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Leading with love can achieve equity

If you love yourself, you will let us lead.

As we dive deep into all things love, we have to talk about what it actually means to love and lead with love. We have to talk about radical self-love. First and foremost, I caution you, if you think you have mastered the state of, the skill of, and the leadership of love, think again. I encourage you to toss away the Euro-centric concept of mastery when it comes to humanity and love. We are just not there yet. Instead, I invite you to practice curiosity, kindness, and openness.

The amazing Sonya Renee Taylor tells us that “radical self-love demands that we see ourselves and others in the fullness of our complexities and intersections and that we work to create space for those intersections.” Go ahead, take a moment to sit with that and reflect. I had to do the same myself. In fact, I’ve been sitting with it since I first read it months ago. The vastness of this concept can at times feel too overwhelming to sit with, and I always get the urge to toss it to the side and fool myself into thinking that I am fully living in it. But when we do sit with it, and imagine what it might be like to love every nook and cranny of ourselves, to let our whole selves take up space, without judgment, without condition, the enormity, the infinite nature of it, is almost too much to bear.

Love is hard, love is complex and love is neither equal nor equitable. Love is not something that is granted to all of us equally nor in equal amounts. In truth, white supremacy and patriarchy have prescribed how and in what amounts humans are allowed to be loved based on the intersectionalities of who they are, race being the biggest determinant, and capitalist ideology has reduced our beings to commodities, worth more or less based on the perceived value of (and demand for) our multifaceted selves. Okay, let’s pause. Sit with this. Think about the existential threat that this has posed to some of us, an existential threat that is superficially designed to create power imbalances, to grant privilege to one group at the expense of all others.

Regardless of where we exist on this power spectrum, we have not been taught how to love ourselves deeply and fully. We have been conditioned to believe that love is conditional on our own and others’ perception of our goodness, our attractiveness, our intelligence. We are conditioned to think that love is something we can only give in small doses or to a few selected people because it is finite. These are all lies meant to keep us from truly engaging in radical love with ourselves and with others. Deeply hurtful lies that seep into every aspect of our lives and which have become an assault on all beings, especially for those who do not fit the mold and are not the power holders.

Let’s talk about government, its leadership, its systems and love. Radical self-love is accountability and that means that if we are to walk toward justice in our systems, if leadership and institutions are to undo the inequities and injustices inherent within them and truly commit to Black Lives Matter, then we must also commit to transforming systems through radical self-love. The first step must be to commit to uplifting and centering Black, Indigenous, Women of Color in our spaces, our policymaking, our decision making, in everything. Why? Because despite having everything in our lives point us toward to self hatred, our ancestral mothers have overcome and passed onto us the type of resilient radical self-love that is the prayer we offer to the world. That love that was passed on to us is what keeps us standing tall and walking hand in hand when everything around us aims to destroy our very existence. In the face of deep seeded hatred, violence, and inequities our mothers before us and we today continue to fight back with love. So I ask you, who is best equipped to lead us into a better tomorrow? Those of us who have had to fight for our very existence and love? Or those who only know it superficially because their lives have not had to depend on it?

Black, Indigenous, Women of Color who are on their own path toward radical self-love are exactly the types of leaders we need in our institutions. We possess the beautiful capacity to create community and to build spaces of belonging. We are powerful, we know the struggle, and we know that hope of a better tomorrow can never leave us, and it never does. Look no further than the last election. It was Black, Indigenous, Women of Color who turned out and turned our people out in our communities to vote in the face of ongoing assaults on our right to the franchise, who made it possible for hope to be an option. Cornell West said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” that is exactly what spaces look like when radically self loving Black, Indigenous, Women of Color are leading. It is the eternal welcome home that every single one of us longs for.

Ana Lugo

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