Andrea Ward Berg Finding and Inclusive Community

Are you someone that sees the massive problems we face in Atlanta and wants to be a part of solving them? You might be surprised, but a big first step in being a part of the solution are the communities you are in!

Choosing a community, (whether that be a workspace, a spiritual community, a gym or fitness ) is a lot like finding a chosen family, and it’s just as important as family in our human experience. As someone with 9+ years as an entrepreneur, it’s been a great training ground for finding and understanding how powerful the communities we are in can be on our personal and professional journey! I have had the gift of finding wonderful work communities across many states, yet each of those experiences culminated in my finding and joining the community at The Lola in 2022.

My path to The Lola started when my husband and I decided to move to my hometown (Atlanta), I immediately started looking for female-owned workspaces because of an amazing space we were a part of in San Diego. When I found The Lola, I knew I wanted to check it out from the moment I read their About page. It was clear to me that the journey to equity and inclusion are top priorities for this space and community.

 

Within the first few months of joining The Lola, the magic started. I met like-minded women working on every aspect of making Atlanta (and beyond) a better place to live. From supporting Female political candidates (HERTERM) to Environmental Justice in Georgia (Sustainable Georgia Futures) to addressing food insecurity in our local Atlanta communities (UMI Feeds). The women at The Lola are not afraid to tackle big problems and questions in our community, state and country.

One of my most treasured moments was at the Holiday party (a month after joining) when a dear friend who I didn’t even know was a member introduced me to Sagdrina Jalal. Not only had we already met years before and didn’t realize it, but there were incredible synergies in the work I was doing with a brand new trajectory she was starting with forming SageD consulting! Through our work together, Liberation has moved from a core part of my coaching and consulting practice to something I speak and teach about through my podcast HDxLiberation and in a 6-week course of the same name.

 

Centering Equity and Social Justice in your chosen communities has so many benefits. It might sound like “a nice thing to do”, but it is so much deeper than that! Here are a few reasons I encourage you to take this approach more directly:
    1. The first reason is that a Liberation oriented community sees your whole humanity. Throughout my journey in healing body dysmorphia, burnout, and other ailments that I now understand are symptoms of Supremacy Delusion (a term coined by Sonya Renee Taylor), being surrounded by people who are on their own Liberation journey reinforces what I am learning, but sometimes I only apply it to others and don’t include myself. I need to hear the reminders that my struggles are normal and to be witnessed by a loving community. This process of including ourselves is a key aspect in integrating the intellectual learning into a way of living.
    2. Second, genuine representation across race and identities has a strong correlation to the health and longevity of an organization. I want to be involved in communities that are going to be around for a long time. It takes a lot of effort to establish yourself in a new community, which I have learned the hard way as someone who has moved a lot in my career. I want to invest that energy in places where it will be sustained. Spaces that center Liberatory work like The Lola are islands of certainty in an ever increasing world of uncertainty.
    3. Third, communities with the shared values of liberation are more likely to be relationship based. What does that mean? When we are genuinely interested in getting free together, we show up for each other. You can see that in the way members of The Lola rally around the many projects that are being worked on here. We also have difficult conversations together as we work through what it looks like to create a reality on the other side of systems that intentionally harm. A reality that doesn’t exist yet.

 

 

It’s one thing to say that equity and inclusion are values you hold, but when you are intentionally creating a community that center those values a different culture is created. There are several structured ways The Lola is growing in intentionally building an inclusive space: through partnerships like Legacy Leadership and the Sistering Series being led by a fellow member Sagdrina Jalal Brown founder of SageD Consulting; a partnership with the Radical Optimist Collective who facilitates our Seeing Whiteness circles for non-Black bodied individuals to unlearn together; and a soon to come revitalization of our activism and social justice affinity group where all interested members can engage together.

 

Here are a couple of ways you can do a quick check on whether a community is genuinely centering equity and inclusion:
  • Are Black Femmes centered and celebrated in the community?
  • Are the leaders and members actively learning from Black Femme voices, not just in Liberation but in all areas that the community impacts (business, spiritual, environment, etc.)?

“No one of us can be free until we are all free.” – Maya Angelou

One thing I know for sure, Community and what it means to be in community is a huge element of our Liberation journey. Spaces that center Liberation will continue to be the engines behind seeing a more just, kind, and supportive Atlanta, Georgia, and United States.

How are you intentionally choosing your communities? How are you engaging within them? Where are you bringing your talents? I hope that it’s in a way that is motivating and inspiring. If you are curious about how we are doing that at The Lola, I hope you will come by and see us. If you would like to follow more of my journey, come find me on Instagram or listen to the HDxLiberation podcast. I would love to hear from you!

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