Justice, liberation, equity and our journey into fighting oppression

As a design and learning studio owned by two white, educated women working internationally—practicing in many different contexts across Africa—it is abundantly clear that we must fearlessly and critically interrogate ourselves and the systems in which we operate.

Anti-black racism, colonialism, white supremacy culture, occupation of native lands, and many intersecting axes of oppression [below] are intimately intertwined with our work. We recognize that dismantling these systems and beliefs, re-imagining right relationships and wholeness, and catalyzing transformation is the work of a lifetime.

The murder of George Floyd, here in our hometown, has made the pain of oppression and the necessity of transformation feel especially vivid and urgent. And, yet we know that a sense of urgency can be part of the harm of white supremacy culture.

We see three distinct, interconnected, and ongoing conversations that need to infuse our company’s work and our own lives:

  • Antiracism
  • Decolonization
  • Alternatives to white supremacy culture

Antiracism (specifically anti-black racism).

The legacy of chattel slavery is alive, embodied, and tangible. The United States and other colonies have significant work to do to repair and reconcile the continuation of this legacy through structural, systemic, internalized racism. We are engaging in the work that calls white people to see Black, Brown, and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC), follow BIPOC leadership and recover our humanity (individual and collective) as we have been diminished by denying it to others for so many years. [1]


The sometimes unacknowledged, often hidden, premises on which European-born people justified the colonization of lands occupied, managed, cultivated, and/or stewarded by indigenous people must be made visible and alternatives imagined. We fully acknowledge and recognize the tension (lunacy?) of our participation in an industry (international development) where its very existence and raison d’etre is predicated on colonialism. The changes we seek within the industry and the role(s) we play on a global stage must be subjected to intense scrutiny, continual questioning, and careful listening.

Consciously choosing alternatives to White Supremacy Culture.

What is considered normative—whether it’s white culture in America or western thinking and western priorities pushed into Africa—is often riddled with white supremacy culture. The cultural ways of being—individualism, perfectionism, executive function and professionalism, urgency, goal orientation—are often held up as the standard for operating. That these ways of being are not the only option is often hidden to us, and to those with whom we work. Carefully choosing our practices, holding each other accountable for underlying values and drivers, calling out dominance, and bringing in other voices will be necessary for healing and rooting out this harmful culture that insists on hierarchy and supremacy.

Integrating this into our practice(s)

Over the last few years we have been using Dr. Tema Okun’s description of white supremacy culture, and the work of many others, to make explicit the water we are swimming in. This has begun to create the cracks through which new growth can occur. It is time to dig into this work and build the resilience that we need for a marathon, not a sprint. [2]

In this on-going, emerging, and imperfect work—healing from the trauma, pain, and harm of the disconnection(s) of white supremacy—our intention is to embody learning and practicing with a growth mindset. We are listening, opening up our awareness, unlearning and relearning, and working to unwind the damage from the trauma of white body supremacy.[3]

Applying this approach requires us to ground ourselves in the lived experience of a diversity of people; embrace the mess; take imperfect action; be humble in our expertise; and open ourselves to unlearning, learning, and growth. We know our awareness, our practices, and our work will continue to evolve as we sit with this messiness that is the beginning of a transformation.

We are now working to give voice to the principles and questions that will keep us accountable and guide us both theoretically (in our thinking) and practically (in our acting) into new ways of being. We see the connection to others as core to this imaginative and healing work, and we will continue to share resources and reflections as our thinking and practices emerge and evolve.

Intersecting Axes of Privilege, Domination and Oppression



  1. There is a diversity of voices and perspectives on the harm done by white culture on white people. There is a call toward creating a culture of healing, a culture of wholeness, and recognizing the historical roots and multigenerational harms of the brutality we inherited and continue to perpetuate. Some BIPOC perspectives in this space include Resmaa Menakem, and Dr. Tema Okun. We find this list of ways that white supremacy wounds white people by Greg Elliot of the American Friends Service Committee a clear outline of the many ways we are wounded and one place to start understanding the level to which we need to imagine and create a culture of healing for white bodies. Caitlin Duffy’s article, “So you want to be a better white ally: healing from white supremacy” describes her healing journey, includes framing and points to a number of resources for healing.
  2. In addition to following BIPOC leaders in this space, we are connecting with others who identify as white and who are working against the oppression of white culture and white domination in the international humanitarian and development sector. In particular, How Matters and the Healing Solidarity Collective are calling forth new ways of being.
  3. Resmaa Menakem and his book, My grandmother’s hands: Racialized trauma and the pathway to mending our hearts and bodies (2017, Central Recovery Press)