us. The conflicts and how we have handled them within our team and within the overall organization has taught me a lot of tough lessons on how I embody and reflect the power we’ve been given. I’ve realized time and time again that part of growth is messy struggle and making meaning out of pain that aches so deep, I sometimes lose sleep worrying about all this.
Overall, I’ve realized that if we measure success from a place of achievement, we create a hierarchy and a hunger that at least in myself can never be truly complete or fulfilled. How can we ever measure this by the status quo that is founded on white-centering values we aim to disrupt and replace? However, if success is chosen to be seen in each moment we show up and try again, however imperfectly, to create and embody a diverse and inclusive message for humanity by humanity, then I believe we have all succeeded, again, and again, into infinity.
Right now, my different path is threefold. First, I have accepted a job in the Netherlands and wow, time is flying, I’m leaving the US in 9 days. I choose to continue to be as present as possible with this organization in a way that is healthy for me as a human and leader. I made that clear to myself, my team, and my new position. The nature of this group being largely online makes this entirely possible while working from overseas. Many of you have done it yourselves. We will see how this plays out once I get there, but my heart remains committed to DxH and this mission. And I have full trust in the current admin team to support us all.
Second, I am realizing that I continue to feel pulled to appear that I am on the first path and increasingly feel guilty for the response time of our administration and myself in getting the teams and individuals serving as volunteers what they need and are asking for in a “timely manner.”
Then I have to remind myself, and would like each of you to take this in with me as I do it.
This is an organization made up of brilliant, busy, and career driven volunteers who are all working in their “off time” to make this group successful. This means that whenever you read something like this from me, I took time to have at least one or more conversations around this reflection, notes were taken, shared, edited, rewritten, and so on. Each one of these words are the embodiment of my love and hope for this organization. They are sourced from many of DxH voices in all the wisdom spoken and written here.
That being said, I need us all to choose the second less fast-paced and sparkly path together. The pacing of this organization is not typical of what any of us normally sees when we say or hear the word “organization.” This is because we are all (administration included) contributing 1 hour, 3 hours, a half hour, here and there to move this forward! To help us get a wider perspective, I remember that DxH is now around 9 months old - in its infancy. This organizational child was conceived out of 2020 during the most gut wrenching, multi-layered global and local traumas of human history for all of us.
Who we will be as we rebirth this group effort, over and over, with each new conversation, each new commitment, each new group coming together to try one more reframe and move forward is up to you, and me, and everyone in DxH.
Third, and finally, I’ve realized how lonely the second path can be sometimes. Anti-racism and BIPOC-centering activism is a work that never ends for me and I am guessing this is true for you too because you are still here. In the spirit of leaning into the uncomfortable and overwhelming work of this path together as a diverse community, I would like us to start a weekly town hall meeting where we can all check-in. To give it some structure at least in the beginning, we will begin each meeting with a conversation between our resident conflict resiliency consultant, Ruth Diaz, and one of the admin team.
For the first half hour, Ruth and an admin team member will talk about themselves as human beings, as leaders, about the projects they are supporting within DxH. For the second half hour, the floor will be opened up to invite everyone to join in and ask questions or reflect on their own human experiences (professional or personal). This meeting will be recorded and shared for anyone unable to attend. As I’m in the middle of packing for an international move (yikes!), I will try my best to come for part of the first meeting, which will be on Valentines Day 2/14 at 10am CST. We’ll be using this link.
I hope you can come and bring your witness and curiosity to spend some time with our DxH human leadership. If not, I hope you have a beautiful valentines day and find one way to practice loving yourself and those you care about in the spirit of intentionally designing vibrant and healthy human relationship.
Your experience on your team, working on difficult, important content and getting it to the end is important no matter what. It’s more important than a certificate. You are heard and we are working to create solutions. They may not look like the solutions you have seen before, or happen on a timeline you are used to, but 9 months in...they are being born. The labor pains are hard, but worth it.
If you have come to the end of your time with DESIGNxHUMANITY, we thank you for everything you have contributed thus far.
If you are in a position where you need to step back, but will come back when the time is right, I also thank you and hold space for you.
And if you are someone who sees issues, shares them with us, and helps us find solutions - I appreciate it that as well.
To the Black, Indigenous, People of Color in this organization looking for community, mentorship, etc. we are committed to providing a space for you that reduces harm and encourages support. We will take as long as we need to make sure our process encompasses all of that, but will be better at sharing how we plan to do that going forward.
I wish us all more grounded and peaceful paths ahead,